For people and businesses that choose to adopt environmentally friendly practices, sustainability is a guiding principle. One of the core tenets of sustainability is using fewer new resources and producing less waste. As a result, many people have turned to reclaimed wood as an environmentally friendly building material for everything from small furniture to large buildings.
Wood that has been “reclaimed” is salvaged from many types of structures, including old barns, churches, and warehouses. Because it’s upcycled from old structures, reclaimed wood offers numerous environmental benefits over newly sourced wood.
From how it’s sourced to helping reduce construction waste, reclaimed wood is a sustainable option that provides some significant benefits over new lumber.
Reclaiming old wood is far less detrimental for the environment than logging new timber. Sustainable forestry makes efforts to conserve natural resources and minimize the logging industry’s impact on forest ecosystems. In the United States, most timber is sourced from managed forests. However, this is not the case around the globe.
Worldwide, logging still destroys ecosystems, consumes fossil fuels, and produces greenhouse gas emissions. In some cases, logging operations in other countries do little to lessen their environmental impact. For example, clearcutting is commonly practiced in tropical rainforests where there is less regulation or oversight. This practice destroys the natural habitats of wildlife and impacts the global climate.
Harvesting reclaimed wood requires minimal, if any, use of heavy machinery, limiting carbon emissions produced by the process. In addition, impacts on the surrounding ecosystem are either minimal or non-existent when wood is salvaged from existing structures.
After timber is logged, it has to be processed before it can be used as a building material. Processing of new wood has its own impacts on the environment.
When timber is processed into lumber, resources are consumed: gas is consumed transporting timber, electricity is used for powering machinery, and fuel is needed for forklifts and other heavy equipment.
In addition, new lumber may be treated with chemical preservatives like chromated copper arsenate (CCA). The use of this chemical can result in runoff from lumber yards, introducing chemicals like arsenic into the surrounding environment.
By comparison, reclaimed wood does not need to be processed as heavily as timber. While reclaimed wood can be treated with white wash or other finishes, chemical preservatives are not used. This lessens its impact on the environment.
When older buildings are demolished, they produce what’s known as construction and demolition (C&D) waste. Most often, C&D waste is taken to local landfills where it’s dumped. While wood is biodegradable and will eventually decompose, it still occupies a significant amount of space in landfills.
As a landfill becomes full, more space is required for storing waste. When wood is reclaimed from an old structure, it’s given a second lease on life. This not only preserves some of that structure’s history, but keeps material out of landfills, prolonging the landfill’s lifespan and minimizing its impact.
Purchasing furniture and décor made from reclaimed wood is one way to practice sustainability as a consumer. However, there are companies who try to pass new wood off as reclaimed. Be sure that you know how to spot genuine reclaimed wood.
Also, learn as much as you can about a business and their practices before purchasing. Be sure your reclaimed wood furniture is made by a business that practices environmentally sound manufacturing.
Urban Legacy partners with local artisans to handcraft our reclaimed wood shelves and other home décor. We only use authentic reclaimed wood, salvaged from barns across the North Eastern United States. We also participate in the Nature Conservancy’s Plant A Billion Trees campaign - donating a portion of every sale to support the planting, maintenance, and protection of trees in the U.S.
Find the perfect reclaimed wood accent for your home or office. Shop our collection of reclaimed wood shelves!