If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, does it still have an environmental impact?
It goes without saying that sustainability is crucial for a lasting planet. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. Especially when it comes to deforestation and sustainable wood. Sustainability in itself isn’t so easily cut and dry, either. Wood is an excellent resource that both humans and animals have been using basically since the beginning of time. It’s durable, natural, long-lasting, insulating, and let’s face it: furniture made from hardwood is beautiful. It’s essential that if we want to keep this great natural resource around, there needs to be a greater emphasis on producing wood products sustainably. So what does that mean exactly? Primarily, it comes down to how the wood is extracted and processed.
The industrial agriculture industry
Deforestation is a part of a larger industry known as industrial agriculture. The WWF reports that over 18.7 million acres of forests are wiped out every year. That’s about 27 soccer fields every minute.
There are many different reasons for this. In Brazil, the main reason for deforestation is to make room for upcoming cattle farms. In Southeast Asia, deforestation is used as a method of palm oil extraction. The United States is the largest producer of lumber for construction/industrial use. Deforestation, and the industrial agriculture industry as a whole, has an overwhelmingly negative effect on the natural environment. But this isn’t exactly news: odds are if you were raised in the Western world any time in the last 60 years, you were taught about how important trees are and to reduce, reuse, and recycle. But what our cheery primary school education forgot to teach us was just how difficult it can be to find genuine transparency among corporate interests. After all, when we as consumers don’t question where our products came from, or if the paper we’re using isn’t sustainably sourced, corporate greed wins.
Arguments in favour of deforestation always point back towards money. Rainforest Fund reports that deforested land in Indonesia is worth about $50 billion annually. This is because the palm oil extracted from the trees is shipped around the world and is used in nearly all products. Just by association, deforestation brings the country lots of money, so it becomes a difficult problem to solve.
Agriculture’s effects on the rainforest
The rainforest is burning rapidly every day. According to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest. Within it is over 60 million acres of land – this rich terrain is home to one-third of all plant and animal species on Earth. Not only that, but one-fifth of all freshwater on the planet comes from the rainforest. Keeping the rainforest alive and thriving is essential in order to keep the planet’s delicate ecosystems in harmony.
The unfortunate reality is that destroying the habitats within the rainforest has become a question of how much profit can one make, and how fast. But the destruction of the Amazon rainforest comes with a horrific price tag: it destroys the ecosystem, kills any exposed species of animals, and harms the livelihood, culture and traditions of the Indigenous groups living there. Not only is the majority of logging happening within the rainforest not sustainable, but it’s also illegal. The Rainforest Foundation reports that 80 percent of Peruvian timber was obtained through illegal logging methods. This means trees are being cut from protected Indigenous lands or conservation sites without proper permits or documentation in order to export and sell at the highest possible profit.
The Forest Stewardship Council
The fight for sustainable wood is difficult but not completely impossible. Groups like the Forest Stewardship Council are fighting for sorest conservation by ensuring sustainable wood production. Since 1993, FSC has been working directly with affected Indigenous groups, consumers, and companies to ensure the public knows their wood/paper product has been sustainably sourced. As of 2020, the FSC is currently the only forestry certification system that requires consultation and local Indigenous groups.
The organization also consults with factory workers and loggers to authorize a safe, ethical, fairly-compensated work environment. The FSC is a world-leader in forestry management and sustainable wood because of the group’s strict code of standards and inspections. In order for a company to have its products FSC certified, annual inspections must take place, rigorous in-person consultation with workers/Indigenous groups involved, forest management must be maintained, as well as proof that all wood is legally sourced. Here’s a fun fact: all of UppWell’s products are FSC certified!
If you can’t find a new wood product that’s been sustainably sourced, you can’t go wrong with reclaimed wood. In the most basic of terms, reclaimed wood is wood that has once been used before. As the demand for wood grows, so does the demand for sustainability. Reclaimed wood can offer a solution.
There are many things to take into account when purchasing reclaimed wood. Age, type of wood, chemicals used to treat it, past usage and future purpose are all things to take into account. In recent years, it’s becoming more popular for people to use reclaimed wood for DIY projects, such as building a shelf or installing a deck. But you don’t have to be a carpenter or craftsperson to have some great reclaimed wood products. Furniture stores (both independent and chains) are now beginning to carry products that proudly state the wood came from reclaimed sources.
Wood is incredibly durable and when properly taken care of, can last generations of use. Who knows, maybe your next set of furniture could’ve been the hardwood floor that royals used to walk along. The possibilities for sustainable wood are endless!