How to choose eco-friendly hardwood timbers

american oak engineered timber flooringEco-friendly hardwood timbers can be hard to source, especially when the majority of the world’s timber comes from tropical rainforests. There are ways to find domestically sourced wood that will not damage the Earth.
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Climate Considerations

Around the world and in New Zealand, it can be difficult to find timber products that come from sustainably harvested wood. As our climate changes, this is an even more pressing issue. Forests play a major role when it comes to protecting the climate. They absorb one-tenth of global carbon emissions and if they continue to be protected, this will be the case forever. However, if the world becomes much warmer, pests such as the mountain pine beetle will wreck havoc among already existing forests and this will decrease the availability of many species, especially of hardwoods. Finally, when forests are removed, the carbon cycle is altered and forest soil is disturbed, which releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Forests, the Economy, and Illegalities

In countries like New Zealand, the challenge is that forestry, despite its impacts on the environment, supports the economy. New Zealand only represents 1.3% of the world’s forest product trade, however the country supplies 9% of the Asian Pacific forest product trade volume and 20% of its value. At the same time, protecting the forests is very important for many reasons. Firstly, for owners of forest land, planting trees upstream will help provide protection against flooding. Keeping forests intact ensures that soil remains stable and that habitat is provided for wildlife. These are all especially pertinent in New Zealand where the terrain is steep and flooding is more likely to happen. Forests also aid in decontamination from solvents, petrochemicals, and pesticides. Thus, it is very important that forests are harvested in a sustainable fashion; in a country like New Zealand with strict regulations, this is much more likely to happen than in places where illegal logging and wood smuggling takes place on large scale. Unfortunately, this is often the case with trees imported from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and China, where many timber products come from.

Sourcing Eco-Friendly Timber

So, if you are in the market for eco-friendly hardwood timber, where can you find it? There are many products on the market you can choose from. It is best to avoid timber made from New Zealand and Australian old growth forest because these forests support a wide variety of species and will sequester a large amount of carbon. Also, much of the timber from these forests is not certified by bodies like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which ensure that wood is harvested sustainably and with regard to human and animal species that depend on the forests for survival. FSC also verifies that local communities benefit from the sale of timber and that genetically modified products are not grown. FSC certified wood is not without controversy, but having a certification system in place is important. In New Zealand, 900,000 hectares of forest has been certified by the group.

When purchasing flooring in New Zealand, it is best to buy timber made from eucalyptus, Macrocarpa, and products that come from plantations established after 1994, when plantations began to be certified. Macrocarpa is very durable and always comes from New Zealand. No treatment is required against rot and insects. It is made into different products such as flooring, wood panelling, cabinets, decking, and gates. If however, you buy timber and you are not sure about the origin of the timber, ask the supplier. If the wood has come from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, or China, there is a good chance it has been logged illegally. There are many outlets such as NZ Timber that make flooring and decking from recycled wood and/or from native sustainably harvested timber. In addition, the members of the New Zealand Imported Tropical Timber Group (NZITTG) have made a commitment to purchasing sustainably harvested timber. The more often these products are bought, the better for New Zealand.
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