How to Identify Sustainable Wood Products

How to Identify Wood Products Obtained from Sustainable Sources

Sustainable timber and the use of sustainable wood has become a very big deal in recent years. Using sustainable wood products ensures you are not supporting unethical logging activities or the deforestation of pristine habitats.

Why Sustainable Wood

Sustainable wood is material that is harvested from managed forests in much the same way as food crops are harvested. Sustainability comes into play because the land is managed and maintained to ensure the land is properly used. This helps to avoid soil erosion and excess habitat loss.

While managed forests are far from perfect, they are still a mechanism to ensure that controls are in place to protect the land for the long term.

Logging activities that do not maintain the long-term concern for the forest in consideration is unsustainable. The result is in many cases permanent habitat loss for the sake of short term gain.

What are Some Sustainable Wood Options?

Trees take a substantial amount of time to mature. So we need to look at these resources as crops to gather the best perspective. As a crop, not all trees grow at the same rate, produce the same yield, or have the same effective growing range. All of these factors influence how sustainable a variety is.

For example, a birch tree can produce up to triple the yield of wood that an oak can produce in the same amount of time.

There are a few things you can do to ensure you are buying sustainably harvested wood.

First, seek out the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label found on many wood products. FSC-certified wood is deemed sustainable. The council evaluates the forest management activities of the company for sustainability.

You can find FSC-certified lumber at the following places:

  • Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many local lumber yards.
  • FSC-certified furniture can be found at several retailers.

Sustainability is not limited to the massive fir forests you find out west. You can also find sustainable varieties of all the following hardwood varieties:

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Basswood
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Gum
  • Hackberry
  • Hickory
  • Maple (Hard & Soft)
  • Oak (Red & White)
  • Pecan
  • Sycamore
  • Tulipwood
  • Walnut
  • Willow

Wood Varieties to Avoid

Looking for the Forest Stewardship Council certification is a great start. In addition, you should be aware that several varieties of wood are not sustainably harvested and should be avoided in all circumstances.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) compiles a comprehensive list of those tree species that fall into one of three designations:

      1. Critically Endangered: Extremely high risk of extinction.
      2. Endangered: Not critically endangered species but facing a real threat of extinction based on current usage.
      3. Vulnerable: Not endangered; but at risk based on current usage.

On this list you find a large number of unsustainable African and rainforest wood varieties. The varieties identified by IUCN include the following:

  • Abura: Vulnerable.
  • Afrormosia: Endangered.
  • Afzelia: Vulnerable/Endangered.
  • Balau: Critically Endangered.
  • Bois de Rose: Endangered.
  • Bosse: Vulnerable.
  • Brazilwood: Endangered.
  • Brownheart: Critically Endangered.
  • Cedar of Lebanon: Vulnerable.
  • Cedar, Port Orford: Vulnerable.
  • Cedar, Spanish: Vulnerable.
  • Cocobolo: Vulnerable.
  • Ebony, Brown: Vulnerable.
  • Ebony, Gaboon: Endangered.
  • Ebony, Macassa: Vulnerable.
  • Ebony, Mun: Critically Endangered.
  • Etimoe: Vulnerable.
  • Idigbo: Vulnerable.
  • Imbuia: Vulnerable.
  • Iroko: Vulnerable.
  • Keruing: Critically Endangered.
  • Koto: Vulnerable.
  • Lignum: Endangered.
  • Mahogany, African: Vulnerable.
  • Mahogany, Cuban: Endangered.
  • Mahogany, Honduran: Vulnerable.
  • Makore: Endangered.
  • Meranti: Critically Endangered.
  • Merbau: Vulnerable.
  • Moabi: Vulnerable.
  • Monkey Puzzle: Endangered.
  • Narra: Vulnerable.
  • Nyatoh: Vulnerable.
  • Okoume: Vulnerable.
  • Peroba Rosa: Endangered.
  • Pine, Longleaf: Vulnerable.
  • Pine, Norfolk Island: Vulnerable.
  • Pine, Parana: Critically Endangered.
  • Pine, Sumatran: Vulnerable.
  • Ramin: Vulnerable
  • Redwood Sequoia: Vulnerable.
  • Rosewood, Brazilian: Vulnerable.
  • Rosewood, Burmese: Endangered.
  • Rosewood, East Indian: Vulnerable.
  • Rosewood, Madagascar: Vulnerable.
  • Rosewood, Siamese: Vulnerable.
  • Sapele: Vulnerable.
  • Satinwood, Ceylon: Vulnerable.
  • Satinwood, West Indian: Vulnerable.
  • Utile: Vulnerable.
  • Walnut, African: Vulnerable.
  • Walnut, Claro: Vulnerable.
  • Walnut, Peruvian: Endangered.
  • Wenge Millettia: Endangered.
  • Zebrawood: Vulnerable.

The tree varieties that are listed as Critically Endangered have experienced an 80% reduction over the course of the last 3 growing generations. This is the result of exploitation and destruction of their natural range.

What You Can Do

As you can see there are still many species of wood that are sustainable. The first key is to look for domestic varieties that carry the FSC certification. By purchasing materials with this designation you will be doing your part to support proper forest management and resource conservation!

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