Friday, September 3, 2010

More Thoughts on Sustainability - Erik Wolken

Bench by Erik Wolken

When last I visited the issue of  am I green enough, I was reluctant at best to take on the moniker of a green maker, but considered myself at least on the right path. Now the subject has come up yet again.

I was recently approached to join a website selling eco friendly art to the the design trade. So once again I must ask myself if I am worthy to join such a select group? My first thought in responding to the request was to chant my mantra, “I am not your typical green maker who uses groovy bamboo recycled plastic and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood in their work. I just make well-crafted work mostly in solid wood from mostly locally sourced materials that hopefully will not end up in a landfill for a couple hundred years.” The response I got back, “ yeah that works for me,” was not what I expected. I expected to be politely declined and to take the easy way out of having to further explore my greenness. Instead, I felt like I had just gained entry into a club in which I did not belong and now had to come up with a new rationale to justify my membership.

So I set out on a quest to make myself greener. My first step was to call my local family run lumber yard, where I buy most of my lumber, and see if I could get that holy grail of greenness - FSC certified wood for future projects. When I spoke with the owner, he replied that because he was not FSC certified he could not sell FSC products and because it cost $3,500 a year to become certified it was unlikely he would be able to do it. That seemed like a lot of money to me as well but I figured as long as I had him on the phone I would ask a few more questions. I was curious if he knew the source of most of his domestic hardwoods, to which he replied all most were from the southeast and mostly came from Appalachian hardwoods or roughly about a 200-mile radius from us. He also went on to say that he had certificates from the U.S Forestry Service certifying most of his hardwoods as sustainable harvested. While not the green seal of approval I sought, that all seemed pretty in line with my own beliefs on green and it would allow me to continue to support a small family run business instead of a large corporation - something also in my belief system.
 
But I decided to continue my search anyway. I did a Google search and called the large local lumber yards. As I had suspected, nobody local stocked FSC products but it could be found within a couple hours drive. The suppliers were almost all the big boys and I would have to pay trucking fees, buy in larger quantities and of course pay more for the materials as well as not being able to hand pick the lumber for color, grain, and the least waste as I usually do.
 
If there is a moral to this story it is that being green involves trade offs. I might like to build my furniture from FSC certified woods, but to do so the wood would have to be trucked in from further away, bought from a large corporate entity and would result, ironically, in more waste than carefully hand picking what I need from my small time local dealer.

It was a long trip, but I've returned to my beginning. Being green is many things. I may not be able to claim the sexy aspects of it but I do my best.

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