FSC and general stewardship of our forests - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-08-2019, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
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FSC and general stewardship of our forests

Hi, I've spent many years in the print industry and am familiar with the FSC and chain of custody processes when buying paper. In many cases we wouldn't be awarded print jobs without using certified paper. I would like to understand how professional woodworkers, cabinet makers, furniture makers, etc. promote themselves as stewards of the environment? I'm a small shop buying only domestic hardwoods, and would like to be able to tell prospective customers I am buying from responsible suppliers and responsibly managed forests. Any thoughts are appreciated.
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-08-2019, 08:45 PM
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welcome to the forum
what part of the world are you in ?
when you get time, please update your profile page
with your location so that it shows in the left panel.
please feel free to post photos of your projects also.



-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-08-2019, 09:00 PM
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I worked for a building supply company several years ago. We had tons of oak flooring in several shades of stain. It came from overseas, mainly Siberia where I was told were thousands of square miles of oak forest. It is interesting that the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania are now making their Adirondack chairs and other lawn furniture out of colored synthetic material- no painting and lasts forever. I would guess the material is from recycled plastics.

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post #4 of 10 Old 12-09-2019, 11:37 AM Thread Starter
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I'm in Illinois, BTW. I really only get my lumber from one place here locally so I'll be asking them today what their opinion is as well. Interesting to know the Amish aren't using real wood for outdoor stuff anymore. I guess I'll have to make my own adirondacks next year :)
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-09-2019, 11:40 AM
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What is an FSC?

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post #6 of 10 Old 12-09-2019, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Hi George,

It's the Forest Stewardship Council and they are an organization that validates the chain of custody of wood and paper to make sure they are coming from sustainable forests. It is a huge topic in the print industry due to the amount of paper used, and of course the amount of waste. Large corporations who use a lot of paper combat this with the public by using the FSC's certification process to show the public they are not being harmful to the environment by using wood and paper products. In order to earn the FSC "stamp" on paper products, or anything that is printed, the vendors all have to go through rigid documentation and tracking every invoice from every vendor so when they are audited, they can prove all of the source materials came from a sustainable forest. Its very involved, but printers go through this because without it, they won't get business from clients who insist on using FSC certified paper.

So perhaps my experience in the print industry has me overthinking this a bit but my interest from other woodworkers is along the lines of sustainability and how it's discussed with clients, in marketing materials, etc. When someone came along and said "you are a printer so you are killing trees and hurting the environment", we had the FSC certification to say "no, we are responsible consumers of the planet". So what do other woodworking pros do when someone comes along and says the same thing about being a woodworker? As a very small shop there is no way I can participate in their certification program, it's too much money and time, but I do of course care about our planet.



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post #7 of 10 Old 12-09-2019, 01:31 PM
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As an amateur woodworker, it is hard for me to know the true source of wood that I buy. I am aware of CITES and the well known woods that are endangered, so I try to behave in a responsible manner when it comes to acquiring wood.

I buy some wood at lumberyards and woodworking stores, and I trust that they follow the law and regulations as it goes through the supply chain to them.

A lot of wood comes from woodworking club members. Sometimes they "retire" and the club helps their spouses sell off their accumulated materials. It is impossible to know the provenance of wood from those sources. I see endangered woods among those collections, but must assume they were harvested in a responsible way. More likely, they were harvested irresponsibly, but before people understood the implications of what they were doing, and before CITES was more widely known and understood.

I have seen rare, endangered woods for sale on the internet. I suspect that they are the result of illegal harvesting, and personally avoid them. Among other things, I make pens, where small pieces of rare, exotic woods are popular. Pen blanks are small, and it would not surprise me to learn that the huge popularity of pen making along with the small piece size encourages illegal harvesting and smuggling. By smuggling, I mean eBay purchases from overseas, for example. I see a lot of pen blanks for sale on a pen turning website, and I suspect that some of it was illegally harvested. The sale process is informal, with PayPal on one side, and ordinary mail on the other. With rare exceptions, I don't buy from them unless I am certain I understand the source of the wood.

I admit to having a few pieces of woods from endangered species. I got them all from the families of deceased woodworkers, and can only hope that they acquired them responsibly. The trees were already long gone, and it doesn't make sense to destroy those pieces. I suspect that most of the pieces are decades old. If I had not acquired them, then other club members would have picked them up. I keep them safe and hope to find the perfect use for them someday. You can call it irresponsible. You can call it reasonable behavior. You can call it privilege or rationalization, but it is what it is.

I freely admit that I do not have all the answers. I am willing and eager to see other points of view. I hope others contribute suggestions or recommendations for better approaches to those gnarly issues.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-09-2019, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Since I only buy from one primary supplier I called them up and the owner was nice enough to give me a pretty detailed explanation from his perspective as a wood supplier. He also connected some dots for me from the paper buying days upstream to the forest with regard to FSC certification. He's not certified but used to run a facility that was. Here's a synopsis:

- Most lumber suppliers downstream to where small businesses or end consumers purchase are not certified by FSC because of the heavy burden it places on managing an FSC program. It adds real cost to a business.
- Lumber stamped with the FSC stamp will cost approximately 20-25% more per board foot. He has the option to buy this from his sawmill as they are FSC certified, but he doesn't because it won't sell at the higher price. Really only the government and apparently paper mills care about true FSC certified wood and carrying that stamp all the way through the supply chain.
- There is a list on FSC's site of approved sawmills and lumber suppliers that offer both dimensional lumber and plywood panels. None of them appear to be in my area and I suspect would have volumes beyond my purchase requirements.

So at the end of the day, IMO, maintaining a responsible behavior by avoiding the endangered list and knowing your vendors is probably sufficient for small shop woodworkers who are asked about forest sustainability.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-11-2019, 10:41 AM
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There are several organizations that certify forest products as environmentally sustainable.

FSC was initially set up to work in the context of tropical forests where the rule of law can't be counted on. It also considers factors like the impact on small, indigenous or aboriginal societies. This strictly speaking isn't an ecological factor since humans as a whole aren't an endangered species and these people could move or adapt, but their culture could be lost.

In North America, there is also the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which was set up by the timber industry and has ties to the tree farm movement. It focuses more narrowly on the timber resource and its future usefulness for a balance of environmental and industrial demands. There are complaints from people with broader, less economic perspectives, that this program is self serving.

There are high fixed costs associated with any certification program which are hard for a small business to amortize. I sat on a committee that administered an industry sponsored program, and the big businesses are well aware of this. As a small user, you could say that you BUY from a certified vendor, but you can't say that you SELL a certified product unless you submit your own business to the scrutiny of the certification program and can prove to them you comply with the requirements. Believe me, this is time consuming and expensive.
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-12-2019, 10:24 PM
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The short answer is sad for those of us who cherish the beautiful words we work with our hope to work with:

Pretty much as noted so far, there is no practical functioning framework in place for anyone other than a large manufacturer. Horribly, in Africa and South America, there are many armed conflicts and questionable governments financed by blood diamonds, drugs, and blood wood; they are freely flooding the markets with relatively cheap (for what it is as a soon to be lost resources) wood that could never pass muster with FSC or any other conservation-minded organization.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, stunning swaths of rainforests are being harvested to supply the China and Vietnam based furniture factories. These forests are home to many endangered species, like the orangutan, which is expected to perish possibly within the next decade due to deforestation.

Any system of control or monitoring appears to be in complete disarray. The basic assumption for us as woodworkers should probably be that if the wood is any kind of tropical or exotic, it will be available to us at a high enviromental and moral cost. Sorry, but there is no way to sugar coat this. There are so many legendary woods I’ve dreamt of working, and until the news improves,I won’t allow myself to consume these fading resources.
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