Wood is a precious resource we can continue to enjoy only if we supportwell-managed forests. We need to give our community ecosystems economicrespect. Prevention of clear-cutting and pasture land conversion eventually results inbetter property value, but it’s been a hard sell.
The Rainforest Alliance has an informative web site of facts and statistics for treelovers. According to State of the World's Forests 1997, a food & agricultureorganization of the United Nations, global forests shrunk to 8.6 billion acres as aconsequence of human exploitation. In 1998 Roper Starch’s survey conducted forthe National Environmental Education & Training Foundation revealed that 62percent of U.S. consumers believe environmental protection and economicdevelopment can go hand in hand. Increasingly, U.S. consumers have a betterimage of companies that support social and environmental causes.
Like food and cosmetics, labeling becomes an issue. So now there are labels forwood. Labeling can be a way to use the marketplace to protect the environmentinstead of depending on more government regulation. The most popular three woodlabelers in the U.S. are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), SmartWood, and theSustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was founded in 1993 as an internationalaccrediting organization that has developed standards to certify wood harvestedfrom well-managed forests and wood products made from FSC certified wood. TheFSC has regional offices worldwide. In addition to the Forest Management Program,FSC also offers a Chain of Custody Program that accounts for how the certifiedwood is managed once it leaves the forest. Labels on these products may alsoinclude the percentage of FSC wood in the product.
The SmartWood Rediscovered Wood seal of approval is awarded to products madefrom acceptable reclaimed wood. SmartWood was established in 1989 with thesimple mission to conserve forests by recycling wood efficiently. SmartWoodmembers provide wood carefully retrieved from rivers, lakes and demolition projectsas well as wood from landfills or even from fruit tree orchards where unproductivetrees are cut for replacement.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) set the standards in 1994 for which theAmerican Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) are required to comply forvoluntary, third-party certification to use the SFI label. The SFI program primarilyaddresses forest management. The SFI standards, however, do not accountspecifically for “old growth” forests. The SFI allows the use of genetic engineeringand clear-cuts, provided the average size does not exceed 120 acres. It requiresthat companies use forest chemicals, such as herbicides, "prudently."
Rainforest Action Network claims that labeling non-FSC wood as environmentallycertified is "green washing" a term for businesses making false environmentalclaims to win over consumers. I suggest environmental consumers start looking forlabels and investigate company forest management claims to make informeddecisions about what to purchase.
Thankfully, there is increasing awareness which promotes compatible businesseswith the green market to respect labeling, or at least identify the admirable origin oftheir wood. It can be the gateway to financial and technical support from governmentand organizations. Some businesses are utilizing wood remnants in constructiveways, developing a brand that is considered environmentally friendly. Thesecompanies are committed to create high quality beautiful pieces while caring forsafety and environmental issues.
Products made from 100 percent natural materials make decomposition safe for theearth. A manufacturer in Japan recently discovered that when bio-compatibilitynatural resin penetrates into grains and pores of wood, the wood becomes soft andflexible. The resin also works as a glue to attach backing materials. Most softenersand glues are composed of chemicals and synthetic resins, but this is a sustainable,unique and earth friendly adhesive.
Deforestation and the increasing demand for wood building materials are majorconcerns for everyone. Manufacturers must incorporate saving resources, ecology,and recycling into their business plans. That is one reason cork is so popular now.Cork is sustainably harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus Suber),which grows in the forests of Mediterranean countries.
It’s reassuring to know that many countries want to participate in deforestationprevention. But as a consumer, it takes a bit of work to read about the products youwant to buy. Whether you are looking to purchase tree-based building materials orfashion accessories, the research effort is worth it for our planet.
Written by: Delia Montgomery, Chíc Eco
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