For the younger generations, wood is that somewhat archaic substance that comes from trees.
It is what things used to be made of before the world got its act together and started producing plastic… for everything…
For older inhabitants of planet Earth, wood remains a material that is still incredibly useful thanks to both its ubiquity and its versatility.
As a result of the ‘plastic age’, a certain type of attitude has managed to arise that perpetuates the falsehood that “all wood is good”.
This is true for a group of presumably well intentioned, but slightly misinformed individuals who choose products (such as furniture or decorative items) without paying due consideration to what type of wood they are consuming, or where it might have originated from.
Such considerations are incredibly important because (staggeringly) only 8% of the world’s remaining rainforest is protected.
So, buying some of the most endangered wood in the world, such as mahogany and teak, could mean inadvertently funding groups that are guilty of human rights abuse, hunting endangered animals and even imperilling the existence of indigenous tribes.
Unfortunately, this is simply the nature of wood; it can be both the best and worst of materials as far as the environment is concerned!
So, what are the best woods available for those who want to try and ensure that they are not inadvertently doing more harm than good to the planet?
Well, unfortunately that is not as straightforward an answer as most people would hope for.
There is no quick fix; so constant vigilance and awareness pays dividends.
The most consistent and reliable way to pick “good wood” is to choose that which bears the mark of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is a globally recognised charity which aims to certify woods, paper and various other wooden products which have come from.
Although the FSC is widely recognised by many environmental charities, no certificate or accreditation is fool-proof; this means that using your own judgement on where such tree-based products may have originated from is always advisable.
People often ask which woods are best avoided.
As a rule of thumb, any wood which finds its origins in the subtropics is not going to be great for the environment.This includes the aforementioned mahogany and teak; as well as rosewood and ebony.
Admittedly, this can be difficult; this is largely because of the vast array of products that such woods have become used for over the years – this can range from salad bowls to musical instruments.
Instead, it is better to use woods that have been sourced from are native to Europe.
These woods (such as oak, pine, beech and birch) are likely to be kinder to the environment.
As an aside, it is also worth considering the time it takes for any trees to grow, whether they are from outside of Europe or not.
I doubt information such as this would be quite so necessary if certain people spent more time asking themselves if a 150-year-old tree is worth felling to become a grandiose cup-holder.
With that in mind, it’s not always 100% necessary for furniture to be made from just-cut wood. There are plenty of “reclaimed” woods to choose from, which bear a remarkable aesthetic resemblance to their environmentally-dubious counterparts.
In keeping with the theme of this delightful blog, a surprising use has been hit upon for coffee grounds: they can in fact be used to make furniture!
This concept has recently been launched in the form of a product called Curface, which has been produced by two innovative British designers who specialise in green technology.
The material is made using a composite of coffee grounds and various recycled waste plastics; for many it represents the holy grail of “up-cycling”.
It would be easy to overlook this material as novelty; however, it is water and scratch-proof, as well as being malleable enough to adopt a wide-array of uses within the world of furniture.
Rather ironically, this means that such tables will now be more resistant to one of their traditional banes: rings produced by the bottom of cups of coffee!
Author Bio: Nathan Clarke is a professional guest blogger, writing on behalf of a supplier of wooden shutters (whose website can be found here); he aims to get readers thinking more about the materials they choose to use.
- Ikea Products Made From 600-Year-Old Trees (commondreams.org)
- Brent Comber Shattered Furniture – Made From Reclaimed Douglas Fir Wood (inhabitat.com)
- 3 FSC Certified Wood Products for Green Building and LEED (green-buildings.com)