The subject arose recently of how to be sure that the timber we put in the house is from a sustainable source.

The issue is really knowing that it is not rainforest timber. I guess we all feel something for the orang utan and the devastation caused by rainforest felling. It seems impossible to stop but probably not so surprising when we realise that a single tree can be worth £50,000 to £70,000. It would be nice if some of that money went to the indigenous people or to replanting the forest, but of course it doesn’t. It goes exclusively to big business.

But we are fairly lucky. In the northern hemisphere little, if any, rainforest timber is made available for house building and it is easy to avoid the rainforest timber furniture displayed outside garden centre.

The huge majority of wood used in house building in the northern hemisphere is grown in the northern hemisphere and there are a few stewardship scheme that ensure it is sustainably produced. The Forestry Stewardship Council is the big one in the UK and it is now quite common to see their logo stamped on lengths of timber. If it not, it is the work of but a moment to ask the supplier for FSC certified timber and it cost very little extra.

If hardwood is a necessity, for flooring perhaps, then European timber, oak especially, is arguably the most well managed of all. French oak has been grown in well managed forests for decades.

The often overlooked alternative is second hand wood. Your local architectural salvage yard will probably have a selection of reclaimed hard and softwood, likely to have more characterful and be more interesting than new wood. There are no structural issues around using it for flooring, skirtings, architrave, etc., and, as reuse is the most sustainable option, no ethical issues around reclaimed wood either.

It is great that the question comes up, at least people are thinking about it. But equally a shame that it has to come up. There really is no reason, no excuse for the clear felling that still goes on, or for the 2 million tonnes of wood we put in landfill every year.

  • Post a comment
    You must be logged in to comment. Log in