What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?

FSC is the top indicator of sustainable harvesting, but it’s hard to find on a finished flooring product

Forest  Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification.  It is synonymous with wood that meets the most rigorous standards of sustainable harvesting.

It remains the only certification the U.S. Green Building Council will use for certified wood in the latest version of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, and it is lauded for everything from protecting forests to keeping toxic chemicals out of our groundwater.

But aside from a few, higher-end hardwood floors like DuChateau or USFloors Navarre, you won’t find the FSC-certified label on standard, finished hardwood flooring products – even those from manufacturers that have FSC-certified factories.  The chain of custody documentation, from the forest to the distributor, required by FSC is costly, and in some cases, logistically impossible.

“We sell though a large number of independent distributors like Wanke Cascade,” says Ron Gade, western regional sales manager for Columbia and Century Flooring. “We see it as difficult to obtain FSC certification for this group of distributors.”

Courtesy of Columbia Flooring

But, he says, Columbia Flooring carries a different label that attests to sustainability. Columbia Flooring is Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI) verified sustainable. This label means that the wood came from the Appalachian Hardwood Forest, and the US Department of Agriculture has verified that this forest is growing 2.45 trees for every three harvested.

The Appalachian Hardwood Forest comprises 65.7 million acres, spanning from northern Georgia to western New York.

“The Appalachian Hardwood territory is able to meet present needs without compromising those of future generations,” Gade says. “In addition, we provide the latest fashion-forward colorations and textures that are 100-percent made in the USA, using local timbers, which means a small carbon footprint in producing our product.”

In considering hardwood deemed better for the planet, it is key to understand that FSC-certified products are typically a special-order item, even from a manufacturer that is FSC-certified, says Mike Smith, an account manager for ProSource Wholesale Floorcoverings in Cincinnati and a Green Trends Adviser for Natural Interiors.

Harding Hardwood, a big seller for ProSource, is an example. While this product comes from an FSC-certified factory, a special order would be required to get an FSC-certified product. But, Smith notes, the product also carries Cradle-to-Cradle Silver and Environmentally Preferred Product (EPP) certifications, both of which ensure sustainable harvesting to some extent.

“As a general rule, it is the designer or architect working on a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project who will have interest in the special-order, FSC-certified product,” Smith says. “Until demand drives down price and documentation issues, the customer who does not have a special-order budget can look for other indicators that their product is coming from a company that has been environmentally responsible.”

Mirage Floors also comes from an FSC-certified factory in Canada, and the company has plenty of FSC-certified raw lumber on hand, says Harold Hall, a Mirage territory manager based in Kentucky.

“But it is not a standard item,” he says. “No one is going to finish their raw FSC-lumber and put it in a box because the customer who comes along and wants it, will inevitably want it finished in a different color or width.” ©

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com

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