A pile of logs in a fall forest.
Sustainably Reduced Footprint

Society is searching for sustainable, innovative products. Natural, renewable resources are the solution.
Capturing carbon. Creating clean energy. Un-changing the climate. The answer lies in bioproducts.

What is Sustainable Bioproducts?

Sustainable Bioproducts is the study of using renewable resources sustainably to create alternatives to unsustainable materials such as plastics, petroleum, and fossil fuels. Biobased products come from trees, plants, and other agricultural materials, and when managed in an ethically sustainable way, can be used to create products that will one day help to reverse the effects of climate change

People studying sustainable bioproducts make an impact. Right now, the world needs climate solutions and professionals in this field are finding new ways to un–change the climate each and every day. 

By using products such as wood, pulp, biomass, and hemp we can replace current resources used for construction, energy generation, plastics, furniture, and much more. This change will create a more green, circular economy. 

Sustainability, renewable resources, clean energy, and carbon sequestration are becoming more and more ingrained in our society and humans are demanding products that leave a lower environmental impact. These innovations span nearly any field you can imagine, making the study of sustainable bioproducts extremely versatile to meet this demand. From newspapers to cars to mass timber buildings, sustainability is the future and the field needs professionals to continue the mission. 

What Do Sustainable Bioproducts Professionals Do?

Sustainable bioproduct professionals combine natural science, business, and engineering. Understand the physical and chemical properties of natural resources to create bio-based materials, energy production, and engineered wood products. Apply biology, chemistry, and math to understand nature and application of wood and lignocellulosic materials. Apply engineering, marketing, product design, process technology, project management, and leadership skills. Utilize business practices, sustainability, and the role of circular bioeconomy in the development of a sustainable society. 

Bioproducts Business

Emerging biomaterials from the forest, plant-based residues, and new processing technologies offer promising solutions for sustainability along with business opportunities and economic development. Develop new business models that are critical to the success of sustainable bioproducts. Advance the industry. Become a leader in biobased business and sustain the long-term balance between natural resources, human needs, and economic aspirations. 

Sustainable Structures

Construction is the number one consumer of raw materials globally and is responsible for over 30 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions—and 50 percent of the solid waste in the United States. Elevate green building and mass timber job markets. The opportunities and trends toward sustainability and resilience are incredible, especially as rating systems such as LEED and the Green Globe System are becoming more prominent material certification systems. Rising awareness of carbon emissions caused by traditional building materials such as steel and concrete has helped propel the growth of the mass timber markets, particularly in construction. Mass timber construction is predicted to deliver a compound annual growth rate of 6% from 2022 to 2031. 

Circular Economy

Work and contribute to the transformation of our current take-make-waste industrial model. The circular economy aims to transform business and manufacturing by separating economic activity from the consumption of limited resources. The circular economy is expected to generate as much as $50 trillion globally by 2050. Corporations across the globe are eager to engage in the transition to a circular economy for access to new markets, to improve competitiveness, to enhance their image, and to improve revenue. Understand the current industrial organization, supply chain, and knowledge of tools for sustainability assessment.

An education as broad as this leaves many routes that professionals can take, such as:

  • Research on using forest-based products in vehicles, composites, and alternatives to steel and concrete.
  • Supply chain and demand to make low-value forest products into high-value products for consumers.
  • Constructing more sustainable buildings and houses.
  • Wood product innovation and engineering wood products.
  • Establish building material certification systems.
  • Create new biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals.
  • Life cycle and carbon analysis.
  • Sustainable manufacturing.
  • Create clean technology and energy systems. 

What Careers Are There in Sustainable Bioproducts?

With a degree in sustainable bioproducts, the possibilities are endless. There are various routes that you can take. And in such an emerging field, there are job titles that don’t exist yet.

The forest product sector has a $20 billion dollar per year industry in the State of Michigan. Demand is about to peak as dependence on fossil fuels is decreasing and regional, national, and global perspectives are changing toward trends for lignocellulosic fibers and materials.

Outside of the forestry sector, sustainable bioproduct professionals are making advancements in mobility, biomedical technology, textiles, energy, office furniture, bioplastics and biochemicals, and more. 

  • Production Manager

  • Sustainability Manager

  • Product Designer or Developer

  • Marketer

  • Supply Manager

  • Industrial Engineer or Technologist

  • Project leader

  • Furniture designer/producer

  • Environmental public educator

  • Field Engineer

  • Ecological engineer

  • Resource conservation engineer

  • Natural resources engineer

What Skills Do Professionals in Sustainable Bioproducts Need? 

Professionals in sustainable bioproducts are part of a particularly specialized field. The foundational skills needed include chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and wood anatomy and properties; however, technical skills such as business, engineering, and economics are combined to form the backbone necessary for understanding and developing forest bioproducts. Communication skills are vital for conveying out-of-the-box ideas, marketing, management, and leadership in this emerging field. Knowledge and a passion in conservation and sustainable practices helps maintain a cohesive balance of consumer and environmental needs. 

Skills Needed:

  • Hands-on skills including proficiency in practical applications and laboratory work.
  • Excel and other software skills for data analysis and management.
  • Data interpretation and the capacity to understand and draw conclusions from data.
  • Persistence in research and development processes.
  • Willingness to acquire new knowledge and techniques.
  • Strong mathematical abilities for analysis and problem-solving.
  • Active participation and engagement in projects and initiatives.
  • A deep commitment and passion to sustainable practices.
  • Creative and forward-thinking approach to problem-solving in sustainable product development.

Combine scientific knowledge and technical skills, along with your passion for sustainable practices, to drive positive change. Our world needs bioproducts professionals with a mindset geared toward innovation in order to succeed and produce clean energy and green products.

Why are Sustainable Bioproducts Good for the Environment?

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By switching to biobased materials, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced dramatically. Buildings create nearly 40 percent of all the world's greenhouse gases. Rising demand for housing will be driving up carbon emissions in the future, so we need something more eco-friendly. Wood product innovation such as mass timber is the solution.

Mass timber and cross-laminated timber can displace the use of steel and concrete, reducing carbon emissions from the processes it takes to attain these non-renewable resources, as well as storing carbon in these wood buildings themselves. The aesthetic of the buildings is spectacular, as well—blending in with nature and causing less disturbance of biotic and abiotic factors in the environment (plus, this style of architectural design is proven to have great mental health benefits).

Increased Biodiversity

By managing forests for their bioproducts, we can increase biodiversity in the forests, which in turn creates more resilient, healthy species. 

Timber that was once considered “low grade” to a sawmill or a forester can now be turned into useful, more high-value products such as LCD Screens, shoes and bags, food casings, binding agents in foods and pharmaceuticals, composites such as metal and plastics for car parts, orthodontics, construction materials, and more. This means that damaged and diseased trees that are often taken out of forests to prevent the spread of further disease and promote forest health can now serve a useful purpose, rather than selecting and harvesting the healthier trees (often called seed trees) that the forest needs to regenerate in the future. 

Many More Disposal Options Available

We can address the world’s municipal waste crisis and improve soil and water quality. Things that can no longer be used in the circular economy can now be recycled over and over again to stay in use, store carbon, and not end up in a landfill.

Annual forest growth continues to exceed annual harvests and removals. With increasing demand for forest products, there will also be an increased demand for sustainable forest management, allowing foresters and ecologists to come up with optimized solutions for timber harvesting practices that will also manage for wildlife habitat, recreation and human needs, ecosystem restoration, clean water, and nutrient-rich soils.

The Future of Sustainable Bioproducts

Green fuel. Nature-based solutions. Clean energy. Clean water. Timber buildings. Sustainably-managed forests. More recyclable materials. Healthier forests. Happier humans.

Society’s view on renewable resources, clean energy, and green products is shifting. As our climate changes, consumers and companies alike are seeing this trend globally. The solution to our detrimentally changing climate: forest products. 

Researchers are developing innovative ways to enhance the properties of wood, creating materials with improved durability and strength that are typically lighter weight than many plastic and metal materials, hold carbon rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, and provide economic revenue while sustaining our environment. 

New materials for building such as cross-laminated timber, biocomposites for automotive components or packaging materials, wood-based textiles, biofuels made from wood biomass, and more are the future when it comes to creating an eco-friendly lifestyle in a changing climate.

Countries such as Finland have been ahead of the game in sustainable forest management—using biomaterials for greener products and boosting their economy. After realizing the value of their natural resources, Finland began intentionally managing their forests and creating a culture of sustainable forest management. The country is now known as one of the most forested countries in the world with the forest sector accounting for nearly 18 percent of their export revenue. With advancing technology in GIS, LiDar, and satellite imagery, humans are better able to collect accurate data about forests. These tools allow forest owners to make better decisions about their forests and contribute in meaningful ways to the circular economy. 

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one of the most heavily forested regions in the United States, providing opportunities to follow in Finland's footsteps with regard to sustainable forest management and wood product innovation. Conservation and forest management have already played a significant role in Michigan's economy. Research, combined with new technology, will allow natural resource professionals to use timber that was once considered low grade and low value, and make it into materials that are of higher value—all while doing something good for the environment.

Mass timber has been a focus as demand for housing and buildings increases. Mass timber construction is predicted to deliver a compound annual growth rate of 6% from 2022 to 2031. Rating systems such as LEED and the Green Globe System are becoming more prominent in industry standards. The circular economy is expected to generate as much as $50 trillion globally by 2050.

Sustainable Bioproducts at Michigan Tech

At Michigan Tech, we are committed to providing sustainble bioproducts students with a hands-on education led by world-class faculty. Our program places an emphasis on innovative teaching, real life experiences, and research.

Sustainable Bioproducts Bachelors Degree

The Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Bioproducts at Michigan Tech offers undergraduate students unique learning opportunities with three concentrations to choose from:

  • Bioproducts Business
  • Sustainable Structures
  • Circular Economy

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Dive into research right away as a first-year student. With the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science’s Earn and Learn Program, you can earn up to $1,100 as a sustainable bioproducts student. Choose to work with a faculty member in a topic of your interest, including mass timber research or composite material for cars. Our faculty strive to stay at the forefront of the industry, teaming up with businesses and universities in Sweden and Finland to create the most advanced practices in the United States.

Real World Experience

Contribute to green solutions from day one. Our students benefit from hands-on experiences from senior capstone projects to the HotForest Enterprise team to internships and co-ops. As a student in the sustainable bioproducts program, you can start to change the climate using the latest technology and solve tomorrow's biggest environmental challenges.

Prepare for Graduate Study

The undergraduate program in sustainable bioproducts prepares you to get into the sector right away, or attain further education in our Master of Science or PhD program—Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology.