Wednesday, March 17, 2010


In a scene from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin was having a conversation with his imaginary tiger friend, Hobbes, as they were walking through the woods one day:
Calvin: "I was reading about how countless species are being pushed toward extinction by man's destruction of forests. Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
If we like wood so much we should do something to save it.

Even though 90 percent of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agricultural practices, logging and high-consumption of wood products by richer countries remain to be a major underlying cause (Source: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization). To put it simply, after a lot of research, I will just state here that the reasons and causes are too many and too deeply entrenched in our way of life that in the end one word will suffice to unite them all: Overconsumption. Apparenrently, we "overconsume," meaning we farm the land to death in our never-ending hunger for crops and cattle. Cutting down trees for timber is still an ever-present threat, sadly because there are still some willing to pay money for them, at whatever cost.

Even today illegal logging continues to plague the world's forests, specially in poorer countries. Where I grew up in Manila,  I knew somebody who went to great lengths to conceal illegally procured lumber sitting in front of his home during construction! It still happens, and I don't know about you, but in my opinion something like that is just simply irresponsible. This month alone, a shipment of about $5 billion USD of illegal rosewood from Madagascar (a third world country) was exported.Greed and exploitation kills the forests.

The solution to saving the world's forests is not going to be a simple one. The economic and social systems that are in place make it very, very hard. Poor people in forest-rich countries will continue to need to make a living, and there will always be someone who will take advantage of that. There are some things we can do though, and that is to know where our wood is coming from and to just simply change the way we use wood.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Manufacturers that have partnered with FSC get the FSC-certified label on their products, an emblem that tells us consumers that the wood used came from sustainable sources such as well-managed forests. FSC is nationally represented in more than 50 countries around the world

Left: This piece was crafted from fallen cypress trees!
Natural Tree-Stump Side Table, $199

Below: A table base handcrafted from unique pieces of driftwood from Indonesia.
Driftwood End Table, $399

Many companies now proudly offer FSC-certified furniture and wood products. Here are just some of them.

Architectural Salvage and Recycled Wood
Below is a detail of the coffee table below it, newly made from reclaimed wood. It is interesting because it retains a lot of the personality and character of the wood (which was something else before entirely). Architecturally salvaged wooden beams, stairs and doors can be used as is or re-purposed to become something else. An old chapel door can be a table and an old wooden trunk can be a bench. Either way, is a great way to add patina and charm to interiors in a way that nothing shiny and new can.

Below: Coffee table
To the right is an example of an architecturally-salvaged door. These items are commonly used for old house restorations but flip on any design magazine and see it also come to life in an entirely new and contemporary setting.

Both architectural salvage and recycled wood furniture and trims are great. They add tons of character to a space. However, in some ways, salvage trumps recycled simply because it is merely re-using something. No additional energy was used up to turn it into something new. Re-purposing is the new chic!
Above, right: antique interior french door, $200,  Below, left: pine newel post, $175, both from

Flea markets, Goodwill stores, Salvation army and maybe a neighborhood (search your yellow pages) salvage/junk store will have these items. Otherwise, here are some online sources that I have found. 
(Their names are so appropriate, you might think they're fictional).

No comments: