Flooring the Rainforests
Tropical wood flooring imports have grown to become one of the largest uses of rainforest hardwoods in the US and are continuing to increase dramatically. There are hundreds of importers of "exotic" flooring, hundreds of distributors and thousands of retail outlets that carry or specialize in imported flooring.
|Sales of tropical wood flooring are rising dramatically
Rainforest woods used in flooring are too numerous to list. One species of particular note is jatoba. Called "Brazilian cherry" in the US, the increase in demand for Brazilian cherry flooring has made jatoba one of the largest timber exports out of Brazil and is helping to drive illegal logging in the Amazon.
All tropical and temperate rainforest woods should be avoided for flooring, unless the wood is from second growth logging and carries independent certification accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council. But when buying certified, don’t be fooled by companies that tout their chain-of-custody (CoC) certification only. While this is an essential part of a company’s ability to sell FSC-certified wood or wood products, it is not an assurance that the wood or product is certified. CoC certification gives a company the ability to sell certified wood or products and use the FSC name and logo. But you must also ask to see the certificate for the producer of the wood or product.
Further, even FSC-certified tropical hardwoods should be avoided if they originate from old growth logging operations. Even certified logging has not been shown to maintain the ecology and biodiversity of old growth rainforests. Therefore we believe that only operations in second growth forests should be certified.
Beware of commercial (made-up) names of species, which are simply a marketing tool to remind buyers of the familiar. These include "Brazilian Cherry", "Brazilian Walnut", "Brazilian Maple", "African Walnut", "African Teak", "Patagonian Pecan", "Peruvian Walnut" and many more.
There are many choices for flooring that will not destroy rainforests. The most environmentally sound choices are listed below under Alternatives.
Companies to Avoid
The following companies specialize in manufacturing or importing uncertified rainforest wood flooring:
Robinson Lumber and Flooring
EWP Exotic Floors
Brazilian Direct, Ltd. (brazilianhardwood.com)
Many large retailers sell exotic wood flooring, such as The Home Depot and Lumber Liquidators. Ideally, these companies should be avoided until they end their sales of wood from endangered forests.
There are many large retailers on the web, some worse than others. When deciding on your flooring choice, avoid companies selling only exotics and, if you can, support companies trying to do the right thing by selling only environmentally preferable products.
A few of the big web retailers selling exotics are:
The Floor Warehouse sells Tuscany Wood Flooring, all of which is made from tropical rainforest woods.
The following companies also manufacture or import uncertified rainforest wood flooring but also carry flooring made from temperate species (not from rainforests). Those products are not destructive to rainforests but more environmentally preferable alternatives exist (see below).
Bruce Hardwood Flooring (Bruce imports flooring made from merbau, jatoba, kempas and other rainforest woods)
Lauzon (Based in Quebec, Canada, Lauzon sells African sapele, Brazilian cherry (jatoba), Santos piedra and Santos mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum), all tropical hardwood species that should be avoided. However, the company touts its environmental policies, claiming to adhere to the Canadian Forest Act and only harvest as many trees as can be replaced — with no independent verification and having nothing to do with the tropical species they import.)
Columbia Flooring (Columbia's "Out of Africa" line consists of "African cedar", "African cherry", "African pearwood", "African rosewood" and "African walnut". These are all invented names for various tropical species from African rainforests that should be avoided.)
Kährs (Kährs sells Brazilian cherry (jatoba), jarrah, merbau and rosewood, among others)
Black River Floors
Hoboken Flooring (this brand is carried by The Home Depot)
Shaw Floors (Shaw sells Santos mahogany, merbau, Burmese teak, Brazilian cherry (jatoba), Brazilian walnut (ipê) and other exotics)
Mohawk (Mohawk sells Brazilian cherry (jatoba), Brazilian walnut (ipê), Brazilian teak and other rainforest woods)
Mullican Flooring (Mullican sells Brazilian cherry (jatoba), tigerwood, andiroba, cumaru, massaranduba, and other exotics)
Tembec (Tembec sells jatoba, purpleheart, macaranduba, andiroba, ipê, tatajuba and other rainforest species)
Woodstock Hardwood Flooring (Woodstock's website states they carry over 90 types of domestic and exotic flooring)
Johnson Premium Hardwood Flooring
Moxon Timbers, Inc.
Anderson Hardwood, including Appalachian Hardwood Floors, Anderson Pacific, Biltmore, Virginia Vintage and Medallions
Award Hardwood Floors
Bellefloor Hardwood Flooring
Mannington Mills, Inc.
Send a message to companies selling rainforest wood flooring.
There are many environmentally preferable alternatives for flooring.
One of the most environmentally preferable alternatives is Reclaimed (Salvaged) Wood. This includes wood taken from old barns, reclaimed from old flooring or other wood products or made from sunken logs salvaged from rivers or lakes. One advantage to using reclaimed wood is that you can get incredible grains and woods that are no longer readily available in old growth quality.
Here are a few companies selling reclaimed flooring:
EcoTimber (EcoTimber also sells tropical species logged from old growth rainforests, which should be avoided, even though they are FSC certified.)
Renick Milworks and Old Mountain Supply
Elmwood Reclaimed Timber
Old Wood Workshop
What It's Worth
Longwood Antique Woods
Goodwin Heart Pine Company Goodwin salvages longleaf pine logs from US rivers.
Longleaf Lumber Company
Recycled Rubber is also an excellent alternative for commercial flooring. However, it's important to choose the right company, as some rubber flooring may have a high VOC (volatile organic compounds) content. As well, even within a company, different products may have different percentages of recycled content.
Gerbert Limited (Of Gerbert Limited's "EcoSurfaces" collection, products 626, Silence, Flat Tiles, Embossed Tiles and Dogbone Pavers have the highest post-consumer recycled content.)
Cork is an excellent material for flooring and is, at this time, environmentally preferable.
The bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), cork is harvested renewably from cork oak 'forests', mostly in Spain and Portugal. While not old growth forests by any stretch, cork forests are in many cases the last natural places for wildlife in these regions. These forests have been maintained in their current condition for hundreds of years, but are now threatened because of the decrease in demand for cork. By far, the largest use of cork is for wine bottles. Recently, however, many wineries have started using plastic corks. Thus, the price for cork has dropped and many cork farmers are already clearing cork forests for development and other uses.
So, for now, buying cork is a good way to assure that these forests (and the people who have been farming them for generations) remain vital.
Eco-Friendly Flooring has a wide selection of flooring products, including cork, as well as other recycled products.
Tilo Natural Floors
American Cork Products Company
Gerbert Limited Gerbert's Dodge Cork is especially 'green' as it's not laminated.
Linoleum is actually an environmentally preferable product. But make sure it's true linoleum and not vinyl. Linoleum is ade from all-natural ingredients (including linseed oil). So, rather than tear up or cover up that old linoleum floor, why not buff it up to look like new.
Here are a few companies selling linoleum:
Tilo Natural Floors
Bamboo has quickly become a very popular flooring material in the US and is considered by many to be a 'green' material. However, bamboo harvesting is a complex issue and therefore, bamboo shouldn't be seen automatically as environmentally sounds. As well, bamboo is shipped from the other side of the world (as are much of our products) and this shipping should be factored into the equation.
Even though it grows very quickly (five years to harvestable size), bamboo is being overharvested in many places. This overharvesting can have a negative impact on surrounding forests, as harvesters select for bamboo and forests are slowly replaced.
We are calling on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to begin a program to certify bamboo harvest. In the meantime, bamboo should be considered a viable alternative, but not as environmentally sound as reclaimed wood or recycled cork.
Bamboo is readily available in most flooring stores. Below are a couple of reputable companies.
Smith & Fong (Plyboo®)
Plantation Teak is a tropical wood product that can be environmentally preferable, if one can assure that the teak is from plantations that are not responsible for rainforest destruction. Teak 'plantations' in Indonesia are actually healthy second-growth forests that are over 100 years old, in many cases. Teak there was planted by the Dutch in much the same way as it was in Burma by the British. Harvesting of these forests must be done very carefully, under a certification scheme, in order to assure that the forests are not damaged.
However, in Central and South America, teak has been planted fairly recently, in many cases, on land that had already been cleared in the past (mostly for cattle ranching). In these cases, teak planting and harvest can actually support the reforestation of native forests.
It's preferable if even these operations are certified. However, Unique American Teak seems to be doing the right thing. We'll be calling on them to get certified but in the meantime, we believe this to be a green product.
Temperate Wood Flooring
For now, the majority of wood flooring sold in the US is originating from logging operations in non-tropical zones. These include oak, maple, cherry, walnut and other familiar species. However much of this temperate-species flooring is imported, with Canada and China being the largest exporters. A substantial percentage of Canada's exports to the US are actually re-processed US logs. Less so of China, which is importing logs from Russia and other countries.
With temperate wood flooring, while rainforests are not being destroyed, it's still important to try and identify the source of the wood, since about half of all logging in Russia is estimated to be illegal. Chile and Australia also have large areas of temperate forests and much of the logging being done is in old growth. Wood from these sources should be avoided. The best way to assure that flooring is from ecologically sound operations is to buy from companies that source locally or to buy FSC-certified.
So, while we can say that flooring made of temperate hardwoods is not responsible for destroying rainforests, we can't say with any certainty that these products are not originating from old growth logging in temperate forests. The following companies sell flooring made from only temperate species.
Capella Wood Floors
HomerWood Hardwood Floors
The following companies sell FSC-certified non-tropical flooring (but they also sell tropical species, which should be avoided).
EcoTimber (EcoTimber also sells FSC-certified tropical wood flooring from old growth forests, which should be avoided.)
Wood Flooring International (WFI also sells uncertified tropical wood flooring, which should definitely be avoided. Tell WFI to cease their sales of flooring made from old growth tropical forests.)
Unfortunately, much of the certified tropical wood reaching the US market is from old growth logging. This makes it very complicated for the buyer. Contact us before you buy certified tropical wood products.
While you're on these companies' sites, please send them a message asking them to end their sales of wood from endangered rainforests.
Copyright 2006 Rainforest Relief