What is sustainable wood?
Sustainable wood comes from sustainably managed forests. It’s renewable because the forest stewards manage the landscape to prevent damage to eco-systems, watersheds, wildlife and the trees themselves, taking a long term rather than short term view of the resource.
Sustainability in this context means the forest should still be there for your grandchildren and great grand-kids, and be able to soak up carbon emissions and keep our air clean for generations to come, as well as a being haven for wildlife.
Wood from unsustainable sources, on the other hand, is chopped down without a second thought leaving bare areas that, unless they’re carefully treated, never really recover to their former glory. The effects are clear – illegal logging leads to wholesale destruction.
Why bother buying sustainable wood?
Brazilian Amazon deforestation might not seem very relevant. It happens thousands of miles from home, exotic and remote. You might not realise the harm that buying new Mahogany flooring or Teak garden furniture does. But buying unsustainable wood has a profound effect on the areas where it’s harvested, including human rights abuses, hunting of endangered species, threatening the lifestyles and even the lives of indigenous tribes, as well as making countless rare and threatened creatures homeless.
Just 8% of the world’s forest is properly protected from destruction. The timber industry is insatiable, as is our demand for wood. And much of the time it’s harvested unsustainably despite the best efforts of conservationists, governments and lawmakers. Sadly, money often speaks louder than common sense and today is often more important than the future. In Malaysia, for example, timber production demands more trees than there are in existence. In some areas there are no trees left and wood is being smuggled in from Indonesia to meet demand.
In a nutshell, buying sustainable wood is one way you can support the future of the planet’s forests and, at the same time, protect the future of our children.
Which woods are most sustainable?
Timber is usually classified as either hardwood, from broad leafed trees, such as Beech and Oak, or softwood from conifers like Pine and Fir. Simply because they’re replaceable, fast-growing species like Pine trees tend to be more sustainable than slow-growing trees like Oak. Oak forests have to be managed carefully to make them sustainable, grown and harvested in the right way, but it can be done.
The EU has introduced legal measures to protect its woodlands and forests, and these days more trees are planted than felled. It’s great news for the future, with EU forests actually growing instead of diminishing. Because the law places a minimum requirement on replacing harvested trees as well as limiting annual harvests, buying European wood is usually a safe choice.