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Choose a couch made from reclaimed or recycled wood

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A couch made from recycled or reclaimed wood means it is constructed from salvaged wood and trees that would otherwise go to the landfill. Choosing a couch made from reclaimed or recycled wood ensures that wood is milled into new products without impacting the world’s forests.

How to choose a couch made from reclaimed or recycled wood

  1. Do a little research: Search your local phone book and the Internet for furniture companies that sell couches made from recycled wood. Use these key words: recycled wood, reclaimed lumber, reused wood or rediscovered wood.
  2. Certified recycled: Visit Smartwood for a directory of certified rediscovered wood products. The Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program provides certification to identify wood products that use salvaged, reclaimed or recycled sources. Look for Smartwood's "Rediscovered Wood" logo.

Find it! Reclaimed or recycled wood couch makers

These are a few of the companies that carry furniture made from recycled or reclaimed wood. Check the labels and descriptions to be sure you're choosing a piece that is identified as such.

Before you buy

Although suppliers are available nationwide, choice of wood species in your locale may be limited. You’ll also pay a premium for recycled wood. The process of salvaging wood from demolition sites is time- and labor-intensive. In addition, most of the wood salvaged is originally from old-growth forests—a threatened resource—and is considered a high-quality product.

Recycled wood needs to be properly processed before it is reused. Reclaimed or salvaged wood is often treated with various chemicals to protect against rotting from insects and microbial agents.[1] These chemicals include chromated copper arsenic (CCA) or ammoniacal copper arsenate (ACA), which contain toxic arsenic and chromium and are considered hazardous wastes by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A better option is reclaimed or salvaged wood treated with ammonium/copper/quaternary ammonia (ACQ),[2] which is free of these hazardous substances and has been registered for use on lumber, timbers, landscape ties, fence posts, and other wood structures.[3] The wood should also be planed and kiln-dried to ensure it will not warp and that insects are destroyed. To be sure these steps are performed in an environmentally responsible manner, seek products certified as "Rediscovered Wood" by SmartWood.

Choosing a couch made from recycled or reclaimed wood helps you go green because…

  • They use existing wood products that would otherwise go to the landfill.
  • They eliminate the need to harvest virgin trees from the world’s forests, protecting watersheds, wildlife habitat, and understory plants.[4]
  • They generally require less energy in their remanufacture than new wood products.[5]

In 2003, the United States generated nearly six million tons of wood waste that went to landfills.[6] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends reusing and recycling wood to divert it from landfills or incinerators, thereby helping to protect human health as well as land, air and water resources. In addition, wood recycling prevents greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and reduces the need for new disposal facilities.[7]

Wood recyclers divert wood from landfills and remanufacture it into new products. They salvage hardwoods, such as chestnut, hickory, cherry, and oak, from old houses, barns and warehouses that are slated for demolition. They also use trees removed from old orchards or urban areas due to disease or death.[8] Others specialize in reclaiming wood from the bottom of rivers and lakes that sank decades ago during logging operations.[9]

Using recycled wood also reduces the need to harvest trees from the world’s forests. For example, salvaging one million board feet of reusable lumber from an old warehouse can offset the need to harvest one thousand acres of forest.[8] The harvest of trees negatively impacts the earth’s biodiversity when habitat is destroyed and affects its ability to absorb greenhouse gases. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and "exhale," or release, oxygen. It's estimated that an acre of trees can grow 4,000 pounds of wood per year while consuming 5,800 pounds of carbon dioxide and producing 4,280 pounds of oxygen.[10]

Controversies

Reclaimed or recycled wood, salvaged from old buildings or construction projects, can be an environmentally responsible choice, but the labeling of products made from these types of woods can be misleading. For instance, reclaimed wood taken from a lake or river without sufficient care can cause significant ecosystem damage, and therefore should be avoided. Truly sustainable reclaimed or recycled wood will include a label indicating the source and extraction methods used to obtain it.

Glossary

  • recycled wood: Post-consumer wood that has been processed (usually by mechanical means) to be used in the manufacture of a new product.
  • reclaimed lumber: Post-consumer wood that has been used for another purpose and is being salvaged for a new use. Almost all reclaimed wood is a high-grade wood as it was originally harvested from old-growth forests.[4]
  • reused wood: Wood products or materials that, after serving their original function, are used again in their present form.[11]
  • rediscovered wood: A term used by Rainforest Alliance’s certification program to describe wood that is recovered, recycled, and reused.[12]

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