How can you buy wood and furniture ethically?

Illegal logging has become a problem for keeping unethical wood out of the UK. Credit: FSC / Unsplash

Deforestation is a growing concern around the world with blurred lines between the sourcing of legal and illegal logging raising questions over wood imported into the UK.

From fences to furniture, there are ways to track if the materials are sustainably sourced.

So can do you make a solid choice when it comes to buying wood?

How do you find ‘good’ wood?

The FSC logo can be spotted on things like garden furniture, envelopes and packaging. Credit: FSC

Since 2013 it has been against the law to buy illegally harvested timber - the term used for wood suitable for building and construction - on the EU market.

Because it has become such an issue, scientists at Kew Gardens developed a DNA database of around 42,000 wood samples to track what's being sold from protected areas.

Other organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) help manage and check how sustainable and environmentally friendly woods are.

Retailers should display the FSC logo on their website and you can spot it printed in books and on packaging.

Which wood is the most environmentally friendly?

Larch and pine can be used as alternatives to hardwoods. Credit: PA

Fast-growing species like pine and larch are not only more sustainable but are closely monitored by the FSC.

Hardwoods such as oak, ash or beech can be linked to ancient forest destruction as they can take up to 100 years to fully grow.

You might start to see more wood alternatives used to make furniture such as hemp and bamboo, which are both considered strong for how fast they grow.

Bamboo holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest growing plant with one species hitting a growth rate of 91cm per day.

Can you source your own wood?

You might need a licence from the Forestry Commission to cut your own trees. Credit: PA

You might need a felling licence from the Forestry Commission if you’re already eyeing up your next Christmas tree.

Yet trees in gardens, churchyards or public spaces used for recreation can be felled without a licence, as can trees with a diameter less than the width of a baked bean can.

Services like Community Wood Recycling sell reclaimed wood through social enterprises across the UK.

Should all wood be avoided?

A recent study showed that musicians couldn't tell the difference between acoustic guitars made from endangered wood and sustainable wood. Credit: Unsplash

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) around 18.7 million acres of forests are lost each year - the equivalent to 27 football pitches every minute.

Some woods are severely threatened such as African Teak, Brazilian Mahogany and Western Red Cedar.

Endangered woods might look nice when used for fancy flooring but other varieties are just as available without harming the environment.

A recent study by Lancaster University showed that most musicians couldn’t hear or feel a difference between acoustic guitars made with sustainable wood and ones made with endangered wood.

So exploring new options - and avoiding contributing to worsening deforestation - is possible.