3 Sustainable Lumber Certifications and What They Really Mean

Published on: Oct 23 2013 by

Old Growth ForestCertified sustainable lumber is available at many hardware stores. If you are building or remodeling, you may have considered buying sustainable lumber for your project. However, a sustainable lumber logo provides little information. What do these sustainability certifications mean?

 

First, not all available lumber is certified sustainable. Getting a sustainability certification is voluntary, and not all forestry companies go through the often time-consuming process. Other companies choose to become certified as a way of letting buyers know that the company is protecting forests, following laws, or educating others about sustainable forestry.

 

Read on to find out more about three of the most common sustainability certifications, and what they really mean.

 

Forest Stewardship CouncilForest Stewardship Council (FSC)
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit that sets standards for responsible forest management. Over 174 million acres of land around the world are certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council. As a result, sustainably harvested lumber often carries the FSC logo.
To be eligible for FSC certification, companies must minimize their environmental impact. This includes conserving water and protecting valuable areas like old growth forests.
FSC sustainability certification also verifies that lumber is harvested by socially and economically sustainable organizations. Companies must follow FSC principles of paying workers fairly and working with local communities.

 

Sustainable Forestry InitiativeSustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifies more acres of land than any other sustainability initiative. SFI certifies 240 million acres of forest in the United States and Canada.

 

Like the FSC certification, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative requires forests to be managed in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Certified foresters protect local water quality when harvesting, offer sustainable forestry training to their employees, and conserve forests with unique animals or cultural value.

 

SFI certification labels may state that a percentage of the wood comes from SFI certified forests. If a label does not include the phrase “at least X% Certified Forest Content,” all of the wood is from an SFI certified forest.

 

American Tree Farm SystemAmerican Tree Farm System (ATFS)
The American Tree Farm System is the oldest lumber sustainability certification in the U.S. The American Tree Farm System certifies privately owned forests, including small tree farms and family owned forests. Currently, over 26 million acres of forest are ATFS certified.

 

Forest owners who use ATFS certification must reforest harvested areas within 5 years. When lumber is harvested from an ATFS forest, forest owners keep dust and debris from polluting local streams and lakes. Farms certified by the American Tree Farm System are also required to control fires and keep wood-damaging pests to a minimum.

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