Material Index: Making sense of sustainable wood

by Sloane Middleton

Whether or not you’re buying our furniture - we want you to own the tools to make conscious shopping choices. It's exhausting trying to understand what companies boasting "sustainability" actually mean, so TORTUGA is breaking it down for you.

Partisans Architecture, Grotto Sauna, 2014.

We interviewed the definitive voice on all things wood -  Eric Meier, the wealth of knowledge behind The Wood Database - about how to make confident and informed decisions when buying wood. 

1- Do you have any tips on how to find out if wood furniture is sustainably sourced when shopping? 

The easiest and most obvious indicator would be if the wood bears a certification stamp (such as Forestry Stewardship Council, or FSC) or some other chain-of-custody record. Beyond that, it can help to have a little bit of knowledge on different wood types and their likelihood for being sustainably harvested -- for instance, rosewood from Madagascar is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendix as restricted.

2- How would you recommend someone to understand if they already own wood that was sustainably sourced or not?

In reality, previously purchased wood furniture would need to be evaluated on the basis of likelihood of sustainability, rather than attempting to form clearly delineated black and white results. Using the provenance, and age, it's possible to get a fairly good picture of the likelihood that a given piece of furniture was sustainably sourced. Age plays a role because wood trends and preferences change with time.

3- What types of wood do you must recommend when keeping sustainability in mind?

My best advice on sustainability, although not popular, is to buy local, or perhaps more properly, buy domestic. In general, this is the safest and surest way to avoid most questionable situations. Nearly all situations that have arisen with sustainability have come as a result of global demand overtaxing local supply.

4- Any other notes you have on sustainably-sourced wood furniture?

Sustainability means a lot of different things to different people. Whatever your take on sustainability, know that it takes a little bit of due diligence to look into each situation and evaluate it according to your own concerns, and in the end, to have a piece of furniture that you can thoroughly enjoy.

Yvonne Fehling & Jennie Peiz, Stuhlhockerbank, 2007.

In TORTUGA’s launch collection, the Pyramid Shelving System, we offer four types of hardwood shelving. Our walnut and zebrawood are 100% FSC certified, while our red oak was harvested from naturally fallen trees in New Jersey and was not logged.

For any questions about our material sourcing and product manufacturing, reach out to us at info@tortugaliving.com