I’ve just finished reading about a trend that leaves me aghast! Robert Hudson Westover, with the USDA Forest Service, wrote a story, entitled “Brown Furniture is the New Green.” In the story, published in the December issue of Tree Care Industry magazine, he describes a trend away from wood furniture by young people. This trend extends to new wood furniture, too.
Much of this unwanted heirloom furniture is being burned or ending up in landfills. Besides losing pieces of history, we are also adding to our environmental problems. Wood is a carbon bank. Carbon is the primary ingredient in wood and, while living, trees use the carbon dioxide that we exhale in the process of photosynthesis. As trees grow, they store more and more carbon and they hold it until they are burned or decay. The stored carbon is then released back into the atmosphere, where we don’t need it.
I suspect that much of this aversion to wood is because some people have bought into the misguided myth that cutting down trees – any trees – is a bad thing. The truth is that trees are crops just like grain, fruit and vegetables . They aren’t going to stop eating bread because the whole wheat stalk was cut for the kernels at the top because wheat is a renewable resource. Farmers plant more seed, which yields another crop. Trees are also a renewable resource. When forest or woodlot owners cut one, they plant one or more new ones.
If we save the furniture and other wood products that we own, that wood continues to store carbon. The new trees that are planted then begin storing carbon, too, carbon they will carry with them until they are burned or decay.
The alternative materials for furniture – metal and plastic – are not renewable resources. Once metal is mined from the ground, it doesn’t grow back. Once petroleum or other materials are converted to plastic, they can no longer revert back to their natural state. There goes the environmental argument.
If young people are turned off by the size, weight and style of classic and antique wood furniture, many lighter weight, simpler, modern, wood furniture is on the market. Those who eschew the classic designs of wood furniture for environmental reasons can still embrace clean air by acquiring modern wood furniture. And, there is a market for the antique and classic furniture. They can literally have their cake and eat it too.