Part 2 – Where does the timber come from? – Timber is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world. As a result illegal timber trading is commonplace and with it tremendous environmental damage can be caused along with human rights abuses.
Understanding where your timber floor has come from can be very difficult. Huge volumes are shipped around the world to numerous destinations before reaching the distributors. For example, timber could be cut down in Indonesia, shipped to China for processing, shipped to Germany for finishing and sent to the UK to sell. The result is that timber from a reputable supplier in Germany could originate from illegally logged timber from Indonesia. This is a very real scenario with Interpol estimating that 30% of the global timber supply is from illegal logging.
The good news is that there are many certifications you can use to assess the origins of your timber floor, the most common being FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). This label essentially means that there is a monitored chain of custody from growth & harvest through to processing and distribution. There is also the PEFC (Promoting Sustainable Forest Management), which is a globally recognised symbol.
FSC and PEFC logos which are displayed on the packaging of items which have a traceable chain of custody.
As well as tracing timber through the supply chain, FSC, PEFC and other bodies also aim to improve the industry on many other levels for example:
- Avoiding deforestation, which has a large impact on the ecosystem and de-stabilises the surrounding environment e.g mud slides.
- Promoting good forestry management. There is a huge difference between a forest that has been established for hundreds of years and sustains a complex, diverse ecosystem, and one that is planted with one species of tree and designed purely to cultivate timber. The latter does not support animal and plant life and often requires large amounts of pesticides and herbicides to keep the plants healthy. Organisations such as FSC and PEFC are set up to protect and ensure that forests that have evolved and established over hundreds of years are carefully managed as they can’t be replaced by simply planting more trees.
Despite the potential problems with sourcing good quality timber from reliable sources, it is important to recognise that it is an incredible material which is central to much of what we build.
In part 3 we will look at how the boards are finished and what the most sustainable options are.