Mar 5, 2013

How do I find FSC certified wood products or lumber?


How do I find FSC certified wood products or lumber?

As more people learn about the benefits of FSC certified wood and seek to use it in their projects, we field questions from around the country about where to find these products. 

Whether you're a homeowner in central Florida or a cabinet maker in Queens, it can sometimes be a challenge to source the FSC wood you want -- or need -- to use in your project.

Rest assured, FSC certified alternatives do exist and can be found.  Here are some ways you can track them down in your area:

FSC provides a handy tool to help you search for certified products in your area.  Called the Marketplace, this handy tool is still in development, so if you can't find what you're looking for on this website, don't despair, it my still be available.  Here's the link:

The best tool might be right at your finger tips: A great way to find FSC products is to perform a Google search with area- or product-specific targeted keywords, i.e. "FSC lumber Orlando" or "FSC hardwood plywood."

The DIY set can inquire at their local Home Depot, which has been working with FSC certified products since the 90's. In most stores, their FSC offering is somewhat limited, so be sure to look for the trademark FSC logo.

Shoppers in the Bay Area can refer to the local Sierra Club chapter's handy FSC shopping guide.

Many locally-owned, independent lumber yards also can procure FSC wood, even if they don't stock it. So be sure to ask the sales staff for FSC, and be persistent in your queries. The more that folks like you demand FSC, the more it will be available across the country!

Feb 28, 2013

What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?


What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?

Families across America are reintegrating home gardens into their lives, working to increase the amounts of health-giving homegrown fruits and vegetables in their diets. Because of this, folks frequently ask us about the best type of wood to use for their planter boxes and raised garden beds. 

Raised beds are a great idea because they protect growing plants from the scuffs and kicks of passersby while allowing the soil to warm faster in the springtime, generating an earlier crop.  They're also quite decorative and can add significant charm to vegetable gardens.

By building the boxes out of a beautiful, durable, and chemical-free material, you'll take an important step toward guaranteeing that your yard bears many decades of abundant and nourishing crops. (Here are step-by-step instructions for building juniper raised beds, but you can use them for other species too!)

Here are the types of wood that are commonly used for this purpose, and the pros and cons of each:

Species Pros Cons How to source sustainably
  • Beautiful, smooth, elegant appearance
  • Easily takes stains or paint
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years for Western Red Cedar
  • Chemical-free
  • Possible to buy sustainably-grown
  • Often untraceable sourcing
  • Much cedar is imported


  • Buy FSC Certified only
  • Try to source products that are harvested and milled in America
  • Choose Select Tight Knot instead of Clear grade to minimize waste and reduce demand for Old Growth
  • Very long lifespan - 50+ years
  • Great for gardens where a wabi sabi look is preferred
  • Chemical-free
  • Inexpensive
  • Rustic look doesn't appeal to everyone
  • Juniper is more prone to movement than other species, which can be a challenge for vertical installations
Pressure-treated wood
  • Easy to find
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Inexpensive
  • Buy FSC Certified wood
  • Buy wood that is treated with an alternative to CCA (chromated copper arsenate, which contains arsenic), such as borate, ACQ, or CA (copper azole)
  • Choose an alternative that uses no chemicals
Recycled or reclaimed wood
  • Keeps material out of the waste stream
  • Can be rustic and charming
  • Usually inexpensive
  • May be challenging to find the right sizes
  • Wood may contain unknown chemical additives
  • Surface paint may chip off into soil
  • Unknown species may not offer much durability
  • Try to find cedar, redwood, or another naturally durable species
  • Try to find wood that is untreated and unpainted

  • Beautiful color
  • Elegant
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Chemical-free
  • Can be expensive

The lifespan data above is derived in part from an ongoing study at OSU that tracks the durability of treated and untreated posts in ground-contact applications. Click here for full results.

Oct 5, 2011

FSC vs. SFI - What's the difference?


People often ask us about the differences between wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The line between the two, for many consumers, is fuzzy, and LEED 2012 appears to be on the verge of accepting SFI wood, whereas in the past only FSC was acceptable.

But there are stark differences, and a side-by-side comparison of the two standards can help us remember why we prefer FSC, and why our ultimate goal is to promote the use of wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.

Some of the biggest differences:

  • FSC prohibits the use of genetically-modified organisms; SFI allows their use
  • FSC prohibits the use of persistent and/or bioaccumulative pesticides; SFI recommends "prudent" use of pesticides
  • FSC prohibits the conversion of natural forest to plantations; SFI allows that conversion and the certification of wood from those forests
  • FSC's standards were developed by a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental and human rights activists and forest products representatives; SFI was developed exclusively by the forest products industries
  • FSC's audit results are made public and can be appealed; SFI's audit results are private and cannot be appealed

UPDATE 8/16/2013:  This well-researched Portland Tribune article explores the differences in detail.  A great read for anyone looking for more information about FSC vs. SFI.

Here are some interesting tidbits to help clarify things:

Seven More Brands Distance Themselves from 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative' (
A Picture Is Worth: FSC vs SFI Forests
A Comparison of the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Certification System (Yale University; PDF)



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