Are Wood Products the Sustainable Solution for Your Home?
What is Sustainable Consumption?
The way we produce, use, and dispose of goods is rapidly depleting the planet’s natural resources. Sustainable consumption and production aims at “doing more and better with less”. We can improve the quality of life, while reducing usage, degradation and pollution along the consumer life cycle.
Homeowners are increasingly concerned about the sort of future they will leave for their children, and are making smarter green building choices for their homes. There are several ways in which they do so, and in this article, we’ll focus on wood, one of the most frequently used products in our homes.
Is Wood Really the Green, Sustainable Choice?
A green product should require the least amount of resources and energy to manufacture, maintain and retire (or recycle).
As a material, wood is inherently “green,” especially in comparison to non-renewable> resources such as steel and concrete. The manufacturing of steel studs requires 25x more water, causes 2x the water pollution, and creates 3x more CO2 in the atmosphere.
Besides being renewable, wood is non-toxic, energy-efficient to grow and manufacture, as well as recyclable and biodegradable. Wood is the only major building material that yields life sustaining oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide.
Another important metric is their carbon footprint (the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere via emissions throughout the life of the product). Wood is a natural carbon ‘storage’, meaning this carbon is not released back into the atmosphere until it is retired. It could take generations considering the durability of wood.
Green Advantages of Hardwood Floors
Compared to linoleum, vinyl or carpet, hardwood floors are the most energy efficient to manufacture.
The byproducts of this process, can effectively be re-purposed, reducing the waste and carbon footprint on the planet. For example, tree bark is used as mulch for gardening, and sawdust is used as animal bedding or fuel.
Hardwood floors help avoid health issues by not trapping dirt and allergens.
They are easy to clean and maintain, and you can keep your home allergen-free with little effort.
Depending on the kind of finishes used, you can avoid the health hazards that accompany high VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).
Hardwood flooring lasts a long time!
Wood floors can last several decades, and can even be refinished to bring back the original look.
Since wood is a renewable resource, hardwood floors can be re-purposed.
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The Eco-Friendly Wood Finish
While hardwood floors are the green, sustainable choice, remember the environmental impact of wood finishes and their effect on indoor air quality when comparing them. All wood finishes are made of a carrier and a binder.
They also can contain additives to speed drying and increase durability. These components contribute to the finish’s environmental impact. Wood finishes can contain high levels of VOC’s which could affect the indoor air quality.
Polyurethane vs. Natural Oil Wood Finish
Polyurethane wood finishes are a popular option given their versatility and durability. Unfortunately, polyurethane is not a sustainable choice for your home or health, as it has been known to cause skin and eye irritation, asthma, lung damage, other respiratory and breathing problems.
An alternative to polyurethane wood finishes, are penetrating natural oil finishes that are created from plant products.Natural oilscontain few additives and are less processed than most finishes. Wood finished with natural oil is also easy to touch up by simply buffing in another coat as needed, avoiding having to sand down the surface and reapply when areas start to fade, as is often the case with other types of finishes. As a result,a refinish of a natural oil finished surface is dustlessin most cases.
Environmental Awareness with WOCA ProductsAt WOCA, we take pride in our ‘green credentials’ by producing environmentally friendly, ecological products for over 40 years.
Our penetrating oils are not only designed to protect and enhance the natural properties of wood, but also to be conscious of the impact manufacturing processes and products could have on the environment- a sustainable choice. These factors play a role in our business decisions, to create a safe and sustainable future for everyone.