Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
Where do I locate sustainable wood for my home building projects?
Certified sustainably grown wood isn’t always easy to track down. The certification label could reside on the product’s wrapping paper, shipping document, or an invoice that the distributor sees but that you may not have access to.
You can source sustainable wood with a little digging, however. Two major organizations certify sustainably produced wood: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). SFI is a North American organization; FSC works globally. Each has a searchable online database that identifies lumber, engineered wood, decking, siding and other wood products that have met the organization’s standards for sustainability. You can check out the SFI database and the FSC database, and then locate dealers that carry the certified brands.
Another approach is to ask your local lumber distributor to direct you to the sustainable wood products it stocks. If a label isn’t clearly visible on the product and you want to verify the product’s certification status, you can ask the distributor for the product’s identification number and then check it on the SFI or FSC website.
If your retail distributor doesn’t already carry sustainably harvested wood, ask for it! That kind of grass-roots demand is one of the best ways to increase its availability and support sustainable forestry, says Valerie Luzadis, president of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics.
Both the SFI and FSC certification programs officially organized shortly after the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, which put forth a set of principles to guide the sustainable management of forests worldwide. The SFI and FSC certification programs differ, and those differences have led to considerable debate about which system is more rigorous. Over the years, each organization’s certification standards have become tougher, and additional updates are in the works. A 2011 Dovetail Partners report examined the differences between the programs’ certification standards.
If you’re planning to build a home or undertake some other large project, seeking out certified lumber is ecologically wise and impactful. A March 2012 Journal of Forestry report that measured certification’s effects on forest-management practices concluded that both systems have improved the environmental, social and economic sustainability of forests by establishing geographic information systems, controlling exotic invasives, monitoring chemical use, planning with biological diversity in mind, and more.
Photo courtesy Forest Stewardship Council: The Forest Stewardship Council has certified more than 330 million acres of forest around the world.
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.