Friday, January 11, 2008

Sustainable Tropical Hardwoods Anyone?

While the global powers-that-be wrangle in the Heiligendamm G8 over how the Kyoto Protocol threatens their “industry”, some entrepreneurs are saving the planet via sustainable business practices.

By: Vanessa Uy

Tropical hardwoods harvested by sustainable means and have ecological certification has been in vogue lately with top- notch European furniture designers. These woods are priced by the designers not only for their exquisite quality but also the fact that you can purchase one guilt-free. Finally, we can now experience the pride of ownership of beautiful tropical hardwood furniture in our own homes without the guilt that used to come with these items like deforestation and/or swindling indigenous tribes from an honest and fair transaction.

A German company called Unique Wood imports rare tropical hardwoods from Paraguay that are grown and harvested by sustainable means with the attendant certification. As you know, the concept and practice of sustainable forestry was invented in Germany in the 19th Century. So it’s only right for her to set an example for the rest of the world.

A German business consulting firm, GTZ train the local Paraguayan wood suppliers on sound business practices while maintaining the environmentally friendly ethos that keeps the tropical hardwood supply sustainable. Just as well because the demand in Europe for tropical hardwoods has increased over the past few years. At present, only 5% of Paraguay’s original forest remain today. When Unique Wood’s suppliers harvest tropical hardwoods, nothing is wasted. The excess limbs and branches are turned into charcoal with ecological certification in keeping in line with sustainable development so that the biodiversity of the local forests are preserved. Sadly, not all –if enough- of Paraguay’s forest resources are harvested and managed in a sustainable manner.


Rubinger said...

Opinion: Monopolies Are Not Good for the Environment

Availability of Sustainable Wood Products Hampered by Certification from Forest Stewardship Council

Exclusivity Drives Up Prices and Steers Builders to turn to Petroleum Products and Other Non-renewable Resources.

FSC Exclusivity Could ‘LEED’ to Other Environmental Problems
Long before people in the “new world” began to understand the risks of dwindling timber supplies, European countries saw first-hand the potential danger of over harvesting.

From Germany’s proactive, 18th-century commitment to renewable forestry, to England’s reforestation efforts in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, many countries learned these lessons well.

In this tradition, The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) was founded in 1999. Stemming from the rich, long-time traditions of sustainable forestry in Europe, PEFC has grown to impressive, global proportions. Today, the Sustainable Forest Management criteria it uses are supported by 149 governments worldwide, covering 85% of the world’s forest area.

PEFC respects and integrates each country’s forestry practices, using a structure that works in tandem with local governments, stakeholders, cultures and traditions. Yet, in some circles, the PEFC and its European roots are inexplicably frowned upon.

For instance, in today’s “green” building movement, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is the most successful such program in the world. Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED system is now in use in more that 14,000 construction projects in 30 countries, including all 50 United States.

However, lumber used for LEED construction projects must be certified by just one entity—the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

As the demand for green, renewable resources continues to grow, why does LEED insist on this exclusive arrangement with a single certification scheme?

Both the FSC and the PEFC use independent third-party certification, providing abundant reassurance that the wood originates from sustainably managed forests. They include oversight by all vital stakeholders—member countries, non-governmental organizations, landowners, social groups and others.

Within each group’s framework, the national governing bodies from individual countries and regions develop standards with substantial opportunity for public review. And both provide clear chain-of-custody tracking and labeling that assure end users of legal and environmentally sound harvesting.

One independent industry consultant showed how the PEFC even goes beyond FSC standards when it comes to conformity with a number of ISO certification and accreditation guides.

This FSC-LEED exclusivity is especially baffling when you remember that PEFC certification represents about two thirds of all certified forests globally, which in all account for about a quarter of the global industrial roundwood production.

Additionally, many FSC certified acres are owned by governments or families focused on preservation—they have no intention to harvest for building-material production. And available FSC-certified veneers are often just a fraction of the number of veneers available through the other certification schemes.

It’s clear that accepting PEFC certified wood products would open a tremendous new resource-pool for the green building movement.

Here in North America, leading national forest certification programs, such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)—both part of the PEFC—create a central source for certified timber for North America. Combined, CSA and SFI certify more than 328 million acres of sustainable forestland in North America, versus about 69 million total acres certified by the FSC.

Limiting the availability of sustainable wood products drives up prices, prompting more builders to turn to materials derived from petroleum products and other non-renewable resources. Or they turn to concrete and other materials that require significantly more energy to produce, ultimately increasing greenhouse gas emissions and leaving a bigger carbon footprint.

Left unaddressed, all of these issues could lead to further environmental damage, something that I’m sure all of us—LEED and the FSC included—would like to prevent. LEED’s acceptance of PEFC certified lumber would be a significant step in the right direction for greater, worldwide adoption of green building practices.

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Company Contact:

Doug Martin

Pollmeier Inc.

Portland, OR 97223

Phone: 503-452-5800



Vanessa said...

Thanks for posting pertinent "guides" in which to further this particular blogsite's research. Given the current "complexity" and size of Web 2.0. The contributors of this blogsite are very glad to know that environmental issues are widely embraced for some time now by the wood and timber industry north of the Rio Grande, despite of the legal rigmarole.
The story of the young George Washington confessing to chopping down a particular cherry tree because he can't tell a lie only highlights the importance of natural resource utilization and sustainability are big issues back then in Colonial Period America.

Al said...

Recent scientific findings had proven that growing tropical hardwoods are one of the most efficient ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
But the story about the young George Washington confessing that he chopped down a cherry tree is somewhat apocryphal. Like Isaac Newton's "aha! moment" when a falling apple hit him in the head and then he formulated the "Laws governing universal gravity". True or not, I'm just glad that these "apocryphal" stories still inspire humanity to transcend our limitations.