Forest friendly timber

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Forest friendly timber is sourced in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This article provides some information about various timbers available to enable readers to choose environmentally friendly materials suitable for their needs.

The use of rainforest and native forest timbers (such as old growth forests) in Australia and around the world is contributing to the destruction of these forests and the habitat they provide.

The only really safe option is to use of plantation grown or recycled timbers. Talking to your timber supplier about your building needs and concern as to the origin of the timber can make a difference to the environment.


Timber and Good Wood

Timber can be an environmentally friendly building material that is both renewable and reusable. Unlike other building materials such as concrete and steel, timber only requires only land, water, nutrients and sunlight to grow. The development of an ecologically sustainable timber industry is necessary to ensure timber resources are available for future needs. This is why you need to purchase "good wood".

Good Wood is:

  • NOT derived from rainforests or native growth forests (old growth)
  • grown in plantations as a renewable resource
  • recycled timber
  • laminates (plywoods) and other composite woods from plantations
  • timber that has not led to habitat destruction.

Australia's timber market

The Australian saw milling industry supplies about 70% of domestic demand for timber, mostly from the plantation sector. The rest is primarily made up by softwoods from North America and New Zealand, and rainforest hardwoods from South East Asia.

Unfortunately, a lot of domestic and imported timbers are sourced from forests that are not managed in a ecologically sustainable way. This is why you should ask where your timber was grown and to insist on timbers that are good woods.

Imported Rainforest Timbers

About 13% of Australia's sawn timber is sourced from tropical forests. We also import tropical rainforest timber items such as veneers, plywoods and picture mouldings. The majority of these timber products are sourced from unsustainably logged forests and could be replaced by sustainable locally grown alternatives.

Logging tropical rainforests causes the extinction of hundreds of plant and animal species each year in addition to loss of the home of many indigenous tribal peoples. In South East Asian rainforests the rate of clearing is five million hectares per year. Once an intact rainforest has been destroyed, it cannot be replaced for thousands of years.

Commonly imported South East Asian rainforest timbers to avoid include:

  • Meranti - used for all mouldings, dowels, architraves
  • Merbau - used for skirting, joinery
  • Ramin - mostly used for picture frames and fine joinery
  • Pacific Maple All mouldings, dowels, architraves
  • Philippine Mahogany, Calantas Pretend red cedar, fireplaces, stairs, furniture
  • Keruing, Naytoh, Narra, Kapur - used for joinery
  • Teak - outdoor furniture, carved beams, cabinet work
  • Jelutong - joinery, carved work, toys
  • Motoa, Merawan, Batu - house posts

Note that some suppliers state that they have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for some timber products. While considerable effort has gone into attempting to provide FSC certification for ecologically sustainable timber production, some doubts have been raised both in Australia and overseas about the effectiveness of this scheme. The only really safe option is recycled or plantation sourced timber.

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