New post up on DJC blog: “FSC: Our Only Choice for Natural Forests”

Stephen’s newest post is up on the Daily Journal of Commerce Daily Blog. It’s all about the importance of Forest Stewardship Council certified products. The DJC blog has recently gone subscription only, so Stephen’s post has been included below in it’s entirety.

Each second, one ton of old growth trees is ground into pulp for paper we use for writing or wiping our bottoms. Thanks to Greenpeace and the commitments made by Kimberly-Clark, that’s about 20 pounds less per second than in 2009.

As consumers of trees, it’s vital we know the impacts of our purchasing choices, as we are fundamentally disconnected from the upstream effects that these choices create. Unsustainable logging and deforestation are not just tropical problems to be solved – right here in North America, we harvest 10,000 square kilometers of ancient forests each year. That means our North American notepads and bums account for 660 pounds of ancient old growth ground up each second.

When I talk about choice, I’m not referring to iPads and corncobs as the reading and bum-cleaning alternative. We can have the same looking and same functioning paper, tissue and other wood products, but made in a way that reflects our values.

Forest certification was created as a tool to allow for product differentiation in the marketplace so that we can make informed purchasing decisions. The bottom line: unless a product is audited by a third party for responsible practices at the forest level and then tracked throughout the chain of custody (mills, processing plants, distributors etc.), you have no idea that any claim to “recycled” or “post-consumer” is valid, let alone if the paper was from old growth or illegal logging. This information is critical if we are to protect and restore our natural forests and forest-based communities here in the Northwest and throughout North America.

Over the years there’s been much debate over the right choice for certified wood products. To me, the decision is simple: I look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo. FSC is the only forest certification system supported both domestically and globally by all the relevant environmental organizations (such as the World Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace). And there’s a reason for this. The competing certification scheme, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) just doesn’t add up.

FSC is the only certification scheme that:

1. Protects high conservation value forests, such as rare old growth

FSC is the only standard with clear requirements to protect high conservation value forests and old growth. SFI does not protect old growth.

2. Prevents loss of natural forest cover

FSC is the only standard to limit opening sizes, including restricting the conversion of biodiversity-rich natural forests to monoculture plantations or parking lots. SFI does not restrict forest conversion.

3. Prohibits highly hazardous chemicals and GMOs

FSC is the only standard to prohibit the use of some of the most hazardous pesticides and other chemicals that are still widely used in the US and Canada. SFI allows for hazardous chemical use and GMOs.

4. Protects customary rights of indigenous people and local communities

FSC is the only standard to explicitly require forest managers to uphold and protect the customary rights and resources of indigenous people and to manage their forests in a way that benefits local communities. SFI has no similar requirements.

5. Governs in a democratic and transparent way

FSC is the only forest certification scheme governed by an open membership (General Assembly) where interests are equally balanced by economic, social and environmental chambers. SFI is governed by a self-appointed board and limits meaningful participation by environmental and social justice organizations.

Unfortunately, many consumers and industry professionals who want to do the right thing have been paralyzed by what is unjustifiably termed the “forest certification wars,” which has effectively denigrated the difference between sustainable forest management (FSC) and status quo industrial logging (SFI) into what SFI has called “alphabet soup.” SFI further advocates that “quibbling over the relative merits of good systems distracts from that overall goal”… and “the fact remains that just 10% of the world’s forests are certified.

I know everyone is not a geek like me (yes, I did read through the hundreds of environmental, economic and social indicators that define what FSC certified forestry entails), but I hope you can agree that the goal is not getting forests “certified.” Rather, it’s about credible and effective protection and restoration of natural forests and community livelihood. It’s about choosing forest protects that “do no harm” and work to restore natural forest habitats. Kimberly-Clark and other industry, environmental and social leaders have proven that we do have that choice. For our projects (and my bum!) I only choose FSC. Please join me in supporting their commitment to FSC.

Green Hammer CEO Stephen Aiguier is an advocate for responsible forestry products and FSC in the design and build community. Green Hammer is the only FSC-COC certified building firm in the nation. It’s a voting member of FSC international and has a seat at the global General Assembly.


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