We get tons of questions here at RAN. Here's a good one from Anne, about buying wood floors for her home:
I've been looking into what I thought were "green" options for redoing my floors. Specifically, I'm considering FSC-certified Brazilian Cherry or Lyptus. I saw on your web-site, however, that Weyerhaeuser, which has the patent on Lyptus, I believe, is logging in old-growth forests. I'm confused because I thought Lyptus was grown on plantations, but I obviously don't want to support a company that conducts damaging logging practices, even if the particular product I'm purchasing isn't obtained in such a way. Can you tell me please if FSC-certified Brazilian Cherry and Lyptus really are ecological choices for flooring?
Thank you for your time and help.
Great question! In general, the FSC is a good sign that the products you buy are sourced sustainably. Like any complex standard though (think organic), the FSC is by no means perfect. We encourage people to look beyond the label to inform themselves of the source of the product--especially when buying tropical hardwoods, including Weyerhaeuser's lyptus products.
First, Lyptus is NOT FSC-certified. Unfortunately, there are some misleading claims and outright fraud surrounding FSC labels out there. Be sure to verify claims by checking for the code that accompanys any FSC-certified product or searching for the product online
Lyptus is produced by Weyerhaeuser through a joint venture with Aracruz Cellulose at a mill near Espirito Santo, Brazil. Aracruz plantations located in the same region as the Lyptus mill are the subject of a an extremely vigerous dispute
with local indigenous communities, who say that Aracruz tree farms have devestated their homeland.
Weyerhaeuser says that the lyptus product doesn't come from the disputed area, but stops short of saying that they never get any of these trees. Locals on the ground concede that most of the trees go to feed a paper mill in the area, but say that some of the trees may be headed to the Lyptus mill on a spot-basis. Bottom line, this probably isn't a situation you want to touch with a ten-foot-pole, let alone your hard-earned cash.
Try bamboo flooring as a great alternative to Lyptus. It's high quality, durable, great looking, and very low impact from a socio-environntal perspective! The cherry is probably okay--it's likely domestically produced, where the FSC is generally strong . I'm not aware of any current significant issues related to the product (still love that bamboo though, lower impact and it stains really well).