Mother Earth Living

Knock on Wood: Sustainable Hardwood for Your Natural Home

Check out these options for bringing hardwood inside your home.
By Debra Bokur
January/February 2005
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The Tropical Salvage Company made this end table from reclaimed and salvaged tropical hardwoods.
Photo by Liz Salaba, Fair World Gallery

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The exotic beauty and extreme durability of tropical hardwoods is tempting, but choosing products without sustainability certification contributes to illegal harvesting, endangerment of species, and irreparable damage to old-growth rainforests. Loggers punch roads through pristine tropical forests and routinely destroy up to twenty-eight trees for every targeted hardwood. Insist on wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is supported by environmental groups worldwide.


Place of origin: Bolivia, Brazil
Used for: Decks, flooring, benches, railing
Good choice or not? No. Contributes to deforestation of old-growth forest. Mostly logged from Brazil.
Alternatives: FSC-certified maple from managed forests


Place of origin: Latin and South America, Caribbean, Africa
Used for: Fine furniture, patio furniture, cabinetry
Good choice or not? No. Some species are endangered. Contributes to deforestation, including wholesale stripping of Amazonian rainforests. Peru continues to export illegal mahogany.
Alternatives: FSC-certified fir from managed forests


Place of origin: Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo
Used for: Wood moldings, wooden blinds, parquet floors, wood handles
Good choice or not? No. Contributes to deforestation and endangerment of wildlife, especially orangutans. Logging in Indonesia is banned, but illegal trade is rampant.
Alternatives: FSC-certified oak from managed forests


Place of origin: Thailand, India, Burma, Indonesia, Ecuador, Costa Rica
Used for: Indoor and outdoor furniture, boat building, flooring, picture frames, salad bowls
Good choice or not? No. Buy only certified plantation teak; replanting is being undertaken in Ecuador and Costa Rica. Burmese teak helps fund that country's military regime, which routinely conscripts local people into slave labor.
Alternatives: FSC-certified cherry from managed forests

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