Wood’s inherent attributes compare favorably to most other materials from a life-cycle analysis (cradle-to-grave) perspective. Besides being renewable, wood is non-toxic, energy-efficient to grow and manufacture, recyclable, and biodegradable. Wood products are readily produced without toxic manufacturing by-products. Wood is among the only major building materials whose regrowth yields life-sustaining oxygen and absorbs a greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide).
Because wood as a material is eco-friendly, discussions of the "greenness" of wood products tend to focus on sources rather than inherent characteristics: in short, to determine if a given wood product is environmentally responsible, you need to know where the wood came from. There are a variety of environmentally responsible sources for wood products.
All wood comes either from salvaged, reclaimed, or recycled sources, or is harvested from forests or plantations. If wood is harvested, the key questions to ask relate to the long-term social and environmental impacts of forest management. Harvested wood is only as environmentally sound as the forest management practices that stand behind it. At the end of the day, woods sustainability goes hand in hand with sustainable forestry.
How can you tell if wood products come from well-managed forests? The answer lies in the independent certification of forests and forest management. By setting a high standard for forest management practices – a standard that includes social and economic, as well as environmental, considerations – and a labeling and tracking mechanism for forest products, credible forest certification empowers consumers to use their purchasing power to promote forestry that conserves forests for future generations.