Over the past several years, as consumers have become more conscious of the impact their purchases can have on the world, third party certifications like Fair Trade and B Corporations have sprung up to help audit the supply chain and business practices of companies around the world. In the global wood furniture and flooring industry, the most well-known third party certification for eco friendly furniture is managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Many people stumble upon the FSC certification while looking for sustainable wood furniture. In this article, we explain what it means to be FSC Certified, why it’s not the gold standard it’s perceived to be, and what to look for instead.
It’s Easier to Shop For Eco-Friendly Furniture This Holiday Season Than You Might Think
The effects of climate change are real. You can see it in the flooded streets of Miami or the wildfires in the midwest and west coasts or the droughts across the entire country. It’s undeniable that weather is getting more extreme each year. But, we’re not climate experts. We’re here to let you know there’s a way to positively impact the environment and that’s by purchasing truly eco-friendly furniture.
I started Vermont Woods Studios in 2005 to promote sustainable wooden furniture. I’d been studying the impacts of illegal logging of the earth’s tropical rainforests and wondered “why isn’t anybody doing anything about this”? With the destruction being driven by demand for cheap wood furniture, I realized there was something we could do to help… even from way up here in Vermont. Thus our Vermont made furniture store was born, with the mission of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuading people to buy eco friendly furniture made from sustainably harvested wood.
FSC Certification Problems
That purpose is still at the heart of our mission, although the definition of “eco friendly wood furniture” has changed. Ten years ago the prevailing thought was that the hallmark of sustainably harvested wood furniture was a formal certification by the FSC, Forest Stewardship Council.
FSC is an international not for-profit group that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests. It has been considered the “gold standard” for green certification and labeling of forest products since 1993. Unfortunately, as pure as FSC’s intentions may be, the job of monitoring the entire planet’s forests has proved impossible. With so much at stake and land areas too big to monitor, organized crime has taken over the global timber industry. FSC certification is now systematically forged to the point where you cannot tell whether “certified” furniture is made from legal wood.
Illegal Wood: Not Just About Climate Change & Loss of Biodiversity
A recent article by Alexander Zaitchik titled, Blood on Your Ottoman: Your Furniture’s Link to a Murderous Logging Epidemic chronicles the September 2014 murder of Edwin Chota and 3 other indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest. The article highlights the fact that organized crime has upped the ante for illegal timber. Murder is now fair game in their book and it’s happening more than you’d like to know.
“The first thing people can do is to revisit the assumption that buying “certified” wood products absolves them of responsibility for destroying the world’s remaining primary rainforests. If you’re buying Peruvian mahogany, or Brazilian rosewood, or Indonesian teak, there’s no way to determine whether or not it came from a legal, carefully managed tract, or whether a villager was killed for trying to keep that tree standing”.
Eco Friendly Wood Furniture = American Made Wood Furniture
Our message to conscious consumers shopping for eco friendly furniture, flooring, paper or other forest products is simple: buy American made. In the United States logging is regulated and enforced. There are more trees now than there were 100 years ago. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, “North American forest growth has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the ’50s”.