FSC Certified Timber: so what's all the fuss about?

October 27, 2020
Image: Yukon-Koyukuk, USA via Earth View from Google

In today’s blog we thought we’d feature our very own product and take a deep dive into the world of FSC certified timber, explain what it is and why we’ve chosen to go with it!

If ‘Forests For All Forever’ as a mission statement doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, then you need to watch episode 14 in Season 6 of Friends and check yourself – it’s ‘The One Where Chandler Can't Cry’. Forests for all forever might not be themission statement for Nook, but it is a deep-seated value statement that forms the underlying culture of our business. So, let us tell you why.

Firstly – a bit about forests and why they’re pretty darn great. Forests not only covers more than a third of the earths land area but it also plays a vital role in purifying water and air, creating habitats for animals, mitigating climate change, and creating jobs for some 54.2 million people. Tropical rain forests are of particular importance due to their large biodiversity, with 80% of land-based species calling these types of forests their home. When it comes to mitigating climate change and the green house affect, think of trees as a mate who’s agreed to help you move a whole quarter of your house for free, just so you can meet the goals you’ve agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement over the next 10 year. Stand-alone trees, whilst great on their own are unfortunately not as effective as forests when it comes to managing temperatures, as the forests canopy blocks the sun’s rays during the day and retains heat at night. A disruption in this forest function leads to more extreme temperature fluctuations contributing to species vulnerabilities and natural disasters.

And so if forests are the Batman of our mother earth, deforestation is definitely the Joker (and not the cool Heath Ledger or Joaquin Phoenix type Joker). Deforestation is the permanent removal of trees for the purposes of land clearing for agricultural, grazing, logging, construction, mining or manufacturing purposes. Currently, the tropics are being cleared at a rate of 30 soccer fields a minute. I’m going to sit here and let you take that in for a second.

Enter Batman’s Robin - the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The year of 1992 might have seen the Earth Summit in Rio fail to produce a deforestation agreement, however it did manage to produce the beautiful fiancé of one of our founders - but I digress. Nevertheless, despite the negative outcome of that infamous 1992 Earth Summit, a group of businesses, environmentalists and community leaders came together to create“a revolutionary concept: a voluntary, market-based approach that would improve forestry practices worldwide”. As such, the FSC was born.

The FSC relies on 10 principles to create, guide and monitor responsible and environmentally-appropriate forest management practices. FSC certifications ensures that ‘Forests for All Forever’ is not merely a feel-good slogan but a reality for generations to come. The certifications go beyond just deforestation - it is a system that maintains quality of forests to guarantee it’s use for all stakeholders, from waterways to animals, from the indigenous populations to the consumer.

Importantly, the process of having a forest and its incumbent products certified, starts with an arduous application. Firstly, one has to be able to identify the forest’s terrain, water courses, native animals and plant species. These are the environmental considerations, and they need to be protected by buffer zones. An FSC certified forest also upholds the highest work practices, including fire burnings, chemical use, water way protection, staff and neighbours handling. Another key component of FSC certified forests is the requirement to be in ongoing consultation with the local Indigenous Peoples, respecting and protecting their rights and sovereignty.

Once the application has been reviewed, an independent certifying organisation visits the forest, issues a report, and gives the applicant an opportunity to take action on any issues identified during the review. The visits don’t stop there, however. Even if your conversations skills are better saved for the trees, you can expect to be paid a visit by inspectors every 9 months who review your practices and provide ongoing feedback. Recertification occurs every 3 years, ensuring that the forests are economically viable and ecologically sustainable.  

Furthermore, FSC certified forests are required to maintain and enhance biodiversity, fostering the water and soil resources, and protecting the forests’ contribution to the carbon cycle. There must also be a direct cultural, social and economical benefit to all stakeholders. Another important note to add here is that local tropical forest managers involved with FSC certification are offered financially competitive alternatives to unsustainable practices, such as illegal logging and land conversion for cattle ranching. This ensures the management of these beautiful forests are kept in the hands of the locals which gives the whole process a multi-layered approach from the ground up – a little bit like how trees grow ironically.

To give you an example of where these principals have been put to practice, Kane Hardwood is an FSC certified forest whose custodians mimic the natural ways that forests die – for example, via hurricanes, storms, and blizzards - to identify trees for logging. They also identify long term resident trees, which form the backbone of the forest and are to be never cut down.

Furthermore, a lot of clever entrepreneurs are thinking up other ways to protect their forests, such as Sanga Moses (hit us up man, we’d love to chat), who has founded SeaChar – a clever solution to the burning of wood for cooking fuel. SeaChar offers a circular model for the process of burning timber by providing kilns to farmers to carbonise their agricultural waste, which can be formed into briquettes, and used for cooking fuel. Other innovations such as the use of old cellphones to pick up the sounds of chainsaws or cars on closed-access roads further protects FSC certified forests from poaching and illegal logging. We highly recommend checking out this 10 min video to get your weekly inspirational hit: https://bit.ly/34zdMC9.

Last, but not least a mention on the chain of custody. This is a process by which you, as the consumer are guaranteed to be receiving the product which actually comes from a responsibly managed forest. The chain of custody, is a closely monitored and independently audited process by which only sustainable materials reach the shelves of the business who works with FSC, while the unsustainable sources are excluded.This is the market-based approach the small businesses and entrepreneurs in 1992 had in mind, whereby the ultimate power is given to the consumer to choose which business they buy their goods from.

Thanks for joining us on this journey through the beautiful thing that is our planet and the brilliant people who are committed to keeping it that way. Our Nooks are made with FSC certified timber only, because every day we as individuals and as a company consider the impact of todays’ decision on the future generations. We’d like to invite you to do the same.

To learn more (or fact check all of my preposterous claims) head to:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/

https://www.responsiblewood.org.au/responsible-wood/sustainable-forest-management/

https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation

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