In the 21st Century, we face an onslaught of bad news from around the world when it comes to the environment.

Despite knowing more about the sources of our environmental woes than ever before, it often feels like we just can’t get ahead of the curve. 

That’s one reason we are so excited about solid hardwood furniture. Wood is good, as they say, because it is an incredible green solution for residence hall furniture. 

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about wood, so let’s break it down and examine why wood is the most sustainable furniture material and why you should choose solid wood furniture for your furniture needs.

And before I give you my 5-point list of how and why wood is greener than other furniture raw materials, this 2.5-min video gives you a little insight into our green manufacturing process.

1. Wood Is Renewable

First of all, wood is the most environmentally friendly raw material. It’s renewable. In fact, wood is the only building material made from sun, rain, and carbon from the air. It’s infinitely replenishable and renewable. That’s amazing when you think about it. 

Wood is a raw material that grows and replenishes itself every year. A lot of folks wonder if it’s environmental to cut down trees. Luckily, with selective harvesting--in contrast to clearcutting--it’s not a problem. In fact, it’s great for forest health. 

And trees grow everywhere. Currently, according to this short video from reThink Wood, the rate of US reforestation and tree growth outstrips harvesting by 40%.

In fact, one media source claims that:

“In the United States, deforestation has been more than offset by reforestation between 1990 and 2010. The nation added 7,687,000 hectares (18,995,000 acres) of forested land during that period.”

In Europe forests are managed to support manufacturing. They’re actually expanding at the rate of 5,000 sq kilometers/year. When trees are selectively harvested, new trees are planted in their place. From 1990-2005, Europe regrew forests the size of Greece.

2. Wood Is Good For The Climate

wood is the greenest furnitureWood products are healthy for our climate and prevent climate change. First, trees absorb carbon throughout their life. They take it out of atmosphere and store it in their trunks as they grow. But it doesn't end there. 

When trees are turned into wood products they continue to store that carbon. By using solid hardwood furniture, we are preventing climate change and the greenhouse effect.

But it doesn’t stop there. Eventually, we can reclaim the solar energy stored in wood at the end of the product life cycle by burning wood for energy. Re-using wood for energy like this is a great way to displace dirty, non-renewable, and carbon-emitting energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

Compared to oil, coal and natural gas, burning wood creates clean energy and no waste.

3. Wood Means Zero Waste

Here’s another reason why wood is so good from a sustainability perspective. Because of improvements in technology over the last few decades, wood manufacturing has become a zero waste industry. What does that mean?

Bi-products from every stage of the production process can be reused and repurposed. When wood is harvested, a percentage of it is processed into lumber, some of it is converted into other wood products, and still more of it is recovered for energy production. But none of it goes to waste.

This is why DCI is able to sustain our zero-waste policy, and it’s the core of our green Vertical Integration Process.

Here’s how we use the wood that doesn’t make it into our furniture.

We use bark for landscaping materials. 

Sawdust is used at local farms or burned as fuel for heating. 

Rough wood cuts get re-used in pallets of other building materials. 

Finally, we use leftover hardwood to build our internal furniture components rather than buying Poplar or other species.

4. Wood Is Durable And Lasts A Long Time

Relative to it’s weight, wood is the strongest building material on the planet. It’s extremely resilient and requires little maintenance (just think about trees!).

Unlike plastic laminate, wood laminate, and other engineered woods, wood can have multiple lifetimes through refinishing. 

In fact, we have serviceable furniture in place in residence halls at the University of California, Dartmouth College, and University of Maryland installed over 30 years ago. This is why we can confidently guarantee all our furniture for 25 years.

5. Wood Scores High On Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

When considering sustainable furniture for your residence hall, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a key consideration. LCA is a “holistic, scientific approach that considers the resources consumed and the emissions released during a product’s manufacture, use, and disposal.” 

And according to LCA studies, compared to non-wood products, wood consistently comes out on top. The one ‘trouble spot’ for wood, when it comes to LCA, is the spike in energy required for the kiln drying and treating process. 

At DCI, we offset this energy consumption by using wood byproducts from our milling process as fuel to power our kilns. In doing so, we minimize both our carbon and energy footprint while eliminating waste.

Do We Really Want To Cut Down Trees?

A lot of people shy away from the idea of cutting down trees. And for good reason. For many years, the timber industry was poorly regulated. Unrestrained clear-cutting eliminated priceless old-growth forests around the planet. 

Clear-cutting timber companies also razed virgin rainforests, destroying habitat and ecosystems and contributing to a sharp increase in species extinction. At the time, there was widespread ignorance about the devastating ecological impact of clear-cutting. 

In the early ‘90s, that started to change. Among other things, environmental groups, citizens, and consumers started to lobby and demand oversight and better logging practices.

Since that time, an enormous amount of reforestation has taken place. And now, stringent third party certification standards, like FSC C-O-C, ensured the environmental pedigree of wood products.