Wood is one of the “greenest” building  materials available to us today! It is a renewable resource that is strong, long-lasting and has a myriad of applications. Even better, while trees are growing they absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it. At the end of the “first life” of a wood product,  it can often be recycled two, three or more times and, sometimes, even composted. Where wood becomes unsustainable is when it is harvested through destructive logging practices that contribute to habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples, and violence against forest workers and wildlife.

Q: How can we as consumers tell if we are supporting responsible forestry practices or not?
A: Through the FSC!

The international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to combat destructive practices by encouraging responsible forest management. FSC has offices in 145 countries, and 384 million acres of certified forest around the globe. The FSC Logo can be found on all kinds of different products from paper to decking – if you see the logo it means that the wood in that product is from an FSC certified supplier.

When a forest is FSC certified you can be sure that it is a forest that is managed for ecological health, sustainable harvest levels, and social responsibility. Ecological health includes protecting the wildlife, water, air and soil. Sustainable harvest levels are ensured by never cutting more than what will grow back.  Social responsibility is attended to  through rules surrounding indigenous rights, labor rights, and multiple benefits. Indeed, FSC has developed a set of 10 Principles and 57 Criteria that all FSC certified companies must follow. As a third party certifier, the organization carries out regular audits of certified companies’ practices to ensure that they maintain FSC standards.

Here’s a cool infographic that illustrates the important role that FSC plays in the global supply of wood for building materials (and other purposes):

Friday, September 28th, we celebrated International FSC Friday. Learn more about the FSC at www.fscus.org.

 

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Earth Day weekend in Seattle means an excellent opportunity to see some of the latest trends in Green Building in action. To celebrate Earth Day, the NW EcoBuilding Guild is hosting a 24-site Green Home Tour around central Puget Sound. From the zHome project `in Issaquah, to the Mighty House Heat Conversion remodel in West Seattle, there will be lots of projects to learn from on this home tour. This year Green Depot is participating in the tour by hosting one of the homes – and with a Green Home Expo on Saturday!

Here are some highlights from this year’s Seattle Green Home Tour:

Envision Homes

Site Wo1: Envision Home features include green roof, solar hot water, radiant heating, tight building envelope, salvaged and reused materials, and healthy living. 2216 Walnut Avenue SW


The ShelterKraft Cargo Cottage

Site No3: The ShelterKraft CargoCottage™ is a compact home built from a reclaimed steel shipping container, using green building products (e.g., recycled countertops, salvaged materials, zero-VOC paints) and integrating green technologies like solar and wind power, graywater reclamation, and other alternative energy and off-the-grid systems. 1210 W Nickerson Street


GreenPod's "WaterHaus" gets un-wrapped at Green Depot Seattle.

Site Wo5: GreenPod Development’s WaterHaus is a modular home that features SIP construction, built-in infra-red heating, a living wall with edibles, sustainable finish materials, and fish pond fed by an alternative water system. The WaterHaus will be parked at Green Depot Seattle during the Green Home Tour, and for the week following.

If you aren’t able to make it on the tour, take it virtually by checking out the tour website where there are a lot of details on every site on the tour!

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Installing a new wood floor? Instead of traditional hardwood, you may want to consider an eco-friendly alternative: bamboo. It may be hard to imagine that reedy green plant growing wild in your yard making a good flooring material, but some varieties of bamboo (when mature and properly dried) are as hard as oak–and some are even harder.

Photo: chefranden at Flickr.com

Green Depot carries bamboo flooring by Foundations, a New York state-based company that offers click-together “floating” strand boards, as well as traditional tongue-and-groove solid-strip options, both in prefinished and unfinished varieties. Foundation’s strand planks are made of the Moso variety of bamboo, which proves to be two times harder than red oak when subjected to the industry-standard Janka ball test. And Moso isn’t a natural food supply for a pandas, so harvesting it even in the wild doesn’t endanger their habitat.

But why else is bamboo such a good choice? The reasons are many, beginning with bamboo’s rapid renewability, which makes it one of the greenest of green products used in building. A tree takes 80 to 120 years to grow to a size where it can be harvested for hardwood flooring planks, but a bamboo plant reaches maturity in only 3 to 6 years with minimal (if any) fertilization or pesticides, and it renews itself without replanting. This means it requires not only fewer natural resources to thrive, but less labor, as well. And bamboo can easily grow up to a foot a day, so it’s not just fast, but plentiful.

Photo: Ajari at Flickr.com

Bamboo is also a boon to the natural environment itself, in a number of ways. Mature bamboo has a very complex and dense root structure (which, incidentally, is why is can be so hard to get out of your garden), which goes a long way to avoid soil erosion in areas where it’s planted. Furthermore, a bamboo forest absorbs up to twice as much carbon dioxide as trees.

From a social responsibility perspective, as well, bamboo is winner—600 million people worldwide depend on income from it, and the industry employs nearly 6 million people in China alone. And as it grows in popularity, those numbers only expand.

Then there’s affordability, which ties back to bamboo’s ability to renew itself rapidly. The laws of supply and demand are at work here: A product that springs back into place quickly and with so little effort and expense can easily be kept in abundant supply, so prices for it can be lower, even in times of great demand. And its durability gives it another layer of affordability, as many kinds of bamboo flooring can go for long periods without refinishing or replacement. Several brands, including Foundations, coat their pre-finished planks with multiple layers of a water-based, zero-VOC, aluminum oxide-infused polyurethane that doesn’t off-gas at all. Nice!

And that’s not even touching on the design options bamboo flooring offers. Bamboo is available in any number of colors, many of which can be achieved using eco-friendly methods. Heating bamboo makes it darken to a rich amber color without the use of stain, and bleaching it in non-toxic hydrogen peroxide gives it a birchlike white-blond color. Its natural tone is a warm golden hue that lies somewhere in between the two, and bamboo can be colored with traditional wood stains to take it to anywhere from a medium chestnut brown to a near-black ebony.

Bamboo’s narrow-strand structure allows it to be pressed into planks in a number of different formats, unlike wood, which of course comes naturally bound into wide pieces (tree trunks). Some bamboo flooring manufacturers even offer planks made of mixed dark- and light-colored strands, for an unusual streaky look. Still others turn the plant’s fibers the short way, so the cut ends of the stalks are what make up the visible surface. The effect is a sort of small-dot pattern that is unique to bamboo.

As a side note, Green Depot also carries Plybam, an excellent companion to bamboo flooring. Plybam is plywood made entirely of bamboo instead of wood veneer, and it’s perfect for use in cabinetry, furniture, paneling or any other project that usually calls for plywood. Its edges have a multidirectional pattern that offers an alternative to plywood’s striped edges, and is attractive enough to make edge veneers a thing of the past.

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