A pile of boards is a pile of boards. Where did it come from? How did it get into the country? You just cant tell by looking at boards if they are sustainably-harvested flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Getting that green designation is more than a matter of stamping green on the packaging.
Lewis Buchner, CEO of EcoTimber in San Rafael, California and his staff search the world, looking for sustainably-harvested timber that can be certified by the FSC as suitable for import into the U.S. LEcoTimber takes this very seriously. They wont risk buying from a new factory without first visiting and assessing, on-site, the suppliers environmental and social policies as well as their quality.
The Problem of Illegal logging
Illegal logging in places like Indonesia, the Russian Far East, Burma, the Amazon, and the Congo Basin is rampant. According to a recent report from Greenpeace:
Today 6 to 9 of each 10 exported logs are exported from Russia illegally.
In Indonesia it is estimated that between 76 and 80% of logging is illegal.
In the Brazilian Amazon 60% - 80% of logs were produced in 2004 without any authorization.
In Cameroon 50% of logging between 1999 and 2004 is estimated to have been illegal.
Illegally-harvested wood is sometimes consumed in the country of origin, but it is often laundered through international trade and manufacturing and imported into Europe and North America as value-added products like lumber, decking, flooring, plywood, and furniture.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that as much as 30% of hardwood products imported into the U.S. are from suspicious or illegal sources.
And, it is widely recognized that illegal logging is often the first in a chain of tragic events whose end result is total deforestation.
Sustainably-Harvested Wood Flooring Consumer Buying Tips
Look for the Forest Stewardship Council certification on the wood flooring packaging, and also ask your flooring dealer to show you their invoice from their supplier which must state that that particular product is FSC certified (they can black out their cost its just the FSC description in the individual line item that you want to verify).
Just because a brochure or a display shows the FSC logo does NOT mean that the flooring you are buying is FSC it only means that the manufacturer is licensed to produce FSC flooring but what they are offering you may not be that FSC flooring.
Check, online or by phone, with EcoTimber to find out more about the wood species you are interested in and if it is available from an FSC forest. Many species of flooring on the market are becoming threatened or endangered and are not available as a certified product.
If you are interested in reclaimed wood flooring, ask for verification that the planks really were recycled from old structures. Some reclaimed flooring is actually new wood, not FSC, and made to look old.
The Daily Green Citizen Journalist
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