What is Sustainable Timber?

We are becoming more and more aware of our impact on the environment and the need for sustainability in all aspects of our lives. But what does sustainability mean and why is it so essential when it comes to timber?  

Forests are one of the most valuable natural resources in the world. More than 1/3 of earth’s population is reliant on what our forests can provide, from firewood to biomass fuels. Not only is wood unendingly useful but it is also indisputably beautiful, especially when it is used to create furniture or to build a home. The texture, the colour, the weight and even the imperfections in the grain come together to create truly unique personalities for every piece of timber whether they are made into a dinner table, a bookcase or even a bowl. It would be so saddening if this priceless commodity were to disappear. Fortunately wood is a totally renewable resource, so it is critical that we remain conscious of our impact on the environment and do all we can to ensure that forests will be here for many generations to come.

At Handkrafted you can collaborate directly with talented craftspeople, providing you with an insight into where they source timbers and to specify which types are used. But what does sustainable timber mean?

What is sustainable timber?

Sustainable timber refers to timber that has been harvested responsibly. This necessitates that when one tree is cut down to be used, another is planted to replace it. However, ‘Sustainable Forestry’ means more than just replacing trees as they are harvested – it also involves ensuring that there is no ecological damage to the surrounding environment or its native flora and fauna.

Australia has one of the best forestry management systems in the world. As little as 6% of Australia’s 147 million hectares of native forests is public forest and timber is only harvested from about 1% of these forests each year.

When selecting timber, one of your first questions should be, ‘Has this timber come from an Australian certified sustainable forest?’ In Australia there are three different forestry certification schemes that aid users of wood and wooden products in knowing the source of the wood they are using. They are:

1) The Australian Forest Certification Scheme (AFCS): This scheme uses the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) and incorporates a Chain of Custody Standard which tracks timber throughout the supply chain – from forest, through the processing plant, to the trader and then to the customer. This assures consumers that the products are from forests that are managed reliably and responsibly.

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2) Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC): The PEFC is and international non-profit, non-governmental, umbrella organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification. It works by endorsing national forest certification systems and tailoring them to local priorities and conditions.

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3) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): This uses internationally agreed FSC Principles of Responsible Forest Management to issue a certificate for any forestry operation that meets their requirements.

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What is recycled or reclaimed timber?

Recycled timber or reclaimed timber is timber that is has been repurposed. There are countless abandoned or demolished buildings, unused rail yards, run-down wharves and bridges and derelict factories that are overflowing with timber that is still perfectly usable. This timber may easily be repurposed and, in the process, will save the life of another tree being harvested. It is just as functional as new timber once it has been re-milled or re-finished. What many designers and makers have found, and Handkrafted’s makers are no different, is that recycled timber has a rustic charm that cannot quite be replicated.

Why should we use it?

Now it is all well and good to know that there are timbers out there that are going to significantly minimise out effects on the environment, but why should we use them?

Forests help to correct the damage we have been doing to our environment since the Industrial Revolution. As we all know, trees produce the oxygen we need to live, and in fact one large deciduous tree produces enough oxygen in one season as 10 people will inhale in a year. But it is the carbon dioxide the trees absorb that is really helping to rectify the damage we have done. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and since the turn of the 19th century we have been emitting more than a healthy amount. Trees are working to absorb our carbon dioxide and help to reduce it’s damaging affects to our environment. It is necessary, therefore, that we make a conscious effort to recycle timber or replace the trees we have cut down so that our CO2 levels do not continue to contribute to climate change. Take a look at this link for more info on wood and the Greenhouse Effect.

Secondly, irresponsible logging is a real concern today as the demand for timber is rapidly rising, and for many companies greed surpasses their environmental consciousness. For example, as recently as December of last year it has been suggested that the ‘world’s oldest tree’ was cut down in the Amazon by illegal loggers who supposedly didn’t know they were logging deeply into an indigenous reserve. Sourcing sustainably certified wood helps to provide peace of mind and will assist in making sure that tragedies such as these are no longer a common occurrence.

We can see how easy it is to help our environment just by being conscious of where our timber is coming from. Timber furniture is already exceedingly versatile and beautiful; we don’t want it to become a rarity as well. Handkrafted can connect you with craftspeople, and in doing so provide you with the opportunity to decide upon the sustainability of raw materials and production processes employed in the items you purchase. Handkrafted facilitates a more conscious and considered route to your final product.

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