Wood Products You Can Feel Good About
Tropical hardwoods are beautiful and durable, but in a day and age where the environment is increasingly on our minds, is it possible to use these woods without contributing to deforestation, species extinction, and illegal logging. By use, here’s a look at the wood species typically used, their problems and the alternatives.
Decks, Flooring, Benches and Railings
Much of the wood typically used for such purposes is Ipe wood primarily from Brazil, some from Bolivia. Harvesting Ipe wood contributes to deforestation of old-growth forest in the areas where it grows. An alternative wood is red cedar from managed forests for outdoor use, and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified maple from managed forests.
Fine Furniture, Patio Furniture and Cabinetry
Mahogany is among the most beautiful woods in the world for furniture. It makes gorgeous molding and floors as well. Some species of mahogany are endangered and in the Amazon, it is harvested by “wholesale stripping of…rainforests” according to one source. Countries like Peru, that are struggling economically, continue to export illegal mahogany. Mahogany comes from the Caribbean and Africa, as well as Central and South America. We can ill afford to see the Amazon rainforest stripped for several reasons, but not the least of which is the forests’ ability to counterbalance ozone depletion. One wood to substitute here is FSC certified fir from managed forests. Another substitute is certified cherry from managed forests.
Wood Moldings, Wooden Blinds, Parquet Floors, Wood Handles
This tropical wood, Ramin, is from Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo. The harvesting of this wood contributes to deforestation and endangerment of wildlife, particularly orangutans. Though “logging in Indonesia is banned, illegal trade is rampant,” according to Debra Bokur of Natural Home Magazine. FSC certified oak from managed forests is a good, durable and handsome alternative.
Indoor and Outdoor Furniture, Boat Building, Flooring, Picture Fames and Salad Bowls
Teak has a smooth, warm presence, perfect for contemporary and simple forms. Teak is from Thailand, India, Burma Indonesia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Buying teak from Burma is just bad news, whether from a plantation or not. The good news is you can buy certified plantation teak and replanting is underway in Ecuador and Costa Rica. Certified cherry from managed forests is a great alternative as is bamboo, with its’ similar smooth even grained qualities.
It is possible to find reclaimed and salvaged tropical hardwoods. For instance check out www.tropicalsalvage.com. For wood sources that are FSC-Certified go to www.ecotimber.com. You can also find information on rustic and reclaimed wood as well as bamboo at EcoTimber. For more information about sustainable design products and materials go to the website of Interiors & Sources design magazine at www.isdesignet.com.