Finding responsibly-sourced timber

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A classic material for the home, timber can be versatile, functional and aesthetically beautiful. But certain timbers and logging practices are damaging the environment. Luckily, there are some responsible wood options out there.

Second-hand timber can be high quality and come with an interesting backstory.

Buying responsibly sourced timber for construction or furniture for the home is all about seeing the forest for the trees. From a green perspective timber is a preferable material for furniture and home construction, yet the source of the wood you use can convert your green decision into an environmentally harmful one.

Wood is good, but "good" wood is better

Timber's strength, durability and beauty make it a popular choice as a material for use in the home, including for furniture and constructioni.

Additionally, wood is a more environmentally friendly material for construction and furniture than steel, plastic, concrete or aluminiumi. As a dead material being used in a table or as wall support for example, it's still doing the environment good. "Dead" wood continues to benefit the environment by being a carbon store, a natural and non-toxic material, and a natural insulator (so its use in a home will require less dependence on heating and cooling appliances, which tend to run off electricity and natural gas)i. Wood can also be easily reused and recycledi.

However, the benefits of using wood can be offset by their origin. Some timbers are not only farmed in an unsustainable manner, but are logged or harvested irresponsibly or even illegally - the wood may be from a "protected" forest, or it may be from an endangered tree speciesii.

There are hefty environmental costs associated with choosing a "bad" wood, but the good news is that timber can be farmed and harvested sustainably and in a way that does minimal damage, and that these "friendlier to the environment timbers" are available in Australiaiii.

Responsible timber

Doing research and sourcing responsibly-farmed wood can ensure that you have beautiful timber in your home, while avoiding unsustainable logging practices. One option is to consider using recycled timber. Another option is to research the type of timber you want to include in the home, and to cross-reference the timber with a database of "approved" woods that are certified by a forestry sustainability accredited council such asiv:

Wood is an environmentally friendly construction material when sourced responsibly.

Recycled timber

Using already felled and used wood can reduce your impact on the environment. Find recycled wood in your area using the Internet search terms "eco timber", "recycled timber", "reclaimed timber" or "salvaged timber". Websites will be specific to a geographic area, so find a timber yard or recycler near you to help you out. Sourcing wood second-hand can get you some great pieces with amazing history and detailing, with timber being salvaged from wharves, boats, railways, and so onv.

Preferable wood types

If you want to buy a piece of furniture and you want to know whether the timber used has been farmed sustainably or is from a source that is not endangered, there are databases and search tools that provide information about types of wood and their status as a sustainable product. If you go to your wood supplier armed with your findings - they should be able to tell you where they source their wood from - and you'll be able to make a decision you are happy with.

While not a priority for everyone, for some homeowners sustainability is a big factor in the building and furnishing of a home.
For more information and articles about making your home environmentally friendly, visit our home insurance news page.

i Planet Ark, Make it Wood: Benefits,

ii Greenpeace Australia Pacific, 2012, Forest Destruction,

iii Forest Stewardship Council, Our vision and mission,

iv Planet Ark, Make it Wood: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),

v Planet Ark, Make it Wood: Choosing Wood,