By Neva Knott
All photographs courtesy of the Forest Stewardship Council and used with permission.
Forest Stewardship Council certification guarantees that—from forest to end product—the wood used is grown and harvested sustainably. In a sustainably managed forest, trees ready for harvest are cut and those too young are left standing. This alternative to clear-cutting is important to the planet’s overall ecosystem in that trees cover 30 per cent of global land area, and are the lungs of the earth. Leaf systems clean the air, tree canopies regulate temperature, and root systems moderate water flow. Sustainably managed forests are an important strategy against global warming in that they store carbon emissions.
The certification process guarantees that FSC wood is not illegally harvested, or harvested in violation of indigenous or civil rights, nor is it harvested in forests where conservation values are threatened, or from genetically modified trees. FSC certified logs do not come from rare old-growth and have not been treated with hazardous chemicals.
While the story so often told is one of a choice between the environment or the economy, the Forest Stewardship Council provides a welcome alternative. In economic terms, sustainable harvesting creates a steady source of revenue for loggers and woodlot owners. In a clear-cut harvest system, once the trees are down, there are no jobs, no money to be made, and no forest left for local use. In addition, FSC makes sure the rightful woodlot owners are making the profit. As is too often the case in many developing countries, large corporations take over forests from indigenous groups or other unknowing peoples, pay a low wage to workers, and take all the profits with them, leaving a clear-cut landscape and a clear-cut economy. Illegal logging is also a problem on a global scale.
Sustainable forestry is one of the best defenses against climate change—global warming. One of the primary functions of trees is to pull carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that causes global warming—from the air. Trees then store the carbon so that it does not escape to the atmosphere. An FSC certified forest ensures fewer emissions of greenhouse gases, in addition to protection of water sources and forest-dependent economic systems.
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies public forests, commercial forests, and private, family-owned forests. As of January 2014, 36,156,297 acres of forests in the US are FSC certified. Not only are wood products certified, but paper products as well carry the FSC label. Just look for the FSC symbol:
Humans are a forest-dependent species and will continue to harvest trees as raw material for many uses. When you as a consumer buy FSC certified products you participate in ensuring there will be forests left standing to function as part of the larger ecosystem, that habitat will remain intact. You will be promoting local economies, and will be making a stand against corruption and pollution. You will be actively working against global warming.