Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Certified Wood Cabinets

As most homeowners do, we looked at some model homes today to get ideas for cabinets. As I toured the house I had forgotten about all the tables, cabinets, wood art frames, wood staircases, and all the ornamental wood products that make up a new and furnished house. As we walked around the model home, my young 14 month old was looking into some of the cabinets, as he loves to play with the doors. Inside I see a green tree sticker, with an official stamp. I first think maybe it's made from FSC wood, but the sticker is different. It was the KCMA ESP sticker.

I had to do some reading on this, because I feared it was a sticker that meant little in the way of "Environmental Stewardship". My fears where correct. This is a certification that cabinet makers get by "self certifying" themselves as being certified! They just fill out forms and send them back. . .no audit even! How can you have a certification without an audit? The sticker is the reward of the certification that they have done several things to meet the goals of environmental stewardship.

The goals of the ESP certification focus around five categories:

Air Quality.

Resource Management - product.

Resource Management - process.

Environmental stewardship

Community relations.

Unfortunately a cabinet maker can become certified while still using hardwoods that are from anywhere on Earth. Using the point system, a factory can still get away with all their hardwood cabinets being from NON sustainable forestry.

So what is this sticker good for? It's a good thing because it tries through advocacy to promote sustainable forestry and woodworking. It's a good thing that consumers are looking for it when they buy cabinets. It's a good thing that producers are aware that consumers want to be green and don't want to destroy the earth.

The bad thing is this. It gives the consumer piece of mind, when really it should not. You feel better with the little green seal, you don't get as upset when you hear that America and other places are running out of forests, because you bought sustainable cabinets. The fact is you may have been better off buying cabinets from anyone. The fact is few cabinet makers can track all the sources of their lumber, and only is pressure from consumers starting to get the idea that it is something that needs to be done. But it's far from there, according to cabinet makers, they usually get little if any requests for "green or sustainable cabinets". If they don't get the requests, then why should they bother?

What can you do? Ask for certified wood products in your next home or project. There is also the option of salvaged cabinets or reclaimed cabinets. Alternatives exist other than wood. Wheat-board cabinets are one option. . .they are made from waste straw but I really wonder if all the machines and glue used to make the wood creates less of a footprint than FSC certified wood.

Here are several other organization that might help you feel better about your kitchen cabinents:

The American Tree Farm System

The Canadian Standards Association

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative

The Forest Stewardship Council

The Pan European Forest Certification Council

The International Tropical Timber Organization

ISO 1400 Environmental Management Series

Rod is glad to share this information on green resources and ways to help the planet.

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