The list below and the figure to the right represent a hierarchy of the relative impact of options when considering wood used for outdoor applications, with the most environmentally preferable choices at the top and those that cause the greatest damage at the bottom. In other words, they are in order of environmental impact, from the least impact at the top (in green) to the most impact at the bottom (in red). The choices nearest the top (in the green area) represent those that can currently have a net positive impact.

The figure is a graphic representation of the list. Implied in the shape is the scope of the impact, with those choices above the bottleneck generating an increasing positive impact as they move towards the top, and those below generating an increasing negative impact as they progress to the bottome. Click here to view/download a larger version of the figure.

To have the least negative environmental impact, first and foremost, itís important to consider the reasons for doing the project or making the purchase in the first place. Is the project necessary and have you considered that it may have an impact on the local ecosystem as well?

Assuming youíve already considered no project as the option with the least impact, of the choices listed, Rainforest Relief can only recommend options 1 and 2 from the list below. We consider options 3 Ė 5 to be very acceptable. Beyond that, material choices will have varying degress of negative impact on forest ecosystems that we canít recommend. The list is provided so you can judge the relative effects of different options.

The color gradations within the image more accurately represent the "grey" nature of these choices than do the lines, since every situation is different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, considering perhaps dozens of different factors that can effect the relative ecological impact.

1) Used furniture or other items, purchased from thrift stores, antiques or discarded items;

2) Wood salvaged or reclaimed from barns, old buildings, sunken logs, railroad ties, etc. Some furniture makers use reclaimed woods and it is readily available for flooring (see the Alternatives section of the Flooring page of our website;

3) certified domestic softwoods such as pine, fir, hemlock, etc.;

4) certified local hardwoods such as oak, maple, walnut, etc.;

5) non-certified softwoods logged from second growth domestic forests;

6) non-certified local hardwoods or woods from plantations;

7) certified second growth tropical hardwoods (for instance, from
Central America as most of CA's forests have been logged and certifications are usually of second and third growth operations. This option supports what certification was originally meant to do: protect forest ecosystems from impending destruction);

8) certified old growth woods (for instance, cedar, redwood, cypress, woods from Russia and other termperate areas that have not been logged before);

9) certified tropical hardwoods from old growth logging operations, including but not limited to the Amazon, Africa or Southeast Asia).

10) non-certified tropical hardwoods.