Have you ever stopped to think about where all the products and materials in your home come from? Most of us no longer produce our own food, sew our own clothes, or build our own homes using materials we gather by hand from the surrounding area. Instead, we head to a local store, compare and contrast our options, then make the final selection based on our wants and desires.
Everything you use has to be sourced somewhere. And with millions – billions – of people looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and make their homes unique, it’s the forests that are paying the price.
What is sustainable hardwood?
Sustainable hardwood comes from sustainably managed forests and practices. When a person takes down a tree, they have a plan for doing so in the least damaging way possible. They are stewards of the landscape, replacing what they take down. They not only think about the tree, but also about watersheds, wildlife, and the ecosystem itself.
Sustainability also means thinking about the entire production cycle. It starts with the forest, but then quickly moves to production. Does the manufacturer have sustainable practices? How does the contractor enter this process? What happens to the hardwood after it’s removed from your home? It’s full cycle.
Yet before we consider end of life, we have to start at the beginning.
Where deforestation and sustainable forest practices are the worst
If wood is taken from an unsustainable source, it’s chopped down without thought about what it’s leaving behind. They don’t think about the bare area that’s left in its place. They don’t think about the repercussions on the environment. It’s all about profits in the now. And unfortunately, it may cost more than we can handle in the future.
One of the worst areas right now where deforestation is taking place in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Over 3,000 square miles were destroyed during a one year period between 2017 and 2018 due to illegal practices. Couple that with the damaging fires that roared through the forests earlier in 2019. The Amazon is home to one of the largest number of different tree species in the world. When we lose it, it will be gone forever.
Or course, Brazil isn’t the only nation facing illegal deforestation practices. Second to Brazil, Peru has its own share of illegal practices. Bolivia, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Nigeria all round out the list.
Think about this for a moment: less than one-tenth of the world’s forests are adequately protected from destruction. This is at a time when the demand for wood products is at an all-time high.
Our houses get bigger. Our demands for the latest and greatest furnishings is insatiable. We like to redecorate all the time, thanks to the wildly popular home improvement shows. But what is that doing to our future?
And more importantly, what can you do about it?
Pay attention to sustainable hardwood sources
Are you ready to have new hardwood floors installed in your home? It’s one of the most popular choices homeowners make across the Front Range. You’ll love the look, you’ll love the style. But more importantly, you’ll love how long they last. If they are well cared for, you can reasonably expect them to last for decades. That’s why it’s important to spend extra time ensuring that they are made from high-quality resources properly harvested and produced.
Here in the US, we have the Forest Stewardship Council designed to ensure every tree harvested is done so in an environmentally sound way. They have established a set of 10 principles and 57 criteria they apply to FSC-certified forests around the world. They ensure things like:
- Compliance with FSC rules and regulations
- Indigenous peoples’ rights
- Proper community relations and worker’s rights
- Environmental impact
- Long term management plan
Take the time and learn more about how we fit into this world. It will make you a better consumer and make you more resourceful at finding the right materials for your home.
What hardwood should you use for your hardwood floors?
Now comes the difficult part of finding the right hardwood to install into your home. How do you know you’re truly getting sustainable hardwood? How do you know it’s sourced from the appropriate places?
Unfortunately, you can’t just “trust” a reseller. Some dealers have unscrupulous selling strategies at best. Instead, it’s important to do your homework and verify you’re truly getting what you want.
You can do research online. It’s a quick and easy way to get results. We recommend staying on the Forest Stewardship Council’s website and using their shopping guide to help you begin your hunt for the right flooring for your home.
When you’re out shopping and looking at anything made from wood, pay attention to the label. Is it FSC-certified? If a manufacturer cares about quality and is doing what it should to manage forests properly, they will proudly display their markings directly on their products.
That’s also why it’s a good idea to stick with brand names. If a manufacturer is in business for the long run, they’ll do what it takes to ensure the trust of everyone that buys their products. They’ll pay attention to every part of the process, from where the product is sourced from to how it’s installed in your home.
If you’re looking for the best sustainable hardwood, keep these at the top of your list:
Bamboo – it’s not a wood – it’s actually a grass – but it acts just like hardwood and grows in a fraction of the time. As long as you select sustainably grown and harvested bamboo, it can be a wonderful addition to your home.
Oak – oak is one of the most popular wood choices because of its classic good looks. You’ll never tire of the way oak floors make your home look.
Mahogany – because a lot of mahogany comes from Africa and Brazil, it’s important to pay attention to the source. It’s one of the most beautiful resources you can put into your home.
Douglas Fir – this is a good resource because it’s sourced from around North America.
Before you start your final selection, have a conversation about sustainability first. It will lead you to the right choices for your home.