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  • Green Articles

    7 Tips for Going Green with Recycled Wood

    By Lisa Munley

    Red Cabinet

    No material brings nature indoors and creates a warm atmosphere better than wood. It frames our houses, beautifies our interiors and accents our spaces. But consider the environmental cost: our appetites for wood and disposable paper products, soy and beef are why forests the size of 60 football fields are leveled every minute, and why 80 percent of the world’s original forests are gone. Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global warming pollution—and it destroys forest habitats, extinguishes entire species and forces wrenching changes in indigenous lifestyles.

    The good news is that growing awareness has spurred the creation of sustainable alternatives. Here are some ways to be greener when choosing wood for home remodeling and decorating:

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    • Look for wood products certified only by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This international organization protects forests with sustainable methods that benefit local populations and meet consumer demand. FSC covers millions of acres in 45 countries, and puts its seal on thousands of products already on the market. Retailers like The Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers stock FSC-certified products. Don’t be fooled by a seemingly green label like SFI, a deceptive, non-ecofriendly label established by the American Forest & Paper Association in order to compete with FSC products. Contact the Forest Stewardship Council at www.fscus.org/about_us to get started.
    • Buy local, and buy secondhand wood furniture and refurbish if necessary. One of the best things you can do is to buy someone else’s stuff. Not only does that keep it out of landfills or incinerators, it prevents production of greenhouse gases from harvesting raw materials, and from product production, distribution, consumption and disposal.
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    • Look for “reclaimed” or “recycled” wood products made from wood that has been recovered from demolition landfills, deconstruction projects or even underwater. Look for the “SmartWood Rediscovered” label or log onto www.smartwood.org.
    • If you don’t find what you want at local stores, you can purchase FSC-certified or salvaged wood countertops via the Internet. You can also find things like coat racks, wine bars and framed mirrors made from recycled wood. If you can’t find these where you live but still want maximum benefit (or least harm) to the environment, look into buying something from a second-hand shop as opposed to custom-ordering—shipping and transportation produce lots of greenhouse gases too!
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    • Choose products made with "secondary species." In addition to avoiding endangered woods, you can also opt for products made with readily available species, which in many cases are of equal or better quality than their more popular counterparts.
    • Buy wood products made with lower grades of wood. High-grade lumber is designated as such because it is devoid of knots and mineral streaks. By choosing lower grades, you take pressure off trees that contain a high percentage of straight-grain, knot-free wood (usually found in old-growth forests) and help decrease overall harvest levels since much more timber is required to produce high-grade lumber.
    • When shopping for wood furniture, inspect it to make sure it’s solid wood and not a wood veneer over plywood or particleboard. Pressed woods can pollute your indoor air with formaldehyde gas for years.

    Lisa Munley writes, speaks and lobbies on global warming issues, including sustainable living and energy conservation. She lives with her husband and three children in Indio, California.