Sustainable Wood for
Wood is without doubt is one of the most beautiful, versatile, and on the face of it the most environmentally friendly of materials for constructing boats.
However, like many green issues today it is a complex one.
Should We Care?
which has been harvested from sustainably managed forests is durable,
recycled and requires a minimum of energy to produce.
And it has properties
which make it one of the most superb building materials known to man.
harvested lumber can be an
It is in the interests of
everyone on this planet to make
sure, wherever possible that the wood and wood products that you buy
are sustainably produced.
Apart from it now being
‘trendy’ to be eco
friendly, surely just by using wood should be enough to satisfy the
Surely timber is renewable
because it is constantly
Because it is a good insulator
it will help to reduce our
And surely it can be disposed
of, or recycled at the end
of its useful life without detriment to the environment?
So, why should you want to
getting involved in the
process of specifying that it comes from well managed forests?
Wood can without a doubt be
one the most environmentally
friendly building material on earth but It can also be one of the
One of the worst offenders can
be wood logged in tropical
These forests are home to
around half of the world's
species and an equal proportion of the carbon locked up in the world’s
When wood rots or is burned
greenhouse gases are
Growing trees act as carbon
sinks that absorb these
Buying the wrong kind of lumber can contribute to the
destruction of tropical rainforests.
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So, how you can help
By choosing or even just
asking for sustainably harvested
timber will have a positive impact on the conservation and the good
of forests from which timber is being extracted.
One of the main causes of
forest destruction is illegal
This is fed by high demand for
timber in Europe and in
countries such as Japan, the United States and China.
Unfortunately it would seem
that even when illegally
sourced timber is identified, it is not necessarily illegal to import
It has been suggested that as
much as 90% of tropical
timber being imported into Europe may come from unsustainable
The forests which once spread
over half the earth now
cover only a quarter of the planet's land surface.
This resource is not finite.
Not only is this destruction
reducing the source of one
of the best building materials but it is also having a dramatic effect
Besides the many species that
rely on the trees there are
communities of humans who rely on their forests socially, economically
draw CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and oxygen is released back
Wood is largely made of
greenhouse gas extracted from the
So, long-lasting timber
products can be described as
However, if getting the lumber
involves clearing forests
without replacing them, then the overall impact can be a huge
The CO2 that was previously
locked up in soils and
foliage is released into the atmosphere as the total area of
forest is reduced.
So, perhaps the greenest
option is to use reclaimed
(salvaged) wood, there is plenty to be had if you look for it.
While it can be almost as
expensive as new timber it is
often be more attractive and will be well seasoned.
By buying recycled timber you
will help reduce
deforestation and that carbon will remain locked in.
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event that you cannot find suitable recycled timber, try to use locally
First it won’t have had to be
transported half way
around the world using up precious energy.
And depending where you live,
it is likely that the local
forestry is tightly controlled.
Using indigenous lumber will
also help ensure that your
own local forests are sustained.
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So, what is
Sustainability is one
of those emotive buzz words which often obscure the complexities of the
It is a mistake to think that,
by using timber instead of
certain other construction materials, enough is being done for the
If forests are being destroyed
as a result of its
production, it can hardly be described as being environmentally
And it is very difficult to
prove where lumber actually
comes from because the supply chain from forest to end user is often
Deforestation also presents a
massive threat to
From what I as a lay-man can
ascertain there is still no
definitive method for measuring sustainability.
However, as far as I can see
timber, which is selectively
felled allowing room and light to get to surrounding trees and milled
on small portable mills close to where they fall has to
minimize damage to
And when then carried out by
hand or on small
vehicles on smaller roads will cause much less disturbance to
the rest of
the forest than the operations which clear and fell acres and acres of
use skidders and loaders and large trucks which then travel on large
invasive roads to the mills.
And that is without mentioning
the burning and clearing
of the remaining scrub.
US Forestry Service provides a free
internet resource detailing a vast amount of their research into wood
utilization, the conservation and productivity of forests and their
contribution to the economy, and quality of life.
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OK, its a marketing
fact that If we all stop buying timber that comes from forests that are
managed, or even perhaps that has been illegally produced, then the
will have no choice but to change as well.
But how can we consumers
choose timber without harming
We are all increasingly aware
how those 'green' labels on
everything we buy are often suspect.
And more and more customers
are loosing confidence in
schemes based on government led standards.
A three-year study of timber
companies by the WWF
entitled ‘Truth or Trickery?’ revealed a confusing proliferation of
self-appointed ‘green’ logos and certificates issued by trade
bodies and the like which were more interested in self promotion than
So, where does that leave us
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From the limited
amount of research
that I as a simple minded consumer have
been able to do, the most reliable environmentally friendly timber
seem to be that of the’ Forest Stewardship Council’ (FSC).
While I doubt if any means of
certification is foolproof,
at least the FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit
The FSC was founded in 1993 by
the World Wide Fund for
Nature and other groups to promote the responsible management of the
The FSC is the only forest
certification system which is
supported by all major environmental groups as well as organisations
the US and the Australian green building council.
As well as stringent
environmental principles, other
criteria which must be satisfied if forests are to qualify for its
The prohibition of
conversion of natural forests or
The prohibition of highly
The prohibition of the
cultivation of genetically
The upholding of the
The promotion of good
employment and health and safety
The inspection of each
certified operation at least
once a year, those found to no longer comply with the criteria will
To find FSC wood
products, look for the Logo,
out the FSC Certificate
Search or contact the FSC office near you.
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