In this entry, we’re going to discuss a very, very well known material - wood. Wood plays a huge role in many industries, not the least of which is the furniture industry. As a testament to wood’s ubiquity in furniture, we feel pretty comfortable assuming you’re either actively using a piece of furniture that incorporates wood right now, or at least have one nearby. While there’s a lot to be said about wood, in this post we’re going to focus on how wood is sourced. But first, an introduction to the ecological role of trees.
As you already know (we hope), wood comes from trees. You also probably know that trees and other plantlife play a critical role in the health of our planet and its inhabitants. Perhaps trees’ best known contribution to the plant’s ecological well being is the role trees play in regulating carbon emissions, which serve as a major driver of climate change. Some carbon emissions occur totally naturally - humans, other animals, and even the ocean all produce some level of carbon emissions just by going about their normal business. However, for the last 100+ years, humans having been adding greatly to the levels of carbon emissions in a variety of ways, most notably through fossil fuel-based energy. Trees play a huge role in controlling carbon emissions.
In a single year, the forests in the United States capture and store nearly 15% of the country’s carbon emission from burning fossil fuels. A single mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO2 each year, and a half acre of forest can absorb the average car’s annual carbon emissions. All of this CO2, along with a tree’s water intake, is vital to the tree’s ability to produce sources of energy for itself through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis, in turn, leads to the release of huge amounts of oxygen.
In addition to trees’s key role in the absorption of carbon emissions and production of breathable oxygen, trees, through their roots, help sponge up harmful chemicals from water sources. 55% of the world’s supply of fresh water comes from streams and rivers in forests. It’s estimated that, if we could increase the exposure of fresh water sources to forests by 10%, we could see a 20% decrease in the cost of water treatment.
Further, forests are a key player in supporting biodiversity, serving as a home to a huge number of animal species; and forests’ complex root networks can help address issues of soil erosion and extreme flooding.
As you can tell, trees and forests are huge players in the ecological well being of the planet. So, what’s the problem then? The problem is deforestation. Globally, deforestation, including both legal and illegal harvesting of trees, serves as a major driver of climate change. For starters, deforestation significantly reduces all of the positive environmental impacts of trees we discussed above. Additionally, in the case of carbon emissions, the benefit can actually be fully reversed, as much of the CO2 stored by trees is released when they are cut down.
Deforestation, through its impact on forests’ ability to combat insect infestation, is also a contributing factor to the increase in the amount and intensity of wildfires. In California, for example, where, since 2010, the combination of deforestation and forest fires has led to the loss of over 162 million trees.
Exactly how bad has deforestation gotten? Roughly 80% of the world's forests have already been destroyed for some combination of timber harvesting and making way for crop plantations. The Environmental Defense Fund reports that, from 2000 - 2009, 32 million acres of tropical rainforest were destroyed for the same purposes. Further, we saw a 53% decline in forest-dependent wildlife species from 1970-2014, which represents a rate of decline that’s approximately 1,000 times greater than that of natural extinction.
There are many industries that contribute to deforestation, and the furniture industry is among them. Due to a rise in the US’ demand for cheap furniture (which is almost never designed and manufactured to last a long time or be reused), there’s been a corresponding increase in the lumber demands of large-scale furniture manufacturers, many of which are based in China, which has contributed significantly to timber harvesting-based deforestation. For example, the Congo Basin saw wood exports double from 2001-2015, leading to it surpassing the European Union as the largest exporter of wood to China.
The bottom line here is that it’s vital that we protect our forests. The question then becomes, how do we make beautiful wood furniture and other wood products in sustainable ways that keep our forests safe?
One step that Mangata is taking is using so-called “forest free” wood in Mangata’s wood products.
There are select companies that provide forest free wood to make products, such as furniture, wood paneling, and wood floors. The idea of forest free wood is that, rather than bringing a logging operation into a forest, lumber is sourced by collecting trees from local tree removal services that remove trees from residential and commercial properties. In addition to helping combat deforestation by creating lumber from non-forest trees that were already going to be cut down, forest free lumber helps avoid trees simply being chipped and disposed of in landfills.
Mangata and other local craftspeople have proudly partnered with Eutree, a sustainable, forest free wood provider in the Atlanta area that is a certified green business and guarantees to abide by principles of environmental responsibility, social equality and accountability. While it’s difficult to accurately estimate the number, Eutree estimates that its use of forest free lumber has saved billions of board feet of hardwood lumber - including oak, pecan, hickory, cherry and walnut wood - from being dumped in landfills in the Atlanta area.
On top of their sustainable sourcing practices, Eutree relies heavily on solar energy to dry and cure the wood used in Mangata’s furniture.
Mangata’s mission is to help relieve the stress on our planet and the people living on it by taking a more sustainable, ethical approach to creating home goods products. If you would like to learn more about deforestation and its environmental impact, we strongly encourage you to check out the sources listed below. Additionally, if you are a maker in the Atlanta area and would like to find a sustainable wood source, please consider using our forest free wood provider, Eutree (link to their website below).