Oak as an ethical construction material really is quite hard to beat. Having absorbed Carbon Dioxide throughout its life, an oak tree has already repaid its debt to the environment before it is felled. In addition to this, oak has a longevity many other materials cannot match, making it one of the first choices for builders and furniture makers. Some oak trees do not begin making seed, in the form of acorns, until they are fifty years old, while no oak tree will become productive in this way until at least twenty years of age.
Most American and European Oak furniture is made from long-term sustainable supplies of oak. Good producers of oak furniture will have an environmental policy covering the sourcing and manufacture of their products, and these policies will normally have consideration for the replanting of oak trees. Indeed, in Britain, the Forestry Commission reports that there is a small increase each year in the hectares of forestry covered by oak trees. This is despite oak being one of the most popular solid-wood choices for furniture making in the UK.
Oak can come from any country where trees grow, but environment-friendly wood is likely to have certification from The Forest Stewardship Council, an organisation which has as its mission statement the aspiration of “Promoting the responsible management of forests worldwide.” One of the programs they pursue is the idea of the “Chain of Custody.” This means that in the European Union, the USA, Australia and most developed countries, wood is sourced legally, from suppliers who have signed up to a process of environmental protection mirrored in their home country’s legislation. Founded in 1990 in California, the FSC aims to “credibly identify well-managed forests as the sources of responsibly produced wood products.” The reach of this organisation covers most of the oak wood that goes to make up European and Western homes, so ask your supplier of living room, bedroom and kitchen furniture and flooring about FSC certification on the items you buy.
If you are in the market for oak furniture for your home, but you want to minimise the impact you make on the planet’s resources, one excellent strategy is to recycle oak boards, or even better, recycle or upcycle existing oak furniture. Oak furniture looks better and better with age, and having received a bruise or a knock does not diminish its beauty. Just be sure you are buying solid oak, by checking that the top and bottom of your furniture is of a similar grain and consistency, and that edging or veneer has not been added. Also look for the distinctive open grain pattern of solid oak. Oak is the chosen material for furniture items which are high-use, such as tables and cupboards. Its durability and strength as a material for making furniture make it the perfect choice for an environment-conscious consumer.