Sustainability insight: Protecting our forests

By Jo Weaden
November 28, 2019

With the recent media coverage of the devasting human-induced losses of the Amazon rainforest, certain companies within the design industry are helping to protect and restore the forests that remain. Jo Weaden investigates.

Within residential design, there are numerous ways in which we can choose sustainable wood products – whether it’s in the shape of flooring, furniture or cabinetry. Certifications, reclaimed timber and sustainably sourced English wood are just some of the ways that can help us make responsible choices.

Certifications such as from The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promote environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial management of the world’s forests. Timber or companies that feature a certification logo such as FSC ensure the harvest of timber products maintains the forest’s biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes.

“For a product to be FSC certified, there must be an unbroken chain of certified companies covering every change in legal ownership from the certified forest up to the point where the product is finished or sold to retail,” says Tallulah Chapman, FSC’s communications manager.

“FSC has several strict requirements in place that ensure that certified-forest managers maintain their forest cover and maintain or enhance their forest’s structure, function, biodiversity and productivity.”

Furniture and lighting brand Timothy Oulton has introduced collections using reclaimed timber that not only gives wood a second life but also reduces the need for virgin materials and helps to conserve resources.

“I’ve always loved reclaimed wood, it has an honesty and a purity, what I call humble luxury,” says Timothy Oulton. The company uses timber that is around 100 years old and has been salvaged from “distilleries, barns, dancehalls and stately homes,” adds Oulton.

As well as these pieces of furniture, the brand has also introduced the Edwardian collection, made from salvaged oak and mahogany parquet flooring, and the Axel collection which is made using wood from decommissioned Chinese fishing boats.

Design studio and workshop Sebastian Cox uses English timber from well managed woodlands and plants trees to replenish those that the company utilise. “In the UK, we import somewhere in the region of 90% of our wood,” says Cox.

“There can be many problems with timber from tropical forests – you can’t always track and trace the provenance. British wood is an amazing material that is really overlooked.” The company sources materials from its own woodlands and works closely with timber yards who source trees from selectively felled forests.