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There are many ways that you can get involved to move the global economy away from products that have adverse social and environmental impacts. Our political actions demanding legislative and economic change are most important. But we also have choices to make when purchasing products.
Some general rules for forest products (in order of preference):
1. only buy what you really need,
2. buy reclaimed or post-consumer recycled products,
3. buy products from local, small scale producers whose practices you know and trust,
4. buy FSC certified wood products, and don't choose species that are most at risk.
Contact Rainforest Alliance for more information.
N.B. Certified and recycled products are no excuse for waste. Both processes still have considerable impacts, and FSC certification has substantial flaws. They are better than other wood sources, but not better than focusing on what you really need.
N.B. Also look for union made, sweatshop free, fair trade, organic, and other similar certifications when shopping, if you can afford to. But don't use it as an excuse not to get politically active!
Exploding levels of wood and paper consumption are driving global deforestation, and associated human rights abuses. A mere 22 percent of the world’s population—those living in the United States, Europe and Japan – consume more than half of the world’s timber and nearly three-quarters of the world’s paper.
It is critical that we stop advocating for increased consumption, but rather advocate for cooperation, sharing and a reduction in usage.
There are many guide books and organizations that specialize in helping businesses implement reduction techniques and strategies that reduce the overall quantity of wood and paper purchased, as well as increase the amount of wood and paper that is recycled.
Coop America offers practical steps for using your consumer and investor power for social change. Co-op America’s Wood Wise Program works to preserve forests by reducing the demand for wood products and promoting sustainable alternatives. Click here for a link to their wood wise consumer guide.
The Resource Conservation Alliance provides consumers and businesses with tips on how they can reduce their demand for wood and paper products.
Wastewise is a free, voluntary, EPA program helping U.S. organizations reduce and eliminate their production of costly municipal solid waste, which includes the production of wood and paper waste, benefiting the bottom line and the environment.
There is a growing supply of wood and paper products that are certified "green" or "ethical." Many of those certification systems are bogus front groups created by industry to protect business as usual. These are some of the better ones in the pack. They are by no means perfect, just better than the rest.
You can purchase wood and paper products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. We do not endorse FSC, but they are the better than the other National certifications out there. The FSC has an online database that lists all companies that abide by its ecologically responsible principles. FSC has also released a new website geared towards helping the building industry buy green. Check it out.
"Conservatree is a nonprofit catalyst and advocate for ecologically sustainable paper markets, combining environmental commitment with paper industry and technical savvy. Conservatree provides practical tools and realistic strategies, such as consulting, for institutions to successfully convert to environmentally sound systems."
Developers of the LEED green building rating system, the US Green Building Council is the nation's foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work. The US Green Building Council has an extensive resource list for institutions who want to build in a responsible manner.
NRDC has a “Building Green: From Principle to Practice website” – an online resource created by leading environmental group guides building professionals through green building process, from putting together a business case to design, construction and marketing.
If you’re looking for alternative tissue paper sources please look at Greenpeace’s guide to ancient forest friendly tissue products.
Similar to the Organic label to the food industry, Forest Stewardship Council certification standards provide for independent third-party certification to ensure protection of forest ecosystems, the right to unionize and accrue financial benefits for all employees and contractors, and the recognition of the right of indigenous peoples to free, and prior informed consent on activities that take place on their traditional territory.
The FSC Canada National Boreal Standard requires that:
- 3.1 Indigenous peoples shall control forest management on their lands and territories unless they delegate control with free and informed consent to other agencies.
- 3.2 Forest management shall not threaten or diminish, either directly or indirectly, the resources or tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples.
N.B. FSC products bearing the "mixed sources" label, or small percentage FSC content are questionable and should be avoided for better products.