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Eco Issues II; The wider picture

FSC certification

FSC certification is basically an auditing scheme that aims to trace timber from tree to end-product. Most timber imported for sale via larger timber merchants will be imported as part of this or similar schemes, but smaller makers like myself are not able to claim FSC certification unless they spend huge sums to become part of the scheme themselves.
These schemes primarily seem to be intended as a means for the mass-producers to indicate that they meet basic environmental and welfare requirements, especially if they want to bid for large contracts.
I have been told by one or two smaller timber merchants that even if they were to convert a tree from a wood half a mile away and sold it to a maker in the same town that they would not be able to claim any certification level because it too expensive for them to join the scheme.
So, while it is essential that these schemes exist, they should not be considered as the total answer.
In Europe, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market so I would probably be unable to buy imported timber from an illegal source if I wanted to. As with so many aspects of life, however, being “legal” may not quite the same as being “moral”. The FSC scheme does also provide some protection for biodiversity and indigenous populations.
Whenever I go to a timber merchant I am always too focussed to remember to take a photo. This one is by Sarah Worth.

Carbon Footprint

I used to assume that it was impossible to make furniture without having some detrimental effect on the planet. I had assumed that the planet must be better off having all timber left in the form of trees rather than made into products of any sort, but it turns out that isn’t necessarily the case.

 

It is clear that a large tree will be converting a lot more carbon dioxide into wood and oxygen ( to simplify the process somewhat) than a small sapling. There is a point however at which a tree becomes fully mature and will not be increasing in mass. Dr David Corke, Director, Organic Countryside CIC says;
“Whether a new forest is natural or planted, when it is mature it no longer has any good effect on CO2 levels: the rotting dead leaves and fallen trees release exactly the same amount of CO2 as the trees take in by photosynthesis. To make a mature forest a contributor to CO2 reduction you need to cut down the mature trees and use the wood for building (or burn it to replace fossil fuels). Then let the felled forest regrow.”
In other words, if you buy anything made from a mature tree, as long as that thing remains as a thing rather than being disposed of a few years down the line, then that is an excellent method of storing a quantity of carbon which could otherwise become a greenhouse gas.
Trees are usually only felled for timber when they have reached maturity.
It is important to remember that the production and processing of wood uses much less energy – known as embodied energy – than most other materials, giving wood products a significantly lower carbon footprint even before you consider the carbon storage aspect.
Me, increasing my footprint in Langdale

Distance Travelled

It goes without saying that British timber will have travelled for less miles than European timber, which will have travelled less than timber from other parts of the World. It is not quite that simple of course, because products that travel by sea use a lot less fuel per mile than those which travel by land. If that were not true, then the cheapest Australian wine would have to be priced about the same as Champagne by the time it reached the UK.

So should I only buy wood from the UK? Well, it would be nice it that were an option, but most of the timber merchants just laugh at you when you ask them for British-grown timber. If you are lucky, they will just suck their teeth and explain how difficult it is.

Even when we have a disaster like Ash die-back, it seems to make the situation harder because Ash trees need to be left standing in case they prove to have some resistance. It is permissible to use the timber, but the availability does seem to be reduced.

I will always try to purchase locally grown wood first, but if I refuse all European and American wood then I would not be making very much.
The Oak for this pergola was grown and sourced close to where I live

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