Natural Wood Planks – Are We Robbing Mother Earth?

Natural Wood Planks – Are We Robbing Mother Earth?
March 24, 2021 Sabine Schoenberg

Everyone loves hardwood floors or wood planks.  They provide a feeling of natural, clean, healthy living versus dust hiding out in the manmade carpet fibers. Wood is a natural material that makes us feel grounded. It’s easy to clean. But is harvesting wood planks good for the planet? Is it the right, sustainable choice? Or, do our desires for natural materials in our homes in fact deplete Mother Earth?

What are the facts around sustainability when it comes to hardwood flooring in our homes? Let’s dive into the details with expert insights and actionable answers.

New and Reclaimed Wood Planks

Today’s consumers interested in green or sustainable wood flooring have two options: They can buy (1) reclaimed or (2) new wood flooring. Using reclaimed wood does not impact resources. It’s already harvested and/or made. This part is clearly a sustainable choice.

However, is the purchase and use of new wood plank flooring aligned with green and sustainable home building and lifestyles? Is the use of a natural resource like timber/wood aligned with a green and sustainable home? After all, trees are nature’s goods. Are we pilfering Mother Earth’s goods?

The Answer

A 2002 Harvard Forest Study by Harvard University sheds some light. The study discusses the need for proper land and forestry management to ensure healthy forests. It finds that environmental stewardship of our forests includes and, in fact, necessitates the selective harvesting of mature timber to promote new growth.

The study also describes that in Massachusetts 75% of forests are under private ownership. Timber experts say that similar ownership rations exist in the other Northeastern states. The study states that as long as privately owned forests are assessed by forestry experts, property owners should be allowed to harvest materials responsibly because it

  1. ensures that landowners will keep their timber as income for future generations, and
  2. by removing old growth responsibly, light can come into the forest to allow for new timber growth.

Sustainable Equals Educated Choices

For consumers this means one thing: Know where your wood planks (solid and engineered) originate from. The Internet allows us today to go direct to sawmills and/or milling shops. This is generally good for the pocketbook and it’s a way to discover the source to make sure that the lumber is being harvested sustainably.

Greg Anderson, Vermont Plank Flooring,  points out that customers will learn a lot about the grades and overall looks within different wood species, cuts, and finishes in the process. In this author’s experience, retail outlets do not have these important details and they do not know where the materials they sell are sourced. So go direct and be educated in your sustainable selections at the same time!

The Smart Way to Purchase Wood Planks

Online searches reveal many reclaimed wood sellers. Older, worn or aged planks can add a beautiful patina to your home. Greg Anderson, Vermont Plank Flooring points out other, perhaps more hidden and equally important details to keep in mind when buying wood planks.  He says that the shipping of heavy wood boards is expensive and energy consumptive. Therefore,

(1) it is best to find material as close to you as possible, and

(2) organizing and shipping by the truckload is most cost-effective.

Buying as local as possible certainly aligns with green thinking. Homeowners in New England have a clear advantage since the timber quality in the Northeast is above anywhere else due to high timber densities which equal high quality in wood planks.

Sustainable Thinking At Its Best

Last year, Hull Forest Products received the prestigious Aldo Leopold Conservation Award. It marked the first time that the award was given to a New England company/landowner for the conservation efforts on its land. We congratulate Bill Hull, his family, and the entire team.

Having personally visited the mill and purchased their wood flooring, I can attest to the sustainable thinking throughout the entire mill operation.  While they produce high-quality wood plank flooring, sawdust is being used as wood pellets to heat their giant wood drying ovens. It is also sold to hospitals around Massachusetts to heat those facilities while inferior wood is made into transportation pallets. In other words, the logs that come into the mill are fully used.  Nothing is wasted and forests are maintained to be there for future generations maintained by the Hull family.

We salute both Vermont Plank Flooring and Hull Flooring for their dedication, expertise, and commitment to sustainable wood flooring.