Make / Solutions

Locally Made: Furniture & Forests

It's a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Locally Made: Furniture & Forests

Across the board, no matter if we talk about food, flowers, home goods, or apparel, there is a very simple yet powerful solution: Choose local. Support your local community of growers and makers, and better yet, become one yourself.

Slow is fast and less is more.

It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

We’re losing forests at an alarming rate and yet the demand for wood-based products continues to rise. While wood is a renewable resource, unfortunately, many logging activities in the tropics are done without regard to the forest ecosystem. Over time this can limit the forests’ ability to regrow, which leads to reduced biodiversity and increased pollution that contributes to global warming. “Wood that comes from South America is difficult to determine whether or not it was harvested sustainably. There is a huge problem of illegal logging in the Amazon and other regions where government control is lacking,” says LA-based furniture maker, Elliott Marks.

What’s considered good wood? If you’ve followed along with us, you can easily guess the answer: it comes down to what’s available locally. “For this region, and Southern California in general, I would say the Eucalyptus family of trees are the most abundant species. They do produce some magnificent hardwoods,” says Lana Rasmussen of Killscrow. “Unfortunately, the process of harvesting and seasoning Eucalyptus is extremely difficult and time-consuming, thus making it challenging as a commercially viable species.”

But there are many varieties of wood that are available in the US. Darrick Rasmussen gives more details: “Furniture making as a whole can be very low impact environmentally when ethical decisions are made to choose certain wood species and types of finishes. I prefer to use domestic woods such as White Oak, Walnut, an Douglas Fir because¬†they are abundant, beautiful, and grow right here in the US. I think the finishing process is the most toxic aspect of making things from wood, but there are products available that have little to no VOC content. I am always trying out new finishes with the goal of finding one that is environmentally friendly, which usually means they are pleasant to work with, look great, and protect the wood without taking away the natural look and feel.”

Elliott also looks to domestic woods for his furniture: “Some of these West Coast woods can be harvested responsibly, allowing the forest to renew itself. Douglas Fir and Redwood are both examples of fast-growing species that if replanted and selectively cut are a sustainable source. Other woods such as oak an walnut are harvested from naturally felled trees on private property. Asking the lumber yard about the specifics of their inventory may be the best way to determine the sustainability of a given species of wood.”

Today’s environmental challenges may seem daunting because the existing system is so pervasive in almost every aspect of our life that is has become a part of our lifestyle. As Lana and Darrick point out, “Environmentally responsible use of materials cannot be compartmentalized from lifestyle.” When we change our lifestyle, we change the paradigm.