I think that it would surprise a lot of people to find out that timber can be one of your most environmentally friendly options when it comes to construction materials.
Sustainably harvested timber, when compared to other building materials, has a very small carbon footprint. When done sustainably the tree farms are also a natural part of the carbon cycle, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. It also takes a lot less energy to create building material from timber than it does from other manufactured building products.
I say “can be” because it depends on where the timber comes from and how the trees are harvested and the forests managed. There were many times driving through Australia that we would see tree farms along the sides of the road. These forests are managed to provide a renewable source of timber. I can also remember as a child driving through the Canadian Rocky Mountains and seeing huge swaths of land completely clear cut of all the trees. I can’t say if there was going to be replanting, but from a child’s perspective it appeared awfully bleak.
Forestry management has obviously improved a lot in the last 25 years since I remember seeing those clear cut forests (that makes me feel really old) . Now if someone is going to school for forestry (Natural Resource Management, which I had looked at doing before joining YWAM as a full-time volunteer missionary) chances are pretty good they are looking at studying forestry management and sustainable practices.
Here is a list of organizations that certify if timber has been harvested in a sustainable way:
- Global – Forest Stewardship Council
- Global – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
- Global – WWF – The Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN)
- Australia – Good Environmental Choice
- Canada – Forest Products Association of Canada
- Canada – Canadian Standards Association
- UK – Forest & Trade Network – WWF UK
- USA – American Tree Farm System
- USA – Sustainable Forestry Initiative
By purchasing timber that has been certified you are helping to ensure that you are using a sustainable product that will not have a negative impact on the environment.
It is still estimated that about 30% or hardwood products imported into the US are from suspicious or illegal sources. In some countries it is estimated that up to 90% of logging is done illegally. These methods are not sustainable and contribute to the deforestation of areas like the Amazon basin and Indonesia.