Rescuing Tropical Forests: Tropical Salvage

Tropical hardwood with an eye on sustainability.

| January/February 2005

A socially and environmentally sensitive business is protecting imperiled Indonesian old-growth forests while meeting the demand for tropical hardwood furniture.

UNEARTHED TREASURE: Tropical Salvage, a fair-trade furniture reclamation and manufacturing business based in Indonesia, excavates wood buried hundreds of years ago by volcanic eruptions. Local artisans use this and other wood rescued from demolition sites to make furniture, flooring, and cabinetry that’s sold throughout North America.

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD: In a country that suffers 35 to 40 percent unemployment, Tropical Salvage provides steady work for Indonesians who might otherwise find employment with unsustainable forestry businesses. “If we create jobs, then we can have a dialogue about preserving the environment and help people understand why local forests are critical to the earth’s health,” says owner Tim O’Brien.

FAIR IS FAIR: O’Brien believes no one has the right to tell local residents to stop doing work crucial to their sustenance without providing alternative opportunities. He’s created higher paying jobs and a satisfied work force without further stressing this tropical ecosystem. “I hope that through this business, fair trade will become fairer still,” he says.

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