Ethical Wood Sourcing: What a Floor Means to Moss


We’ve written a lot in the past about why we love working with sustainable sourced wood: reclaimed, reused, recycled, well harvested.  Its beautiful and full of character.  But there are important ethical reasons for choosing one source of wood over another.  Today we talk about the vital importance of thoughtful wood sourcing.

Note: we fully understand that each product is a purchase, and that those purchase have to be made  by our clients.  Cost and timeline are real constraints in any project, and its hard to make a choice without any negative environmental and social impacts.  Still, we strive to provide every client with good options and information for sustainable (and beautiful) material sourcing.

Sustainable floors – and other wood sourcing – we love

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so lets start with some pretty pictures.  Here are a couple of favorite wood projects and products … with their source information included:

melrose house wood sourcing

At Melrose House we replaced beat-up carpeting with sustainably sourced wood – Tropical hardwoods that began life as reclaimed shipping crates.  They were reclaimed (FSC certified as 100% post consumer reclaimed material) by our friends at Viridian in Portland, Oregon.

uptown wood sourcing

At Uptown Family Vision we deployed a whole array of reclaimed and recycled wood: The floors are Viridian reclaimed tropical hardwoods.  The oak ceiling, behind the glasses display, is barn roof sheathing salvaged by Carlson’s Barnwood.  The panels along the office and exam room hallway are a veneer product – rift sawn white oak – over a backing of sustainably managed fast-growing soft woods.  The weathered beams concealing light coves along the hallway are salvaged from Illinois barns.  The glowing wood on nearly every surface all comes guilt-free.

The Scary Facts about Un-Sustainable Wood Sourcing

There’s no beating around the bush here.

We are losing global forest area the size of “48 football fields every minute.”  Deforestation at current rates will completely wipe out the world’s rainforests in just 100 years.

American and European demand for wood extraction from third world – especially tropical – countries is a direct cause of major deforestation.  Other causes of world wide deforestation include burning wood for fuel (the WWF estimates this may account for half of illegal logging), and fires (often intentional slash-and-burning to clear forest land for new crop planting area or cattle grazing).

Even when our desire for tropical hardwood flooring isn’t DIRECTLY responsible for forest loss, it can literally pave the way for other forms of deforestation.  Any time roads are created for wood harvest,”the logged areas become a magnet for settlers—farmers and ranchers who slash and burn the remaining forest for cropland or cattle pasture, completing the deforestation chain.”

Unsustainable wood sourcing – and deforestation – doesn’t only hurt the trees (and associated wildlife).  It can also cause irreparable damage to the lives and livelihoods of people who live near the forrest.  Illegal logging, like any other illegal activity, creates an environment of desperation and power imbalances that can lead to human rights violations.

So, how can we ensure Sustainable wood sourcing?

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization formed after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.  In their own words: they are a “voluntary market-based approach” to sustainable forest practices.  Rather than trying to prevent all wood use (what would we do instead – switch to plastic?) they try to ensure that responsible wood sourcing is easy and accessible and that consumers can easily determine which companies are using sustainable practices.

The FSC sets standards for sustainable forest management and then certifies products as meeting those standards.  To be FSC certified, a managed forest must comply with international treaties, work with and respect indigenous groups’ rights, maintain the economic well being of employees, harvest sustainably based on a continuously updated management plan, and promote restoration and conservation.Chain of Custody Certification tracks FSC certified material from the forest to the consumer to ensure sustainable harvesting, transport and border crossing.  Their certifications help assure customers that they are making responsible choices, and allow companies already doing the right thing to shore up their position in the market.

What You (and We) can do to help

For more on how moss loves to support sustainable wood sourcing, read our manifesto on the manifold benefits of working with reclaimed wood: Finding Beauty in the Honesty of Reclaimed Building Materials.  You can also find product information on reclaiming and reusing wood for flooring here at You’ll be Floored (continued):Moss’s favorite wood flooring choices  … or really, on nearly every project page of our website.

Of course, even working with sustainably harvested materials, we still need to avoid waste.  It is better to use a recycled wood product than a fresh cut one … and its still better to work with existing conditions (preserve an existing floor, for example) than to choose a new recycled product.  In the end, each material choice has to be made considering all the constraints of cost, project conditions, and desired outcome.  We trust you’ll make a good choice for yourself when you have all the best data at hand!