In its simplest terms, sustainability as it relates to forestry can be thought of as managing land and harvesting wood judiciously so as not to deplete resources, ecosystems, and local economies. A sustainable wood flooring product should offer durability and a long lifespan, ensuring that homeowners will not have to waste resources replacing a floor on a regular basis. Also factored into the equation is using local wood products, thereby reducing the carbon emissions generated by shipping a distance away from the end consumer.
If sustainability is an issue that concerns you, here are several options to consider:
Wood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): There are many agencies offering certification for wood flooring products, but the FSC is considered by many environmental organizations to have the most stringent standards for ensuring that wood comes from forests managed in environmentally and socially responsible ways. Be aware that manufacturers can boast of having FSC Chain of Custody certification, but this only means that they have the right to carry FSC-certified products—it does not actually mean that they do. You must inquire as to whether the specific flooring product you are interested in carries the certification and request documentation if you are at all unsure.
Bamboo: Bamboo is a highly renewable flooring resource because the bamboo plant (technically a grass) reaches maturity in considerably less time than most of the trees used to make wood floors; requires less water to produce a mature crop; and grows in groves that are easy to manage throughout the planting, tending, and harvesting cycle. Harvesting bamboo also does not kill the plant. (For more information, see Bamboo Flooring.)
But do your research—some bamboo flooring comes from bamboo plantations that have displaced natural forests in China or other regions of Asia, where most of today’s bamboo is grown. The fact that the product is grown abroad also means that a considerable amount of energy is consumed shipping the product.
Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus is gaining popularity as a “green” hardwood because the tree grows rapidly and reaches maturity faster than most other species. The Weyerhaeuser Co.’s Lyptus solid- and engineered-wood flooring products are made from hybrid eucalyptus trees grown on South American plantations. There are also manufacturers offering eucalyptus grown in well-managed European forests.