Ensuring your furniture is made using sustainable woods is a great way to make your interior design more eco-friendly. Thanks to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, trees and plants are essential parts of our ecosystem. Unfortunately forests are not always sustainably managed and illegal logging and deforestation are still major problems.
We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you make the right choice when choosing your wood. In it we’ll provide answers to some of the most common questions about sustainable woods.
What makes a wood sustainable?
When it comes to wood, sustainability is all about provenance and type. Poorly sourced wood often involves the unregulated chopping down of trees. This leaves large empty spaces, destroys natural habitats and, if the tree isn’t replaced, removes a carbon absorber from the ecosystem.
Sustainable forestry balances the needs of the environment, wildlife and local communities to preserve forests for future generations. Sustainably managed forests are stewarded to protect eco-systems, prevent damage to the landscape and ensure tree logging is done in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
Sustainable wood also includes using recycled and reclaimed timber. This can be sourced from local scrapyards, auction sites and through specialist companies. Repurposing second-hand wood is the often the most eco-friendly option.
How to tell if wood is sustainable
You can be fairly certain that most wood sourced from countries in the EU are sustainable. This is because the EU has introduced comprehensive laws to protect woodlands and forests. Thanks to these laws, buying European wood is often the most sustainable choice. Saying that, unfortunately illegal logging still exists in Europe so always look for official certification.
A good thing to look out for is the FSC logo. Wood that’s accompanied by this logo means it’s been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This means it’s come from a forest where trees are replanted in the place of those cut down.
The PEFC logo is also a signifier of sustainable wood. This mean’s the Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification approves the wood as it comes from a sustainable forest.
Which woods are endangered?
Some rare woods can be sourced sustainably but there are some endangered woods that should be avoided. These include wenge, Brazilian mahogany, ebony and teak, particularly teak from Burma.
If you’re unsure if it’s sustainable, visit Friends of the Earth where you’ll find a guide to buying sustainable wood.
Why is rosewood is no longer used?
In 1992 Brazilian rosewood was banned internationally as a result of the large-scale environmental destruction and tropical deforestation it created. In order to harvest the in-demand wood, tropical rainforests were being razed to the ground and it had quickly become known as the most endangered wood.
You can still buy antique rosewood furniture today but it often comes at a cost because of the wood’s scarcity. Instead, santos palisander is commonly used as a sustainable alternative to traditional rosewood. Also known as Bolivian rosewood, this sustainable wood mimics the beautiful graining and reddish hue that rosewood is coveted for.
Top sustainable woods
Be careful, because even the most common woods can be badly sourced so always check where it’s come from. For example European larch is normally responsibly sourced from plantations whilst Russian larch is often taken from ancient forests. To make sure you’re using sustainable woods only buy from reputable sources. When sourced properly, the below woods can be incredibly sustainable.
Unlike softwoods that can only be harvested in 10-20 years, bamboo can be harvested just 3-5 years after planting. FSC certification doesn’t apply to bamboo so there isn’t a universal way to ensure it’s sustainably sourced. Check out the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan website for more information about sourcing ethical and sustainable bamboo.
Oak is one of the most popular woods and is used throughout our homes for flooring, furniture and much more. Buying oak with an FSC certification is essential because illegal logging is still rife. Alternatively, reclaimed oak flooring is widely available and would make a great sustainable choice.
This versatile wood is most commonly sourced from Europe and North America. Whilst European Douglas fir is regulated and often comes from well-managed plantations, in the past North American fir has been logged irresponsibly. Unfortunately the same can be said for Canadian fir. Read more about it here.