How to Find Sustainable Wood Sources

by Steve Graham, Networx

Some define all-wood products as green because they are more natural than petroleum-based plastics. It’s not that simple. Buying environmentally unfriendly wood can accelerate global climate change, threaten watersheds and other resources and waste energy.

Instead, find sustainable wood from forests that are growing faster than they are being harvested. Also look for solid alternatives, locally sourced wood and reclaimed lumber.

Sustain Healthy Forests

In general, choose fast-growth species instead of endangered, old-growth wood. But it’s not as simple as choosing pine over teak. It’s more important to know the source of your wood.

Forests sustain biodiversity, clean air and fresh water. They also slow global climate change by soaking up carbon dioxide. If properly managed, almost any type of forest can thrive and regenerate while also providing lumber, paper and other products. However, the same forests can also be clear-cut for some quick income and profitable alternative uses.

The Forest Stewardship Council logo is the best and easiest way to make sure your wood is from properly managed forests that are growing back as fast as they are being thinned. The respected group works in nearly 80 countries, certifying logging operations that maintain healthy forests and indigenous communities.

Build with Grass

Another option avoids wood altogether. Bamboo, which is technically a grass, has received plenty of attention as a sustainable, versatile and strong alternative to wood. It grows about four times as quickly as most softwood trees. However, it also must be sustainably sourced. The FSC doesn’t certify bamboo forests. Instead, visit the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan for more information on finding sustainably sourced bamboo.

Reducing Transport Energy

One problem with bamboo, however, is that shipping flooring and other bamboo products from its Asian sources requires plenty of energy. Another option is to look for wood building supplies and other products on the Sustainable Woods Network Website. The group helps consumers find locally sourced wood in 12 American states. The products cut transport energy while also supporting local economies. Many of the suppliers are involved in old-growth forest restoration projects that help improve, rather than simply maintain, forested lands.

Reusing Wood

Finally, the best way to use old-growth hardwoods is to reuse the lumber. Reclaimed and salvaged wood is gaining popularity as homeowners look for sustainable options and a unique look. Take care when using salvaged wood. The imperfections of an old barn wall or wine cask add character and an antique aesthetic to the salvaged wood, but they also add problems. Salvaged wood may split easily and can have difficulty retaining fasteners.

Find local salvaged or recycled wood in your state at the Building Materials Reuse Association.

Just because wood is natural doesn’t make it sustainable. Consider the species, source and use of the wood. Find products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Woods Network, and seek out salvaged wood and wood alternatives.

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Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton3 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Athena C.
Athena C.4 years ago

Bamboo is the way to go!

Stefani S.
Stefani A.4 years ago

Thanks, good info.

Eva Adgrim
Eva Adgrm4 years ago

Thanks for theinformation very interesting

John C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Max Overton
Max Overton4 years ago

Like so many of the world's ills, this problem would disappear if we could only cure over-population. That is the long-term solution we should be encouraging our children and grandchildren to embrace.

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M.4 years ago

Brick and mortar or wood for a house? As pointed out, the first choice retains cold, which means higher bills for heating no matter which system is installed. Wood does tend to deteriorate faster.

This is where controls could be instituted by powers that be on preserving natural resources, timber, wood etc. We can all be part of this movement by being more informed and conscious of our choices.

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey4 years ago

@ana p. - I forgot to comment on your remark re the toxicity of the insulation needed for timber houses.

It isn't only timber houses that need to be insulated, you know! We have spent a minor fortune on insulating our brick house in Sussex, England, because of the cold and damp. We have put in: roof insulation, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation - and if it were financially feasible we would put in under-floor insulation too!

We live near the coast, the English Channel, but we certainly do not enjoy a nice, warm, dry Mediterranean climate here!

(By the way, the word you want is INSULATION - not "ISOLATION". - it is tricky, looking words up in a dictionary!)

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey4 years ago

@ ana p. - I see you live in Lisbon, Portugal - a Mediterranian climate.

Well, my dear, the reason people in the more northerly countries tend to build their houses out of timber and wood products is this:

In e.g. Sweden, a brick or stone house (with or without cement render) is hellishly COLD (AND sometimes damp too!) for at least 6 - 7 months of the year! Not to speak of the British Isles, where the worst possible choice for housing is brick, stone and cement, on account of the prevailing climate which is both damp and chilly! This, of course, necessitates MORE heating, and a lot of this expensive (and environmentally damaging) heating is just "soaked up" by the actual structure. You see, bricks and stone absorb AND retain cold and moisture, and it takes a lot of heat to dry it out.

People here in Britain tend to suffer a lot from arthritis, on account of this damp cold.

Sadly, most of the ancient broadleaf forests in Britain were felled many long centuries ago, and we import nearly all the timber and wood, which is therefore VERY expensive - AND often very poor quality too.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman4 years ago

thanx for information.