When purchasing wood, especially hardwood, customers are concerned about the impact such a choice of material has on the environment. Most hardwood in the Americas comes from the Amazon Rain Forest, and there are concerns about deforestation. According to Yale Environment 360, 80 percent of the Amazon deforestation is due to cattle ranching. The beef industry is a multi-billion, transnational business that requires large land masses and destroys all flora and fauna and completely deteriorates the biodiversity of the forest. It should be noted as well that cattle farmers clear land by burning. This is a risky practice, which endangers humans, animals, and releases hazardous gases.
In contrast, lumber companies only log the specific tree that is needed, leaving the rest of the trees and bushes untouched. This selective logging has a much lower impact on the forest. For example, for every one acre of forest one only finds one or two ipe trees. That means that a highly selective group of trees is felled in a given area, reducing the impact on the local bio-environment.
Logging is an expensive process that requires heavy machinery. In order for logging to be economically viable, logging companies must select the trees which will provide the greatest economical yield. These are usually the largest trees. With this method of cutting, the younger trees get more access to light and water, accelerating the growth cycle in the logged part of the forest.
In recent years, many safeguards have been put in place to prevent irreversible damage to the forest. South American governments have enacted laws that require lumber companies to have a sustainable development plan before receiving logging licenses. Often times, reforestation plans are implemented to minimize the impact of logging. Cultivated trees can and have replaced much of the wild timer on the market.
In 2015, sixty countries gathered in Paris to negotiate better energy systems and the conservation of the world’s forests. Three European nations pledged $5 billion for forest conservation, especially for developing countries which will be used for forest conservation and creating economically viable yet environmentally friendly logging options.
A good way to ensure that the hardwood you are buying is forested in the appropriate ways, is by buying wood that meets the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. The FSC is an independent, non-profit organization that sets the standards under which trees should be logged. They consider the environmental, economic, and social impact of logging.