The growing popularity of the “Green” movement in the building trades is well documented. In fact, last year it was proclaimed as the main theme of the International Builder’s Show.
But how do woodworkers feel? In 2008, Woodworker's Journal asked an online woodworking survey group (more than 3,000 woodworkers responded) a range of questions centered on the concept of “green woodworking.”
Our survey defined green as “personally acting in an environmentally responsible manner.”
When asked “Is the concept of being green something that affects your overall decision making and actions?” 25% of respondents said no, 21% said yes and another 52% said “sometimes.”
Following are some of the key findings from our survey:
• Sustainably harvested lumber is not high on the selection criteria of woodworkers we surveyed.
• More than half of those surveyed do not know about forest certification programs.
• 54% of woodworkers said they would be willing to pay more for lumber harvested in a sustainable manner (unfortunately, 87% of them don’t really know how their lumber is harvested).
• 40% of woodworkers believe that woodworking has very little impact on the environment.
• Most woodworkers don’t consider the environment when making a tool purchase.
• 85% of woodworkers say that they dispose of their hazardous chemicals properly.
When we asked woodworkers “Is your choice of lumber for upcoming projects influenced by how sustainably it’s harvested”: 50% said the concept was “somewhat important,” 40% said “not important,” and only 9% said it was “very important.”
What turns out to be important in choosing lumber, in order of the rankings survey respondents gave, is: appearance (grain, figure, color); availability; price; and (in last place) harvesting methods.
When asked “Do you feel existing certification processes and their logo-markings give you enough information to make green decisions in lumber purchases?” Almost 60% of respondents said “I don’t know anything about this. (The balance were evenly split between yes and no.)
When they did know the difference, 54% said they’d be willing to pay more for lumber that is harvested in an environmentally sustainable way (versus 46% who would not). However, 87% reported that they have not asked a new supplier how their lumber was harvested, while 59% say they have purchased reclaimed or recycled lumber.
How much difference does all of this really make? 40% of respondents to the question “How much impact on the environment do you feel harvesting lumber for woodworking has?” said “very little impact.” Only 4% thought it had a very large impact, and 29% thought it was significant.
While there seems to be an ethic to “do no harm,” most woodworkers apparently feel that woodworking is environmentally sound at its core.
That’s the wood. When it comes to tools, those considerations drop off the map: 88% said they “don’t give a thought” to whether the tools they buy were produced in an environmentally sound manner.
But when it comes to finishing, it’s a different story — woodworkers are very conscious of their choices. 64% select finishes to avoid dangerous chemicals, and 85% dispose of environmentally unsafe chemicals in an accepted environmentally approved manner.
Readers’ comments were probably the most revealing in terms of attitudes about this issue. For instance: “Considering how much good wood is used in both residential and commercial construction, the few boards that we hobbyists use each year amounts to less than a sneeze in a hurricane.” But a woodworker from the northern Rocky Mountains noted that, “Where it takes the bamboo plant one or two seasons to mature, it will take our local fir and pine decades to mature. It’s time we all started to look at alternatives in the shop.”