Pure and Gentle

Know the Origins: Tips for Eco Friendly Living

posted August 30, 2011 • 0 Comments

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In Western Europe, you can’t buy a plank of wood without your neighbors peeping in, asking where it came from. The continent is known for a lot of things, pastries, wine, socialist governments, but nosiness isn’t the first thing people associate with Belgians or the French. Normally, they’re not too intrusive. “Live and let live,” tends to be the motto of a lot of Europeans, but when it comes to eco friendly living, they make sure everyone lives sustainably. The governments over there have mandated more laws than even our Green Party might try to pass, but buying lumber remains a personal choice. Rainforest wood is certainly inexpensive everywhere, but German neighbors and relatives will pry and condemn if they find out you used it in your home.

The origins matter with eco friendly living. Not long ago, rainforests covered 14% of the earth’s surface; today they account for only 6%, and even that number is shrinking quickly. A lot of first world countries have used up their natural resources, so they turn to the Amazon and Congo to meet their lumber needs. In 1900, surveyors could look at that 14% and declare wood to be a limitless resource. 17th century sailors probably said something similar about dodo meat, which infamously didn’t last very long. We’re not quite there yet with rainforests, but the dam has burst, and many fatalists have declared the end of that once-thriving ecosystem is imminent. The situation is certainly dire, but the tides can turn, a remnant can be saved, but it depends on small eco friendly living choices.

Deforestation isn’t just occurring in South America. Oregon just about wiped out its forests at the turn of the century, and California redwoods are only now sufficiently protected. Americans have harvested most of their old growth forests, but a lot of them have learned from those mistakes, and they’re making an effort to promote more eco friendly living with future lumber sales. A surplus furniture store isn’t going to mention where its wood came from, and in the wood industry, silence is never a great thing. You have to work to find lumber that’s been reclaimed or grown in sustainable forests (often stamped by the SFI: Sustainable Forestry Initiative), but it can literally save billions of trees. Reclaimed wood, too, tends to be of much higher quality since it’s often made from the old-growth lumber that just doesn’t exist anymore. Homes can be richer, furniture sturdier, and deck projects more environmental when the lumber comes from sources other than our shrinking rainforests.

Eco friendly living doesn’t require people to chain themselves to bulldozers or blow up a Hummer Dealership. It’s about little choices, buying habits, and raising awareness about the destructive impact humans can have on our planet. When people bond together, buying products without toxins, carpooling to work, and reducing the demand for lumber all help the earth in tremendous ways. The furniture you purchase, magazines you read, and two-by-fours you build with all require the use of trees. Our dependency on wood is unavoidable, but our impact is much less dramatic when we use lumber that’s been sustainably harvested.