It’s easy to assume that identifying sustainably harvested wood is just about the type of wood that’s used, whether that’s woods like bamboo, which are known to be easily renewable, to maple and oak, which are abundant throughout the U.S. and not at risk of dying out. But many more factors should be considered when determining how sustainable your wood really is, including what the product contributes to a regenerative process.
Rest assured, the effort is worth it: sustainably harvested wood building products are not just beautiful, but also a gift that keeps on giving.
So Exactly What Is Sustainably Harvested Wood?
The simplest definition is woods harvested in a way that not just preserves, but restores and contributes back to local ecosystems.
The sustainable label must describe not just the wood itself, but wood products at all points of its harvesting and production.
For example, as mentioned above, bamboo is frequently considered a sustainable wood. But if harvesting the bamboo involves heavy machinery and long distances traveled on diesel‑guzzling vehicles to transport collected wood, and additional carbon‑emissions‑heavy processes to process it into a building product, then the resulting effect is still net negative for the environment.
On the other hand, having a conscious process, no matter how sustainable, does nothing for the environment if trying to harvest a non‑replenishable wood such as Big‑Leaf Mahogany. In Central America alone, its population has decreased by 70% since the 1950s due to weak regulations, worldwide demand, overharvesting, and poor regeneration.
In summary, sustainability makes sense not just from an environmental perspective, but also from a business perspective, since proper resource management ensures supply for future operations.
Why Clients Hold All the Power With Sustainability
Big brands around the world have become increasingly eco‑conscious when it comes to their choices, not only in their product but all other aspects of their business.
World‑renowned luxury shoe retailer Christian Louboutin is known for decking out their stores in bark, using regenerative Bark House wall coverings and panels at their boutique in Miami’s Design District. Regenerative process and natural aesthetics truly come together in the two‑story space, which uses Bark House poplar tree panels to cover the exterior, and adds a softer touch of white and gold birch plus pin cherry accents inside.
"The interior trim is unbelievable,” wrote Charles Pickelsimer, a Bark House customer who visited the store and sent us the photo shown here.
Regular customers can affect big‑business decisions when it comes to sustainably harvested wood and other eco‑conscious aspects of operations. Through their investment choices, clients, in fact, can hold tremendous power over whether businesses decide to place a greater focus on sustainability.
Research has shown that modern consumers, especially millennials like to spend money on companies that align with their values. That means designers and architects would do well to align themselves not only with client needs and aesthetic sensibilities but also their personal value systems as well.
Bark House, for example, ensures that its harvesting practices help reduce carbon emissions and actively invests in local communities and watershed improvement initiatives. This resonates with clients who place great value on regenerative philosophy, and how building products made with sustainably harvested wood should give back to and improve their local ecosystems, natural and human.
The Final Takeaway
When it comes to the question of what is sustainably harvested wood, the answer goes beyond whether a particular type of wood is easily recyclable, biodegradable, and replenishable. Designers must also look to find out:
- Are harvesting processes environmentally friendly?
- Can businesses ensure future supply of materials?
- Do wood products line up with consumer values when it comes to sustainability?
If they can answer yes to every one of these questions, that speaks to the incredible economic, environmental, and social value of truly sustainably harvested wood products.