Common Sense or Acronyms

By Wood Haven | November 15, 2022

Category: Wood

In this business of building and trying to be more environmentally friendly we see so many requests for “certified” products. But is that really the best route to take?

If we believe the hype, then all the big boys’ products are environmentally sound – or are they? It is an easy claim to make and hard for the end consumer to qualify without doing a mountain of homework, so let’s use a different approach!

Common Sense…

If a wood product starts out being grown in a tree farm in New Zealand and then shipped to Europe and then processed and then shipped to the US… is that Green? Common Sense says probably not, but the certification gatekeepers say it is!

Especially if that tree farm is situated on land that once was a diverse forest that was cleared and the fiber ground and pelletized and sent to Europe as fuel for power plants. And if we make a monoculture tree farm out of that land it’s ok? And it can be certified? Again, Common Sense would say probably not but it is a common practice. Species that are farm raised as a monocrop, then treated and shipped all around the world are certified as green building products.

This leads us to the ongoing battle with FSC availability. Here’s an idea that I am sure will ruffle some folks in that camp. Imagine we had some species throughout the Eastern half of the US, and that these are plentiful and under-utilized – and they are scattered about in highly diverse forests that are easily accessible! If utilized, they would take pressure off species that are in decline for the foreseeable future. How could we encourage their utilization? Common Sense says certify them! Get the FSC boys to quit looking at just highly managed forests and start looking at fringe species that have tremendous potential if just encouraged. What are these species? Hackberry, Soft Maple, Sycamore, Elms, Cottonwood. I listed these in the order of easiest utilization! But the bureaucratic mindset of the FSC guys could never wrap their head around something as simple as…. Common Sense! All those species and a few others should be blanket FSC Certified to encourage their utilization! But it will never happen - the FSC engine needs fed! The certification companies need fed! To do that they need tracts that they can charge enormous amounts of money to certify and maintain the chain of custody. Whereas a blanket species certification generates nothing. I would argue that you wouldn’t even have to maintain COC to harvest and use those species. The FSC boys could make a difference here, but it’s doubtful…. very doubtful.

Another domestic specie that could be highly utilized is Ash – but recently the IUCN, (International Union for Conservation of Nature), put Ash trees on their red list. The species is in rapid decline because of the Emerald Ash Borer, not because of logging. And now we have people not wanting to use Ash lumber because it is in decline. In reality we need to use it as fast as we can because regardless of the logging 98% of ash trees that are still harvestable in the forest are going to die and be wasted. Common Sense says we should harvest this resource as soon as possible but certain importers are touting the environmental advantage of importing European Ash because it is plentiful. But for years Europe imported Ash from the US, treated it and shipped it back to us as a green product. With rising freight costs that is no longer an economical approach but certifying European Ash to export to the US will certainly line some pockets. Which green are we really looking out for here?

Well so I said too much, but it is worth considering.

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