If you’ve heard about sustainable timber and wondered what it’s all about, then wonder no more. Many manufacturers and other businesses now look for Responsible Wood certification on timber products, ensuring they can confidently produce and sell products that are made in a more environmentally conscious way. But that’s just one part of what sustainable timber is all about.
What is sustainable timber?
Sustainable timber describes the process of harvesting timber in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way. In short, sustainable timber comes from forests that are sustainably managed. Throughout the world, there are various bodies and certifications that a forest should have in order to be considered ‘sustainable’.
Management of these forests requires that all ecological, environmental and social factors are considered. While the certification process looks at a wide range of things, typical traits of a sustainable forest include:
- Replanting trees that are harvested
- Protecting the habitat of local wildlife
- Harvesting practices don’t cause unnecessary damage to other vegetation
This list is obviously not exhaustive but gives you an idea of what a sustainable forest looks like.
Responsible Wood certification
In Australia, certification is provided by Responsible Wood (PEFC representative in Australia), which assesses not only the forests themselves but the supply chain of harvested timber. The Responsible Wood certification relies heavily on two major Australian Standards:
- Sustainable Forest Management (AS/NZS 4708)
- Chain of Custody for Forestry Products (AS 4707)
These standards have been developed using benchmark standards from the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which is an international organisation that promotes sustainable forest management.
Why is sustainable timber important?
There is no doubt that forestry is a big business. That’s because as a society, we need to use our forests. Timber is used for everything from making paper to building high-rise buildings. The forestry industry also contributes over $23 million to the Australian economy, employing thousands of people. However, while wood is technically considered to be a renewable resource, without forest regeneration programs and sustainable wood certification, humans would potentially harvest trees at an unviable rate.
Forests offer so much more to humans than just timber and economic gains. Trees store around 40% of the carbon produced by humans. We’ve all heard a lot about the environmental need to reduce our carbon emissions. Without trees storing 40% of our emissions, the situation would be a lot more dire for planet earth.
Trees also produce oxygen, which is vital for maintaining human life. They also provide the water for many of our rivers and help to reduce sedimentation in the water that we use to survive. Not to mention the cultural significance of forests to indigenous communities.
Without sustainable timber, we would see forests harvested at a rate far greater than they can regenerate, and quite simply, that would have a devastating effect on the entire planet, and it’s not just humans who benefit from sustainable timber.
Have you ever watched a nature documentary and been astounded by the way animals, insects, plants and even microorganisms work together to survive? That’s perhaps the best definition of biodiversity. The term ‘biodiversity’ refers to all of the different life found in one place – for example, a forest.
A forest isn’t just a source of timber to build our homes with. It’s a rich habitat that countless species call home. From microorganisms like bacteria to plants, fungi and larger animals, there is a world within a world in every forest. Many of the species living in forests depend on other species to live. For example, a plant can be a source of food for insects and birds who in turn spread that plant’s seeds throughout the forest in the form of droppings. This process facilitates life for the insects and birds, while also ensuring the survival of the plant species.
Situations like this occur every day, in every forest around the world. While it’s easy to look the other way and assume that the survival of plants and animals isn’t our concern, the reality is very different. Humans rely on trees for oxygen. Many modern medicines are derived from plants. Many animals are a food source for humans. Without protecting our forests through sustainable timber harvesting, our world would be a very different place, and it wouldn’t be for the better.
For the benefit of all life on our planet, look for sustainable timber products. Everybody from individuals to businesses and manufacturers can play a part in ensuring we always have the timber we need, without sacrificing forests and all the benefits they provide.