To celebrate Arbor Day this Friday, we’re celebrating trees. Arbor Day was originally meant to be a simple idea – set aside a special day to plant a tree. Today, that simple idea is more important than ever. Planting and nurturing trees embraces the beauty of nature, helps clean the environment and so much more. So, if Arbor Day is all about planting trees, why are we talking about wood products? Planting trees is just one part of the equation. We also need to look at how we grow, harvest and use wood to preserve the forests that are already here.That’s where sustainable wood comes in.
The idea behind sustainable wood is that the trees, whether forest or plantation, are responsibly managed, protecting biodiversity, wildlife, water quality and preserving the land for prompt regrowth. Depending on the type of wood, that may mean a carefully managed plantation of fruit trees, or control of an otherwise invasive species of tree. The entire concept behind sustainable wood is preserving the balance of nature, with minimal negative environmental impact.
How do we do that?
There are over 50 different certification programs worldwide, the largest international programs are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), though there are several other well-known organizations, including the Rainforest Alliance. We work carefully to find wood and wood products that have a positive environmental history, from start to finish.
What woods do we use, and where do they come from?
In a sustainably farmed mango grove, the trees eventually reach the end of their fruit-bearing years and are cut down to make way for the next crop. Rather than burn the felled trees, local artisans collect the trunks and large branches and carve the wood into beautiful, practical home products.
Olive trees will produce fruit for hundreds of years, but eventually production begins to wane, and the tree is heavily pruned to encourage fresh growth and more fruit; in some cases, a tree that has been damaged by a storm or other problem may be cut down to a stump, encouraging it to regrow. Our olive wood comes from the pruned pieces and occasionally felled trees and is transformed into new life and purpose.
Old-growth teak has always been prized for its rich color and grain as well as the durable, water-resistant nature of the wood. In the past, teak forests were over-harvested, causing immeasurable amounts of environmental damage. Today, responsibly-managed teak plantations specialize in slow-growth teak that replicates the amazing color and grain of old teak. What’s even better is that these new teak forests are preserving wildlife habitats, improving the environment and soil, preventing erosion and creating jobs.
Growing wild in many parts of the world, and often used for erosion control, these trees can quickly become pests. Acacia is a fast growing, and fast spreading tree that produces a beautiful wood prized for its color and grain. We select acacia that comes from trees downed for road clearings or selective thinning, or those that have fallen naturally. The wood is collected by local craftsman and transformed into wonderful home products that celebrate the natural beauty of acacia.
OK, we’re cheating. Bamboo isn’t a tree, technically, it’s a member of the grass family. But, this incredibly fast growing bit of greenery requires no fertilizer or pesticides and has a voracious appetite for carbon and nitrogen, all while pumping out 35% more oxygen than a comparably sized hardwood forest. Plus, bamboo is incredibly versatile and can be used in everything from textiles to flooring and furniture.
This is the story of sustainability. It’s looking at the big picture, to see how each piece fits in with the whole, and choosing to take the path that best preserves the planet. And that’s how we celebrate Arbor Day!