Though wood is a renewable resource with a smaller carbon footprint than steel or plastic (whose manufacture requires fossil fuels), certain logging practices drive deforestation and forest degradation, which account for about 15 percent of global warming pollution worldwide. Buying lumber and products made from the right kind of wood, therefore, can help protect forests and our climate.
Read the Label
Several organizations have created programs to certify wood and wood products that come from well-managed forests, but standards vary between programs:
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC offers independent, third-party certification to forest owners who meet strict environmental and social standards, and “chain-of-custody” certification to manufacturers that use FSC-certified wood in their products. FSC standards are the only ones that require vendors to meet specific performance targets, and are well-respected.
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This international program offers forest and chain-of-custody certification to organizations that have certain management systems in place, but it does not offer performance-based standards to ensure consistent product quality.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). This program, launched by the American Forest and Paper Association (a trade association for the forest products industry), also lacks performance-based standards.
You may also see country-specific labels including CERFLOR (Brazil), LEI (Indonesia), and MTCC (Malaysia). These standards were developed to meet the needs of local communities and thus may not be as rigorous as international standards such as FSC.
Recycle and Reuse
To help avoid cutting down new trees, choose used or recycled wood products. For example:
Furniture. Before buying new pieces, consider refinishing or reupholstering your existing furniture, or buying secondhand pieces. For new furniture, consider pieces made from wood that has been recycled or reclaimed (i.e., recovered from older buildings, mill scraps, or submerged logs). Look for the “FSC Recycled” label or the Rainforest Alliance’s “Smartwood Rediscovered” label.
Roughly an acre’s worth of forest is cut down to produce the lumber for a single 1,700-square-foot wood-frame home. Consider buying an older home instead of a new one, or if you need more space, build an addition using salvaged or reclaimed wood—about 1 billion board feet is salvageable each year from building demolition. Ask your contractor to use salvaged wood in your construction project if local sources are available.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists