Redwood Dealers Respond to New Green Standards
By Charlie Jourdain, CRA
Redwood lumber is a naturally green product, well suited to capitalize on the trend toward eco-friendly standards.
Concerns over environmental issues have spurred action across multiple audiences in the building industry. From consumers insisting on certified green projects to the architects who design them, to the communities that embed them into building codes, building products providers know they need to do more than just say they offer environmentally friendly products. They have to put their certifications where their mouths are.
In many industries, such as the redwood industry, environmental stewardship and careful management of natural resources that provide our products is a business practice that precedes much of the “greenwashing” found in the marketplace today. But simply saying we do is no longer enough. That’s why it’s so important to show and tell our progress, and prove through our transparency the solid foundation of our product claims.
A survey commissioned last year by the California Redwood Association showed how consumers desire a greener home front. Our survey showed that three-quarters of homeowners said that it’s important for their deck to be eco-friendly. That’s probably why more than 90% of them believe a deck should be recycled or reused, and not wind up in a landfill. That shifting mindset is also what provokes their insistence on certifiably green designs and asking their architects to design to the newest LEED guidelines.
In fact, with the most recent LEED v4 guidelines, new materials and resources credits were added. The credits are intended to show users how to get information for evaluating the safety and environmental impact of products and help manufacturers to compile the information.
Such green building certifications remain voluntary (so far), but local and state governments across the country have begun issuing their own mandates for green building to establish minimum, enforceable sustainable construction requirements. Sustainability goals—not even a consideration a generation ago—are already set in many communities. This trend will continue driving the development of codes and ordinances for green building. In perhaps the ultimate “good green cop, bad green cop” scenario, the financial impact for following these laws are tempered by tax credits and other incentives that reward green building strategies.
The path of this trend is pretty clear. Members of the California Redwood Association are more than ready to answer the challenges raised by these sustainability goals. That is why the CRA commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a scientific technique commonly used to quantify the environmental footprint of producing and consuming products we use in our everyday life. And it is also why the CRA and American Wood Council have released an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for redwood decking (view the PDF at www.calredwood.org).
EPDs are standardized tools that provide information about the environmental footprints of the products they cover. The redwood decking EPD goes one step further by obtaining independent third-party verification of our claims from Underwriters Laboratory Environment.
CRA’s LCA quantified the environmental impacts of redwood decking production and use over a 25-year life span, in what is known as a cradle to grave LCA. The results, compared to the environmental footprint of plastic decking, are revealing.
• Recycling: Plastic decking is made from recycled materials, but did you know you cannot recycle plastic decking? On the other hand, the lumber from a redwood deck is completely recyclable and biodegradable.
• Air Pollution/Carbon Footprint: Redwood trees absorb more carbon than they produce (actually reducing carbon emissions), and continue to store that carbon once it is harvested and milled. Plastic-composite lumber by contrast introduces 26 times more particulate matter into our air.
• Water Pollution: Introducing too much nitrogen into a pond or stream can produce algae blooms that destroy the habitat for many species of fish, creating what are known as “dead zones.” It’s called eutrophication, and plastic lumber is nine times more damaging to marine habitats.
• Energy: Plastic decking processes use 10 times more energy than a lumber mill producing redwood decking.
To learn more about the CRA’s new LCA, which compares redwood decking to plastic-composite decking and to learn the eco facts, view CRA’s new brochure at www.calredwood.org (“CRA Life Cycle Assessment Brochure”).
If analyzing the life cycle of a product still isn’t enough, certification proving our resources are managed to some of the strictest, most respected standards is one more way we prove the impact of our products and ensure they will continue to be available for future generations to enjoy. All the members of the California Redwood Association are committed to sound forest management practices to ensure that our forests will remain healthy, beautiful and productive. We take pride that 100% of CRA member-owned timberlands are certified as well-managed by the Forest Stewardship Council. When your customers see the FSC icon in your store, they can rest assured that the lumber they are building with comes from healthy forests. That means responsible harvesting at sustainable levels as well as the protection of natural habitats.
To learn more about one of nature’s most environmentally friendly, beautiful and strong building materials and to find redwood locally through our member mills, visit the CRA at www.realstrongredwood.com.
– Charlie Jourdain is president of the California Redwood Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.