Updated: Jan 15
Wood is a unique, organic material that has been utilised for thousands of years for construction, furniture, tools and fuel. Mobilier Ethique creates ethical furniture by using local and reclaimed materials with a low environmental impact. My passion is to create sustainable and beautiful pieces and I want to share why using reclaimed wood for furniture making is the best way to preserve and protect our planet.
What are the current sources of wood for furniture?
Solid wood timber for manufacturing furniture mostly comes from virgin forests and forest plantations.
Virgin forests are ecosystems that have reached maturity and exhibit unique biodiversity. They are essential for storing carbon and are home to a rich community of native flora and fauna. Virgin forests are also a source of valuable timber and because of this, they are subject to both legal and illegal logging; representing a major source of deforestation.
Forest plantations are commercial forests aiming to produce a high volume of wood of the same species in a short period. Forest plantations aim to reduce the need to exploit virgin forests for wood production. Despite this, these plantations still represent a 7% loss of virgin forests due to deforestation.
Furthermore, forest plantations result in a loss of biodiversity and natural habitats for many species, especially when non-native species are replanted. In New Zealand, pine (Pinus radiata) represents 89% of the total plantation forest area and have replaced many native trees (source).
Virgin forest, Fiordland National Park - Pine Forestry section in Port Underwood - both in New Zealand
Where to find sustainable sources for furniture wood?
Certified Timber: Timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sets high standards to make sure that forestry is practised in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. When purchasing a piece of FSC-Certified furniture, you know that the wood has been sourced from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious and economically viable (know more here).
Reclaimed timber: upcycled timber sourced from residential, commercial and agricultural buildings. From the European settlement in the 18th century, native trees were the preferred timber for construction in New Zealand. Because of excessive logging and massive deforestation, the native forests became protected in the '70s. Thanks to redevelopment projects, the native wood coming from many pre-1970 timber-framed buildings is now available to repurpose. The majority of houses in Auckland and New Zealand were built from rimu wood, this led to rimu becoming a very important source of recycled timber.
Using reclaimed wood supplies high-quality material. The timber has completely dried out due to being exposed to hot and cold atmospheres throughout its lifetime, resulting in an excellent condition to work with for furniture making.
Recycled wood is found locally in New Zealand and comes in various forms including:
Reclaimed wood provides each piece of furniture its unique features and original appearance, no two pieces are the same. Reclaimed wood has a history and charm that brings character to the furniture, providing you with an interesting, bespoke piece rather than a mass-produced item.
Mobilier Ethique's sustainable production
The processing of timber from source to end-user consumes energy, water and fuel.
As a conscious company, we endeavour to maintain a low carbon footprint and using reclaimed wood not only protects the forests but is also environmentally friendly. Studies have shown that the total energy required to produce 1m3 of wood from virgin forest was 13 times higher than for reclaimed alternatives. Similarly, C02 emissions are 310% higher (source).
You are directly reducing the quantity of wood that is sent to landfill by choosing reclaimed timber products. You are also minimising the environmental impact generated by imported timber. Construction and demolition material represents half of the waste that ends up in landfills within New Zealand (BRANZ estimation in 2010). Disposal of the materials at landfill sites reduces the recycling of materials and contributes to adverse environmental effects such as methane emissions or leaching of chemicals (source).
I hope that this article will help bring some awareness when buying solid wood furniture. By purchasing furniture made from reclaimed wood, you are supporting the conservation of local resources, minimising energy use and reducing your carbon footprint. And most of all, you own a unique and high-quality piece of furniture sourced from local material.
The first Mobilier Ethique collection will be made of reclaimed rimu, handcrafted in Auckland. Coming soon!