What the Deck? Green Deck Options

Walk the plank on these sustainable options.

| March/April 2005

Adding a deck can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and add another room without building walls. Unfortunately, much of the wood used to construct these additions comes from harmful logging practices that destroy the very nature we want to enjoy. For an eco-friendly alternative, consider wood that’s been responsibly harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)—or look into non-wood decking made from recycled plastic.

FSC-certified wood comes from a forest that’s being managed according to sustainable and environmentally conscious guidelines set forth by the FSC, considered the global standard setter for responsible forestry practices. Distributors must also be certified by the FSC before they can sell FSC-certified wood.

However, there’s growing concern about U.S. lumber companies that are certified to sell FSC wood but never actually stock it. “People are being fooled,” says Larry Percivalle, sales and marketing director for EarthSource Forest Prod­ucts (ESFP), a certified-wood supplier that specializes in deck woods. “Customers see the FSC logo on company letterhead and assume the products are certified.” Other companies may claim different certification, hoping that when customers see the word “certified” they’ll think the wood is sustainable. According to Percivalle, “the FSC certification is the only one that’s credible.”

You can find FSC-certified suppliers on the organization’s website, but the only way to know for certain if a store carries certified lumber is to ask. Then, check your invoice. “A customer in­voice should show a line item that says ‘FSC ­certified,’” says Dan Harrington of EcoTimber a certified wood company specializing in interior floors. “If the invoice doesn’t show those words, the wood isn’t certified.”

Deck It Out

For wood to perform its best outdoors, it has to be water and bug resistant. Pressure-treated wood—usually pine—has always been the easiest product to find that meets these prerequisites. The pressure-treatment industry has phased out CCA-treated wood (containing copper, chromium, and arsenic)—in favor of arsenic-free treatments such as ACQ (ammonium copper quaternary), but safety concerns remain.

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