A guide to identify greener wood and wooden products


Wooden doors, windows, cabinets, paneling, furniture, decorations and other wooden products add a charming and elegant look to your home. Wood enhances the psychological impact on the people at home or in the workspace. The wood and wooden products that you source for your home should ideally be derived from green sources, so that the planet retains its forest cover. Check out how to recognize and locate greener wood for your next wood project.

Guide to identify greener wood and wooden products

Wood is a material unlike other raw materials, as even the waste can be used to make other wood-based products. The only problem is that cutting down trees without replanting or giving a thought to the ecological balance contributes to the global warming problem. Sustainable wood can be reclaimed, salvaged, recycled, and so on. The forests from where wood is harvested should grow back fast, with minimal damage to local economy.

Types of green wood 

Reclaimed wood

Reclaimed-woodIf you choose greener wood for your projects, you would be doing the planet a favor. Reclaimed wood is the best kind of wood that can be used, without having to fell a single tree. There is a lot of reclaimed wood just lying there in lumber stores, where you can get it for cheap. Check out the woodworking shops in your area, who might be throwing out fancy wood scraps which would be perfect for your project. Sometimes in lumber stores, especially those who sell wood reclaimed from demolitions, you can come across unwanted giant pieces of timber, though you have to be careful of safety hazards such as nails.

Contact freecycle groups which are basically people who live in the same area and who like to save on costs. Their purpose is helping to get materials for free. Think of it as a free barter system.

Some other places you can look for greener wood such as reclaimed wood, are industrial firms that carry out processing of wood and pallets. Milling companies, commercial woodworking firms, cabinet makers as well as wooden flooring makers and installers.

Salvaged wood

Salvaged woodSalvaged wood is salvaged from the forest, old forest growths and those that have been salvaged from waterways. Local arborists and places which sell salvaged wood offline or online is where you will find this type of greener wood. 

Select FSC certified wood

Select FSC certified woodBeing seriously concerned for the environment, you would definitely prefer wood which has the stamp of being eco-friendly. To do this, an easy way is to trust the experts who label sustainable wood as sustainable.

There are many labels that can do this, but the one that is the one you should choose greener wood is the FSC label. The Forest Certification Council (FSC) is the certification which is considered to be the most authentic. Other common labels/certification can vary from being weak or complete greenwashing.

It could be a little hard for you to find FSC certified wood, but you can find it in Home Depot and other such stores. If more people like you ask for FSC instead of SFI certification, then many stores would carry that wood.

Choose species which are abundant

CedarIf you want to buy greener wood, choose abundant tree species. One way is to know that the species you are buying is abundant, is that it is priced lower, usually. Some of the abundant wood species are Douglas Fir, Birch Cedar, Maple, Oak, Poplar and Pine.

Endangered hardwood species to avoid

RosewoodSome species of wood is classified as endangered. The names of these species are Ebony, Balsa, Ipe, Mahogany, Rosewood, and Teak. These woods are often preferred by homeowners because of their gorgeous colors and look.

But good stains also give the same effect, and any wood can be transformed in color or grain with a

stain. While choosing the stain, be sure to choose one which is greener too.

If you want to know more about endangered species, then you can check with the CITES list or Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species and with the IUCN red list or International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Choose good composites/plywood

plywoodWhen you’re on the lookout for green wood, then particleboard, plywood, OSB, MDF as well as other composites can be the right choice. These make better use of trees than solid boards, and some of them can be even stronger than the solid boards, though not all. MDF is not that strong, but it is cheap and is chosen often.

The downside of composite boards is that the glue that holds them together that is toxic. Though most people do not get sick from the glue right away, breathing in urea formaldehyde is unhealthy, and is a VOC.

So when you choose greener wood, choose the ones which are marked as ‘no added urea formaldehyde’. Other glues such as melamine formaldehyde are still better as they do not release the formaldehyde into the atmosphere.

The agricultural waste from plants such as sorghum and wheat is utilized to make ‘agri boards’. A quantity of stalks are glued/pressed together to form boards such as straw board, wheat board, Kiere board and so on.

Choose wood that is renewed rapidly

Softwood treesSome varieties of wood can grow very fast, and there are forests of these kinds of wood sustainably. Softwood trees such as evergreens grow faster than the hardwood varieties (deciduous trees). Bamboo lumber is actually a grass, and harvesting it ensures that the plant is still alive and it grows back fast.

Cork is another rapidly growing wood, but it is a tree not grass. The harvesters skin the cork’s bark which grows back, and only after several harvests, new trees are planted. Cork and bamboo have emerged as the choice greener wood to buy. Cork is sound absorbent and water-resistant which makes it useful for a variety of wooden products.

Why should you opt for green wood?

Forests comprises of treesLatest studies have shown that forests are vital to reducing global temperatures, as trees can absorb carbon dioxide, which is one of the deadly greenhouse gases. Forests comprises of trees, animals, plants and microorganisms. The interaction of all these elements with each other and the water, soil and the atmosphere provides us with the ecology which maintains the planet.

When trees are felled without thought, forests are wiped out, leading to erosion, runoff, lack of shelter for animals. Decimation of plant, animal and tree species has led to an imbalance in the environment. So when you buy greener wood, you would be supporting forests which are regrown, and the livelihood of the local people too is sustained, limit on genetic engineering is set and more. Rare, ancient trees are protected, only narrow skidding trails are allowed, and chemical use and genetic modification is banned.

Check which country the wood is sourced from

TeakTimber production practices in most countries of the world are unsustainable. As most of the tree species are cut down indiscriminately, governments are placing bans on tree logging. But illegal logging is a reality and that is because of the demand globally for wood. Greener wood is desirable, and when you and other people increase the demand for it, there would be a decrease in illegal timber.

Teak and mahogany are the most endangered species. Try to go without these two kinds of wood, and replace them with other alternatives for your projects. Or else, you can buy teak and mahogany in the form of reclaimed wood.

In every part of the world, there are very few ancient forests standing due to our need for our homes and offices to look beautiful. Wood plays an important role in the building process, as well as the furniture and storage. But the time has come to think before you buy any kind of wood, and look for alternatives instead. As mentioned before, to meet the demand for wood, whole forests are demolished at a time, and it takes at least a hundred years for a forest to be a community.

Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia are some of the countries where timber felling is illegal. Eastern European countries are cutting down ancient forests to meet supply. So try to avoid timber from these countries whenever you are constructing with wood.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycleThe three Rs should be applied to wood also. Reducing the need would reduce demand. One of the ways to reduce demand is by construction smaller buildings or residences. The average size of a home in USA is 2,330 sq ft, using 17,000 ft of lumber or 85 trees. The size of a home in 1970 was 1400 ft, which obviously took up much less timber.

Thus, reducing the size of our homes and using greener wood/alternative material would save hundreds of thousands of trees every year. You can use engineered lumber such as roof and floor trusses, I-Joists and so on, to reduce the wood use. Buy wooden products such as furniture locally, so that there is no environmental cost, when the product is shipped. Supporting local artisan also strengthens the local economy, benefiting locals including you.

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