Wood is a widely used material for both manufacturing and construction, but there is a greater demand for wood than there are more trees being grown, and the time taken to grow a single tree makes it impossible to immediately replace a felled tree. This results in a global source of deforestation due to the need for timber products. Therefore, it has become necessary to harvest wood sustainably or find a suitable alternative to wood shares its most important qualities such that it can replace natural wood in consumer timber products. The deforestation problem is not new and has been known for many years. In fact, logging operations for most reputed wood product suppliers use tree farms which are grown in cycles to ensure that trees are always available for harvest. Artificial substitutes for wood also exist and are gaining popularity. Most engineered wood available today use less wood for each product due to being a composite material and have qualities favoured over natural wood. Many organisations that sell timber products to consumers, such as furniture shops Brisbane stock timber products made from ethically sourced wood, as well as products made from engineered or artificial wood.

Is there a need for substitutes?

No. Wood is already sustainable as it is. The problem lies with the harvesting of wood. Trees gain their mass mainly from the CO2 in the atmosphere, therefore continuously growing and harvesting trees effectively pulls carbon from the atmosphere. Natural wood is also a renewable resource. As long as trees are grown at the same rate they are cut down, there is no risk to the ecological balance, especially if the trees are grown specifically for harvest.

However, substitutes do exist and should be used where ethical harvesting of wood is not possible or available. Hemp and Bamboo are natural examples of substitutes, although bamboo can be considered a wood itself. Fibre and fibreboard can be made with hemp, and it yields more fibre than most other plants per acre of harvest. Bamboo is fast growing and rigid, making it usable for furniture, flooring, interior design, etc.

Engineered and composite wood do use less wood, but as the problem is not in the use of wood, this is not an effective solution. The plastics and chemicals used in the production of engineered wood, as well the actual production process may be less eco-friendly than ethically sourced natural wood.

The issues with logging

The main problem with logging is that deforestation of rainforests and naturally growing woodlands are harmful. In order to sustainably source wood for production, it should be grown for that purpose. Growing it in slopes and mountainous areas is also harmful as the disturbance to the soil creates risk of soil erosion and earth slips. Most countries and organisations resort to logging naturally growing timber because it is cheaper and less time consuming. The main need for sustainable timber products is increased regulation and oversight over logging operations to ensure that they perform to environmental standards.