Timber is one of the most important building materials currently used by humans. It can be used for a wide variety of applications including construction of houses and structures, and the manufacturing of various products. Since timber is a raw material extracted from trees, the harvesting of timber generally involves the felling of a large number of trees. This can be considered undesirable and unsustainable for the future of Earth’s ecosystems as trees play an important part in the environmental balance. With the current climate crisis, it is more important than ever that we move towards more sustainable production practices. Timber, being entrenched as almost an essential material in a variety of industries, it is not feasible to simply cease the production and usage of the numerous timber products. There is a movement to research alternative materials which exhibit the same qualities as timber but are more sustainable to produce but technology is not at a stage where it can replace timber. Furniture, as one of the largest stakeholders in the timber industry has already embraced certain alternative materials as well as the production of furniture that makes use of less timber and are stocked by leading furniture stores such as Sofas Brisbane.
Wood can be substituted with plastics and certain artificial polymers that can exhibit some of the characteristics shown by wood, but they are not able to be mass produced efficiently. They also have an environmental impact to produce which can be higher than ethically sourced timber and are not biodegradable. This makes the alternative material dimension of the move towards sustainable timber products less feasible, as the alternatives are essentially inferior products with less sustainability than that of timber if well managed.
The main issue with felling trees for timber production is the fact that deforestation of natural rainforests is at risk of occurring. In fact, timber is already sustainable if harvested ethically, with specially farmed trees in lands which are designated for timber farming. Trees gain their mass from the Carbon Dioxide present in the atmosphere which is absorbs to grow. By repeatedly growing and felling trees, there is essentially a carbon sink created, and the products made from the resulting timber acts as a carbon trap, as the carbon would only be released if the products were burned. Therefore, the primary move towards more sustainable timber products should be ensuring that the timber used in production processes are ethically sourced, as well as remove opportunities for felling of natural rainforests and enforce legal consequences on organisations and individuals that do so.
Wood products are also generally long lasting and can be reused. However, recycling wood products is generally not possible unless the product is repurposed to something similar. Wood is also biodegradable, but the burning of wood releases the carbon back into the atmosphere which may be undesirable. Hence, wood products have a strong sustainable lifecycle which can be improved by sourcing the wood ethically and ensuring that the wood is disposed of responsibly at the end of their useful lives.