Blog

May 11, 2018

What is FSC?

By KC Eisenberg

The Forest Stewardship Council has been around for 25 years, and its logo graces hundreds of wood- and paper-based consumer products, from Kleenex boxes to Old Navy clothing tags, from Pottery Barn dining tables to units of 2x4 lumber and plywood. But in spite of the organization's notable success, many individuals remain confused about what FSC is and what this venerable certification system means.

Some of this obfuscation is due to the creation of competing standards: Shortly after FSC was founded in 1993, the American wood lobby created its own certification system, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a very different version that allows some of the more controversial practices that FSC prohibits. 

In the years since, many stakeholders in the FSC system, including this company, have worked hard to clarify exactly what makes FSC such a valuable and trustworthy tool for measuring the quality of the forestry from which so many of our necessary products come from. FSC is not without is problems, but we believe it to be the best certification system for forests that exists at this time.

In sum, FSC requires stringent forestry practices which prohibit deforestation, including conversion of natural forests to plantations; protect rare old growth and other High Conservation Values; protect Rare, Threatened and Endangered species; strictly limit clearcut sizes in order to protect forest ecosystems; restrict the use of highly hazardous pesticides; protect the rights of indigenous peoples; and require stakeholder consultation on both public and private lands.

[Photo at right: A clearcut along Highway 26 in Northwest Oregon.]

Here in Oregon, our forest practices act allows for many of the practices that FSC prohibits. Some of these legal practices may have the potential for unintended consequences in affected communities and habitats. These include the spraying of pesticides that can drift beyond the areas targeted during routine applications, exposing residents to toxins and polluting the freshwater streams upon which many Oregonians, human and otherwise, depend. 

Our laws allow the cultivation of monoculture tree plantations on both state-owned and private lands, where native mixed-species and mixed-age forests are replaced with one type of tree, all planted at the same time. 

These dense plantings are more prone to annihilation during wildfires, which are becoming worse each year as we experience record-breaking heat waves and droughts. While fires in the past were likely to burn light and quick through the understory, leaving the big trees standing and the soil intact, these modern fires burn so hot, lighting up the dense groves of dry, unhealthy trees, that everything in their path is destroyed, including the life-sustaining microbial communities in the soil, which scientists are only beginning to study and understand.

Deforestation is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution, more so even that global transportation emissions. Forests used to be a carbon sink, transforming atmospheric carbon into wood fiber and replacing it with oxygen. But today, due to widespread deforestation and the increase in catastrophic wildfires, forests are poised to contribute more carbon to the atmosphere than the remaining acreage of intact forests is able to absorb.

Responsible forest management, like that embodied by FSC, is a solution to these problems. It goes far beyond what this state's forestry laws allow, explicitly prohibiting many of the most harmful activities. FSC-certified woodlands are audited annually by third-party agencies, who visit and document conditions to ensure that the stringent management criteria are being met. The wood that is harvested from these forests is also subject to annual audits to ensure that the chain of custody from forest to consumer remains intact.

For visitors to these forests, the difference is dramatic. The FSC forests that we have toured in person are home to many different species and ages of trees. They are natural, functioning habitats that cool the air and the streams flowing through in the summer and are home to diverse wildlife. They feel whole, and it is obvious that timber production is not the main driver of management decisions.

[Photo at left: A forester marks trees to be harvested in an FSC forest that provided cedar and fir lumber for Sustainable Northwest Wood. Photo credit Trout Mountain Forestry.]

FSC is not the only marker of responsible forestry -- there are some responsible forest managers and owners who do not participate in FSC or other certification systems. But FSC is a consistent and reliable way for consumers, builders, and homeowners to know that their wood is coming from well-managed forests.

The footage used in the video below was filmed in FSC forests here in Northwest Oregon, including Hyla Woods, which is a exemplary model of forestry practices that more than meet FSC's criteria. 

We hope that many more acres of forests, both public and private, are able to achieve FSC certification in the years to come. And we hope that shoppers of all types select regionally sourced, FSC certified alternatives wherever possible. 


April 27, 2018

Table tops & bar tops for restaurants, retail spaces, offices, and homes

By KC Eisenberg

Did you know that Sustainable Northwest Wood can quickly and affordably supply table tops and bar tops for installations of all sizes?

Whether you're in need of our in-stock, butcher-block style Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces for quick and easy table tops or a one-of-a-kind statement piece for the city's most memorable bar, give us a call and we can set you up with a special piece of wood with a story to tell.

We highly recommend that you can check out our wood at these establishments, if not to admire the beauty and character of Northwest native species, then for the delicious food!



March 07, 2018

Celebrating 10 Years: What's in our name?

By KC Eisenberg

Our customers have called us by many monikers over the last ten years. Sometimes we are simply Sustainable. Other times we hear creative combinations of the three words that make up our company name: Northwest Sustainable, Sustainable Woods Northwest, and so on.

We agree, it's not the world's most descriptive or memorable name for a lumber company, but the story behind our name explains our roots, and offers insight into what makes our company, Sustainable Northwest Wood, such a special member of the wood products industry.

We were founded in 2008 by Ryan Temple, who was working at the local non-profit Sustainable Northwest as the Director of a network of regional sawmills. The network saw an opportunity, and a need, for a lumberyard to stock a wide selection of sustainable and locally harvested wood products, something that no other lumber company would commit to at that time.

FSC lumber was hard to find at most lumberyards, and local species from community based mills nearly impossible to find. This made it exceedingly difficult for environmentally-minded builders, architects, and homeowners to use these responsible wood products.

So, using their knowledge of the Northwestern lumber industry, Sustainable Northwest stepped in to fill this gap and make responsible, local lumber easier and more economical for everyone to use.
While still operating under the umbrella of the non-profit, we opened Sustainable Northwest Wood in 2008. Our first lumber sale rolled out the door just as the Great Recession was leading to an economic contraction nationwide that had an especially significant effect on the building and lumber industries. But nonetheless, you can't keep a good idea down, and Sustainable Northwest Wood has in the years since become a successful and enduring business.

We are still owned by Sustainable Northwest, our parent non-profit, and proceeds from our business go to support and strengthen their work in energy, forestry, and water conservation projects through the region.
These days, our product offering has increased greatly over what we had when we first opened our doors. From our Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces to our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers, our products are a unique, and memorable, showcase of the sustainable abundance of the Pacific Northwest.
March 06, 2018

Many new Epilogue slabs in stock!

By KC Eisenberg

The Epilogue guys have been busy sawing and drying beautiful salvaged wood from metro trees, and recently added beautiful slabs in Silver Maple, Oregon White Oak, American and Chinese Elm, and Raywood Ash. Coming soon: Siberian Elm. 

You can stop in anytime to take a look at the current selection (8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, at our showroom in SE Portland). 

You can also browse the online catalog of Epilogue slabs at this link.




March 06, 2018

Wood flooring: It's not just for floors!

By KC Eisenberg

One of our favorite interior design looks right now is T&G wall cladding. While we have traditional v-groove paneling options in stock, many clients are using our flooring products for quick, easy, and economical accent walls. 

We keep Character-grade Pacific Madrone, Restoration Juniper, and FSC Doug Fir flooring in stock and ready to go for floors, walls, and other creative installations. Contact us for updated pricing and availability.

Shown below, clockwise from top left: Character-grade Pacific Madrone, Zigzag Doug Fir, Select Pacific Madrone, and Rustic Doug Fir.

February 08, 2018

February Specials! Economy Juniper Timbers, Cedar Siding, Doug Fir Flooring, and More...

By KC Eisenberg

We've got lots of special items available right now at a discount, including flooring, economy-grade juniper timbers, and more. Check out the list below (PDF link) and give us a call...everything is first come, first served! 

Local sales only.

Click here to view our February Specials.

February 06, 2018

Project Profile: Reclaimed Doug Fir Stair Treads

By KC Eisenberg

When local developer Green Canopy came to us in search of some show-stopping wood for a staircase, we knew just what to provide: Custom reclaimed Douglas fir timbers salvaged from a nearby deconstruction project.

We were able to provide treads and matching accents, including the railing, stringers, and coordinating shelving, in just the dimensions they needed, hewn out of massive reclaimed beams.

We then sanded the timbers smooth, giving them a beautiful look for this graceful new home. 

January 04, 2018

Celebrating 10 Years

By KC Eisenberg

The arrival of 2018 means that Sustainable Northwest Wood has been in business for 10 years! We first opened our doors back in 2008, just as the Great Recession was kicking into gear. Many doubted that a sustainable lumber yard could make it, especially with the economic contraction at that time, but we pressed on, determined to do our best to support small sawmills and develop a market for local wood.

And in the years since, we've proudly delivered nearly $2 million directly to the small mills on the East Side that cut and produce our juniper lumber.

We've sent nearly $2 million more to small, family-owned hardwood and cedar mills in the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys.

And we've sold nearly $5 million worth of FSC certified lumber and plywood, at a time when other lumberyards have been dropping their certifications and saying there's no market for FSC wood. 

Thanks for your role in helping us prove this idea, that a lumber business can both do good and do well. It is because of you, our dedicated customer, that sustainable lumber is a thriving and growing segment of the lumber market in the Pacific Northwest.

Here's to another 10 years of market transformation!
January 04, 2018

FSC Certification means Climate Smart Forestry

By KC Eisenberg

There are many strong reasons to support FSC forestry and buy wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Our friends at Ecotrust recently completed a study that found yet another great reason: FSC certified forests can store more carbon while producing more timber than the current industrial norm. 

The study, called Climate Smart Forestry in the Pacific Northwest, simulated four scenarios of Douglas fir forest management over 100 years using the Forest Vegetation Simulator growth-and-yield model. Forests managed according to the guidelines of the Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) were looked at, as were forests managed according to the requirements of the Oregon and Washington Forests Practices Acts (FPA). The study simulated conditions in a selection of forested properties across the Pacific Northwest region, 22 of which were FSC Certified and 45 additional, non-certified properties that were randomly selected, to provide a large sample for comparing the outcomes. 

The study found that the FSC Certified properties always stored more carbon than the non-certified properties. FSC usually stored 25 to 60% more carbon than properties managed according to the rules of the FPS, with some offering as much as 80% more carbon storage.

Additionally, the longer rotations that are typical for FSC properties often produced more timber than the FPA property yields. Long FSC rotations were competitive with, and often had higher yields than, the short-rotation FPA scenarios, particularly on the properties studied in Washington.

Ecotrust defines Climate Smart Forestry as having longer rotations; protecting water quality and aquatic habitats with effective buffers around streams and wetlands; tightly restricting the use of chemicals and prohitibiting specific, particularly hazardous chemicals; and safeguarding High Conservation Value forests, i.e., old growth. 

By adopting policies and incentives that reward Climate Smart Forestry, states could offer a win-win for Pacific Northwest forests: Increased carbon storage combined with a high timber output. 

January 04, 2018

Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces earn DECLARE label

By KC Eisenberg

By selecting the DECLARE product transparency label for our solid surface countertops, Sustainable Northwest Wood has become the first solid wood surface manufacturer to take this important step toward disclosing the ingredients used in wood adhesives. DECLARE is a transparency platform and product database developed and maintained by the International Living Future Institute that is changing the materials marketplace by making public the ingredients used within products. 

Our Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces are one of just a few products lines we are currently offering that aren't made of solid, 100% natural wood. In addition to the wood, which makes up more than 98% of them, these solid surfaces include adhesives that hold the individual staves of wood together. By declaring the adhesives in these products, we are taking a step toward informing our customers about the ingredients that make up these adhesives.

At this time, due to the proprietary nature of our supplier's formulas, we are not able to list with certainty all of the ingredients that make up these adhesives (the supplier isn't even able to disclose this information, simply because they don't know). This unfortunately is an industry-wide problem, and at this time there are no suitable alternative adhesives that can be used. But the DECLARE label is a step in the right direction, and has opened up a frank conversation with our supplier about their ingredients. 

By completing the DECLARE process, our solid wood surfaces have become compliant with Living Building Challenge projects.

Today, we can’t say that our solid wood surface countertops are Red List Free, but we see the DECLARE label as a step in the right direction. We will continue to advocate for the use of wood adhesives that can offer 100% transparency, and as soon as we and our suppliers are able to find an effective, high-quality Red List Ready adhesive that we can use for these tops, we look forward to employing it.