UK consumers spent 24,489 million pounds on home furnishings last year (Statista). That includes sofas, beds, tables & chairs, cabinets and other items of furniture that have wood materials in them.
The wood comes from forests around the world, from the United States to Finland. Almost half of the softwoods imported into the UK come from Sweden (42%), and a further 20% from Latvia and Finland. Hardwoods mostly come from Estonia, the US, France, and Italy. Plywood is imported in bulk from China and Brazil (Forest Research, 2017).
“In 2010, the world had 3.92Gha of tree cover, extending over 30% of its land area. In 2021, it lost 25.3Mha of tree cover.”Global Forest Watch
Wood is a renewable resource, but the right types of wood have to be chosen and forests have to be managed well.
Which types of wood are more sustainable?
Fast growing, softwood species like pine are more sustainable than hardwoods like oak. Oak trees have to be managed very carefully to make them sustainable.
In the UK, wood can be certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. The FSC standards help to protect animal habitats, maintain biodiversity and protect old growth trees. They ensure zero deforestation, protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure fair wages and safe working environments.
There are three types of labels;
- FSC 100% to certify well managed forests,
- FSC Recycled where 100% of the forest based materials in a product have been recycled and
- FSC Mix where materials are a mix from certified forests, recycled materials and controlled wood
Controlled wood is not from certified forests. FSC assesses it as low risk e.g. so it is less likely to be from illegal logging.
Alternatively, look for the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification [PEFC] labels. They certify forests that are managed to their environmental, social and economic requirements and they provide chain of custody certification right down to the product.
Buying sustainable wood furniture
Friends of the Earth suggest that before you buy, think about whether you can reuse an existing piece of furniture or buy second hand. Can you recycle a piece of furniture or even a piece of wood?
You can buy recycled and sustainable wood furniture from many of our Blue Patch members, including:
Ian Dunn Woodwork & Design – custom cabinet making for the kitchen and home using only timber from responsible suppliers with FSC, PEFC or SFI certifications
par-avion co. – just one of the design-led furniture pieces crafted from FSC British hardwoods – par-avion co. make every pi stool from FSC British timber sourced within 100 miles
Lomas Furniture – fine woodworking and beautiful furniture from local woodland communities
Peter Lanyon Furniture – hand-selects coppiced wood from a well-managed local forest and makes furniture from it
Factory Furniture – street furniture for the public, one of the first furniture makers in the UK to have chain of custody certification from FSC
Full Grown – extraordinary chairs formed as trees grow around moulds, taking decades
Natural Bed Company – solid wooden beds made to last from only the best materials, no endangered tropical hardwoods – all timber certified under EUTR (European Union Timber Regulation)
John Eadon Furniture – designing against a throwaway culture using responsibly sourced FSC timber from sustainably managed forests where more trees are planted than cut down
Angus Ross Furniture – making furniture from their own carefully managed ancient woodland
Katie Walker Furniture – iconic, collectible, individual pieces using sustainably sourced timber from local suppliers
Nafisi Studio – buy off-cuts and reclaimed wood from a network of local wood suppliers, before using new wood
Beuzeval Furniture – bespoke and small batch furniture made in hardwoods from FSC certified suppliers
Bee9design – handmade minimal modern design with a committed to environmentally conscious practices
Heliconia Furniture – bespoke wooden furniture made from locally felled trees or sourced from reputable FSC assured timber yards, working with the FSC steering group on managing urban forests
Milestone Eco – kitchen cabinets and worktops made from recycled materials, Eco² has the best eco credentials of any timber board material in the industry (75% recycled timber, 25% FSC certified)