Third-party certification programs for lumber can help you determine if forestry practices are in place to minimize impacts. If you buy uncertified wood, you have no idea where that wood is being harvested, what forestry practices are in place, and whether or not it was milled appropriately. Here are some tips for selecting “greener” lumber.
Keep it local. If possible, visit the harvest site and the sawmill. Many small mills cannot afford to be certified “sustainable” by a third party, but still use very sustainable practices.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) provides third-party certification of sustainable harvesting and processing of wood products. Lumber with an FSC certification is an indication that environmental impacts may be reasonable.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is an industry organization founded as a response to the FSC. While they have made efforts to distance themselves from direct ties to the industry by diversifying their board, the lumber industry is still a central player. They have recently worked to be seen as a legitimate certification and have improved their standards to be similar to FSC.
The building industry is at an interesting junction. While most people realize that the status quo is becoming less viable, there is no consensus about what strategies and materials will lead the way.
New products are entering the market daily, all trying to improve upon the mix of environmental performance, affordability, durability, and ease of installation. None are perfect, but many are worth considering. Informed choices will go a long way to encouraging those with the highest environmental standards, helping to achieve buildings with high performance and low impact—and at an affordable cost.