Timber is the name given to trees that are grown specifically for wood use in furniture and construction. Sustainable timber is a term that assumes timber can be sourced and used indefinitely, however this is simply not true. When taking biomass (cutting down trees) from any forest, key materials for future healthy forest growth will be denied. In the long run, even if sustainably managed, the forest will suffer slowly and deteriorate.
Still, sustainable logging and timber sourcing is much more beneficial for the environment during the long term, especially when compared to clear cutting practices. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) takes the lead in the assessment and certification of sustainable timber while WWF, Greenpeace and many others follow and support the fight.
We don’t have to completely steer clear from furnishing our homes with wooden articles, we simply have to ensure that we maintain the biodiversity of our lands. The three strands to sustainable timber are:
- sound forest management,
- responsible wood sourcing (by buyers) and
- cutting out illegal logging.
There are two certificates available in sound forest management which benchmark against certain standards. These are: Forest certification – managing a forest to set standards and Chain of Custody certification – tracking wood products from forest to customer to ensure they originated from a certified forest. In responsible wood sourcing it is essential to actively seek proof, in documentation, for the legality of the timber supply chain and also to confirm the FSC certification of the product.
Illegal logging is when timber is harvested, transported, purchased or sold in violation of laws. At current policy and framework are quite weak. Internationally there is little keeping the forests together, particularly in developing countries. The market for cheap wood and paper is huge. Illegal logging is costing the US economy alone billions of dollars. The Legal Timber Protection Act was never passed.
EU Timber Regulations from 2010 ban illegally harvested timber or timber products for the EU markets. The EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan is implementing a number of measures to: eliminate illegal timber from European market; improve the supply of legal timber and improve the demand of sustainable timber. One particular mechanism for identifying illegal timber in the EU market and denying its entry or trade is through licenses issued in signatory countries called Voluntary Partnership Agreements. Outside of the EU three countries, Ghana, Republic of Congo and Cameroon, signed the agreement in 2009.
The use of locally sourced sustainable timber as a fuel or in construction is widely supported. Clean efficient and renewable energy deserves its backing over increasingly impracticable fossil fuels. Using FSC certified products will ensure your structure isn’t harmful to the environment. Permitted materials include FSC certified plywood and Oriented Strand Board composite material made up of layers of wood bonded with wax and resin.
FSC is well placed national initiative in over 50 countries worldwide, but so are we all. Consumers of paper and wood must check for FSC certification, after all the hard work in assessing the sources has already been done for us.