Get Wise about Green Wood Certifications

02/02/2015 |

3 ways to verify responsible harvesting

Wood is gaining favor in green buildings thanks to its long life and role in carbon storage, but how can you be sure the wood in your renovation or facility expansion comes from a reputable source?

Irresponsibly harvested wood may contribute to deforestation, the permanent destruction of forests to convert the land to other uses, which can negatively impact the surrounding environment by damaging habitat and biodiversity.

Even dedicated tree farms that replant harvested trees may treat their crop with harmful pesticides or herbicides that can drift over to nearby homes and sicken residents, says Brad Kahn, communications director for the Forest Stewardship Council, a certification program for responsibly managed forests.

However, a growing number of forest products now boast designations by green wood certification programs specifically designed to encourage smart forestry that benefits surrounding communities. Give your green procurement policy a boost by ensuring wood and paper products are certified by one of these third-party organizations.


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

What is it?
Founded by a coalition of environmental groups, this certification program was created with the intent of using the market to encourage forest protection through responsible management practices that minimize the environmental and social impacts of harvesting wood.

Which products does it cover?
Paper, tissue, printed materials, solid wood, sheet goods (such as oriented strand board and plywood), millwork, cabinetry, furniture, and latex.

What green practices does it require?
Standards for forest management cover protection of water quality, prohibit deforestation and harvesting rare old-growth forests, and restrict the use of highly hazardous chemicals. Forest managers are required to engage the local community and indigenous people, who can weigh in on management plans for areas where traditional tenure rights or established uses of land predate current management approaches. Summaries of all certification audits are made public.


Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)

What is it?
This three-pronged program certifies products that use wood fiber sourced responsibly from healthy, productive forests. Products can be certified for forest, chain of custody, and/or fiber sourcing.

Which products does it cover?
Paper and printing materials, packaging, and wood building and construction products.

What green practices does it require?
The standard used during the certification process contains measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, at-risk species, and forests with exceptional conservation value.

A mandatory chain of custody process ensures that manufacturers avoid illegal or controversial forest fiber sources. Labeled products also indicate whether they contain some or all fiber from certified forests and recycled content – some manufacturers will even supply the average percentage of each content type.


American Tree Farm System (ATFS)

What is it?
Intended for smaller family-owned forests, this program promotes sustainable forest management through education and outreach to family forest owners. Its standards have been endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification, an international forest certification system.

Which products does it cover?
ATFS-certified lands are a top source of wood fiber for chain of custody programs operated by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Systems, as well as the Canadian Standards Association. Wood harvested from certified tree farms can be combined with recycled material to make certified paper and wood products of all kinds.

What green practices does it require?
Major tenets of ATFS-certified sustainable forestry include clean water, healthy habitats, and recreational opportunities for local communities. Landowners must develop a written forest management plan. Inspections confirm that tree farms address conservation of soil, water, and wildlife.

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