There’s a Chinese proverb that goes: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” That kind of philosophy is ever present in today’s world, as more people have pooled in efforts to be proactive about the environment.
But amidst this passion for greener, more sustainable choices, there’s a pervasive suspicion about timber and the logging industry. Of course, the concern is not unwarranted—deforestation is a gripping problem worldwide, as many as 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the total population of the world’s trees has decreased by as much as 46% since the dawn of human civilisation. With such grim statistics in mind, consumers like you may be led to feel guilty about patronising wood products in general. You may be asking yourself: what’s the ethical thing to do? How can I orient my purchasing choices to be more forgiving to the earth’s wood resources?
The answer is closer to home than you may expect. You have the option of tapping into sustainable timber that’s born out of sustainable forest management, which the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources defines as “the management of forests to maintain their full range of environmental, social and economic values.” Timber is said to be “sustainable” if it is certified to have been harvested responsibly; i.e., for each tree that has been cut down for use, another has been planted in its place. Sustainable timber harvesting also rules that no ecological damage is wrought to the flora, fauna, and surrounding environment of the forest. In that sense, it mitigates the environmental effect of harvesting wood that is caused by the traditional logging industry.
Australia has had a national policy framework for sustainable forest management since 1992, and the country currently employs 3 safeguards to ensure that timber is sourced from sustainably managed forests: The Australian Forest Certification Scheme (AFCS), the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This makes the trail of wood consumption easier to follow. If you’re exploring the option of more sustainably sourced wood products like sustainable timber furniture, you need only to ask your local wood craftsmen where they source their timber and what their manufacturing practices are like. That should give you a clue on whether the organisation sees eye to eye with you about greener choices, and at the same time provide you with the best quality for your consumer goods.
What are some key reasons to choose furniture made from sustainable timber? Here are 6 short arguments for pursuing the material.
- Sustainable timber keeps wood a renewable resource. The idea of cutting down more trees to meet the demand for furniture may seem worrisome, but sustainable forest management and timber harvesting prioritise the retention of wood as a renewable resource. These business practices centre on preserving the most natural harvest cycle for trees, which is around 25 to 80 years. They are also less wasteful than the consumption of raw materials like steel or plastic.
- Sustainable timber practices promote the efficient storage of carbon. Destructive logging practices have consumers on their toes about how few trees are left to absorb the carbon in the air; however, buyers of furniture made of sustainable timber can be assured that the harvesting practice actually helps mitigate carbon levels in the atmosphere. Sustainably managed forests cultivate a population of young, robust, and highly carbon-absorbent trees. Ultimately, this is better for the environment than a furniture industry anchored on traditional logging.
- Sustainable timber requires minimal processing during the manufacturing of furniture. It’s noted that sustainable timber eats up much less energy and therefore demands less processing than materials like concrete or steel. Processing sustainable timber as a base manufacturing material also lessens the emissions of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Furniture made out of sustainable timber will help insulate the surroundings. Hot weather is no joke to Australians. Any material that can help insulate the surroundings and counter extreme humidity is beneficial to Australian consumers. Wood boasts low thermal conductivity and high thermal mass. Thus, rooms and buildings that are populated with high-quality, sustainably sourced wood products will also be cooler and more pleasant to their inhabitants.
- Sustainable timber is aesthetically pleasing and a pleasure for craftsmen to work with. There are a lot of wonderful possibilities to be had from enlisting the help of local woodworkers who use sustainable timber. Wood is both functional and stylish, and the natural, elegant touch of wooden furniture will never go out of style. There’s also a lot of room to customise this kind of furniture and choose cuts, colours, and finishes that can’t be found in ordinary mass-produced items. This kind of material is also favoured by craftsmen themselves as it has solid structural properties, is strong and durable, is versatile to work with, and yields quick build time.
- Purchasing sustainable timber furniture helps local artisans and the agriculture sector. When you say yes to buying sustainable timber furniture, you are affirming other valuable institutions: the Australian agriculture sector, and Australian artisans. Your patronage of these products will go a long way in boosting the local economy, giving fellow Australians a platform to showcase their artistry, and advocating sustainable agricultural practices across the country.
More people now recognise that seemingly simple decisions, such as buying furniture, have a lasting impact. In the long run, that is something to be celebrated. Becoming more conscious of our purchases is mutually beneficial to consumers, agriculture advocates, skilled tradesmen, and the environment in Australia.