Forests are the lungs of the Earth, we know that. But, the world’s ancient forests also provide the world with water, shape the world’s climate and support as much as 90 per cent of the earth’s land-based plant and animals. They are also home to millions of forest dependent people.
Today, less than 20 per cent of the earth’s original forest cover remains intact and what remains is under threat from continued deforestation. Deforestation also contributes around 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, as carbon dioxide that is stored in the trees is released when the trees are removed.
You can help to protect the world’s last remaining forests by ensuring you only purchase timber products that are from truly sustainable sources. What is a sustainable source? First, it must respect the local communities who live in the area. Then, it has to consider the long-term evolution of the forest and finally, it should reduce the environmental impact of logging activities.
To help make the right purchasing choices Greenpeace and the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC) released the ‘Guide to Forest Friendly Outdoor Furniture Retailers’ which ranks 19 leading retailers on their policies and practice on eliminating the sale of timber products that are from illegal and destructive sources. Unfortunately it showed that most outdoor timber furniture sold in New Zealand is contributing to the destruction of forests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The guide highlighted that the least sustainable wood on the market - the tropical timber kwila - is used extensively for both outdoor furniture and decking in New Zealand. This wood comes from illegal sources and will be extinct in the wild within 35 years if current logging trends continue .
Designed to put pressure on retailers to adopt better procurement policies, the guide got quick initial results, with Smith City changing their policy. We’ve since had further success, with a commitment from Harvey Norman, a major wood furniture retailer, on 16 June 2008 to cease all its sales of kwila products by March 2009.
The guide has helped encourage better procurement practices and policies and is expected to continue to keep the pressure on companies to make the move to good wood.
You can use the guide to help make purchasing decisions. But for certainty that a wood product is from a truly sustainable source, check for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. The FSC are one of the most reputable certification bodies in the world.
If every New Zealander chose to buy only wood products with the FSC label this would put even more pressure on timber and furniture companies to switch to sustainable timber products.
Ideally, every retailer in the country would stop selling illegal wood. Unfortunately there is no government regulation in New Zealand on timber imports, unlike in Australia. We can put pressure on the retailers by calling for strong government regulations and making a point of refusing to purchase and unsustainable timber products.
- Francois Lesage