A Guide to the Sustainability of Hardwood
By Taylor McKnight, Author for Created Hardwood
Ah, trees. Nature’s magnificent gift to humanity, quietly standing tall and proud, enriching our lives in countless ways. It’s astounding how these majestic beings touch nearly every aspect of our daily existence.
From the floors beneath our feet to the cabinets that hold our cherished dishes, from the pages of the books we eagerly devour to the frames adorning our walls and even our cars, wood intertwines seamlessly with our lives. The true magic of trees lies not only in what we can readily see but also in the hidden depths of their utility.
Trees come in not one but two major types: hardwoods and softwoods. While both have their merits, the allure of hardwoods often captures our hearts and compels us to embrace them in our daily lives.
There’s something undeniably captivating about hardwoods. They possess a natural elegance, often displaying rich colours, intricate grains, and solid, enduring nature—no wonder we are drawn to them for flooring, furniture, and other cherished possessions. Hardwoods like oak, maple, and mahogany have become synonymous with quality, craftsmanship, and a touch of luxury.
However, our love affair with hardwoods has taken a toll on these remarkable trees. The demand for hardwoods has led to over-harvesting, causing significant ecological imbalances and jeopardizing the survival of certain species.
As trees are felled at an alarming rate, their natural replenishment cannot keep up, and we face the risk of losing these treasures forever. It’s a sobering reality that reminds us of the urgent need for change.
So, where do we go from here? How do we continue to enjoy the benefits of hardwoods without causing irreparable harm to the environment? The answer lies in embracing sustainability.
How Sustainability Relates to Environmental Resources
Sustainability emerges as a guiding principle in our quest to strike a balance between our love for hardwoods and the urgent need to protect our environment. It’s a term we often hear, but what does it mean? How can it make a difference in our day-to-day lives?
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of guidelines established by the United Nations to address the complicated problems facing our planet. These goals provide a framework to address pressing issues such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation.
Within this framework, SDG 15 holds particular significance regarding the sustainability of hardwoods and our precious forests.
SDG 15, aptly titled “Life on Land,” focuses on safeguarding terrestrial ecosystems, promoting sustainable forest management, halting deforestation, and combatting desertification and biodiversity loss. It recognizes the critical role that forests play in providing essential resources, supporting livelihoods, and maintaining the delicate balance of our planet’s ecosystems.
At its core, sustainability is about meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It involves responsible decision-making, considering our choices’ economic, social, and environmental impacts.
Sustainability urges us to embrace a long-term perspective, recognizing that our actions today have far-reaching consequences for tomorrow.
In the context of hardwoods, sustainability means ensuring the responsible management and conservation of forests. It requires us to find ways to satisfy our desire for hardwoods’ beauty, durability, and functionality while preserving the health and biodiversity of these vital ecosystems.
Sustainability prompts us to seek alternative materials, support sustainable forestry practices, and make conscious choices that minimize our ecological footprint.
But sustainability is not just an abstract concept or a distant goal—it’s a human endeavour. It’s about securing a brighter future for ourselves, our children, and all future generations. By embracing sustainable practices, we can enjoy the benefits of hardwoods today without depriving future inhabitants of their wonders.
A Deeper Look at the Sustainability of Hardwood
Trees are created differently, as are all living beings. Each hardwood species possesses unique qualities, growth patterns, and ecological roles. Therefore, ensuring the sustainability of hardwoods requires a nuanced approach that considers the specific needs and characteristics of different species.
Hardwoods encompass a wide range of tree species, each with distinct traits. Oak, maple, and cherry are highly sought after for strength, beauty, and versatility. Others, such as mahogany and teak, are prized for their rich colour, grain patterns, and durability.
It’s the diversity of hardwoods that adds depth and richness to our lives, providing a myriad of options for different applications. There are some breeds of hardwoods that overpopulate areas and can be used plentifully, however, just as endangered animals there are even species of trees that are becoming less and less existent in the world and those are the ones that need to be protected.
Tailored Approaches for Sustainability
To develop tailored approaches that address the specific needs of each hardwood variety, it is crucial to understand that hardwoods have different growth rates, ecological roles, and vulnerabilities. The following are a few key considerations for fostering the sustainability of hardwoods:
i. Responsible Harvesting Practices
Sustainable forestry management is crucial to maintaining hardwood forests’ health and longevity. By implementing selective logging techniques, where only mature trees are harvested, we can minimize the impact on the overall ecosystem and ensure the regeneration of hardwood species. This could also focus on the inclusion of trees that are older or dying and keeping the life of them living on in other pieces, such as furniture. The inclusion of the amount of specific species of hardwood should be taken in to consideration, as some are more prevalent and easily accessible than others.
Careful planning, monitoring, and adherence to forest certification standards are of utmost importance to the long-term sustainability of hardwood resources.
ii. Reforestation and Habitat Restoration
Reforestation is a powerful motive to recover what we have lost, reconnecting us with our true essence as humans and showcasing our accountability and care for the environment.
By planting trees and nurturing their growth, we strive to restore the lush forests, vibrant ecosystems, and diverse habitats that have diminished over time.
Sustainability doesn’t have to be boring. Corporations can be agents of change by setting aside dedicated days for activities like tree planting and investing in restoration initiatives. They can support coral rehabilitation, fund forest rewilding programs, contribute to invasive species eradication, implement green infrastructure, and promote water conservation measures.
Through their actions, corporations demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and become catalysts for positive environmental change.
iii. Supporting Endangered Species
Some hardwood species face a higher risk of extinction due to overexploitation or habitat loss. To promote their sustainability, it is crucial to support conservation initiatives that focus on protecting and restoring the habitats of endangered hardwoods.
We can contribute to preserving these unique and irreplaceable species by raising awareness, supporting research, and advocating for protective measures. There are even companies established that specifically associate their brand with the preservation of certain trees and wildlife that need protecting.
Different Hardwood Products that Contribute to Sustainability
In the world of furniture, sustainability is gaining traction. Manufacturers now use materials like FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) or reclaimed wood. FSC-certified wood ensures that it comes from responsibly managed forests, where trees are harvested with consideration for ecosystem health.
Reclaimed wood is salvaged from old structures or discarded furniture, reducing the demand for new wood and minimizing waste. We can support responsible forestry practices and minimize environmental impact by choosing furniture made from these sustainable hardwood sources.
There are numerous furniture manufacturers that partner with sustainable companies that support endangered tree foundations. In most of the cases, it becomes an ongoing cycle of funding, but also can be a renewable resource partnership for businesses that utilize older wood and then contribute to the planting of newer seeds to take the place of the other.
With hardwood flooring being one of the most common and attractive types of flooring to be used in housing and building structures, eco-friendly flooring emerges. Engineered hardwood flooring is an excellent alternative since it consists of a thin layer of hardwood on top of a plywood or composite substrate. This construction uses less hardwood while preserving the wood’s natural beauty and longevity.
Engineered hardwood flooring is often made from fast-growing or underutilized species, reducing pressure on more valuable hardwood forests. By opting for engineered hardwood, we can enjoy the warmth and elegance of wood flooring while promoting the sustainable use of hardwood resources.
Engineered sustainable hardwood materials offer a range of options when it comes to construction.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) are examples of engineered wood products that provide strength and stability for structural purposes. These materials are made by bonding layers of hardwood veneers together, utilizing smaller-diameter trees or fast-growing species that can be sustainably harvested.
By using these engineered sustainable materials, we can reduce the demand for large-diameter hardwoods while still enjoying the beauty and strength of wood in construction projects.
Hardwood products can contribute to sustainability through sustainable furniture, eco-friendly flooring, and sustainable building materials. By choosing FSC-certified or reclaimed wood, utilizing engineered hardwood, and opting for engineered sustainable materials, we can support responsible forestry practices, reduce waste, and preserve our valuable hardwood resources.
Written by Taylor McKnight, Author for Created Hardwood