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National Wildlife Federation publishes Garden Furniture Scorecard

Helping consumers narrow choices of sustainable wood furniture

As Americans gear up for the warm summer months they will discover many garden furniture brands claiming to be eco-friendly, green or sustainably harvested. Unfortunately, few of these products have been rigorously audited to verify such claims. 

To help consumers make informed choices when purchasing outdoor furniture, the National Wildlife Federation has released its third annual Garden Furniture Scorecard. The scorecard catalogs retailers selling Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified garden furniture — the most rigorous system for distinguishing wood products in the market. (Click here to view the scorecard.)
 
“Cost Plus World Market is pleased to be participating in the National Wildlife Federation Scorecard for the first time this year,” said Kimberley Yant-Dominguez, Cost Plus World Market Divisional Merchandise Manager for Furniture and Home Décor. “We continually make every effort to provide wood products from environmentally responsible sources to our customers.”
 
According to the National Wildlife Federation’s survey of major retailers, this year consumers can expect to find a wider variety of styles and prices of FSC-certified wood garden products.

The National Wildlife Federation expanded the number of companies invited to participate in its third annual Garden Furniture Scorecard from 13 to 16. Several retailers, including Cost Plus World Market, Crate & Barrel, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Pottery Barn, all scored 4 stars or better, indicating that more than 70% of their tropical wood garden furniture is from responsible sources. Notably, this is the largest group of retailers that have attained a score of 4 stars or better, meaning a higher percentage of their wooden outdoor furniture options are environmentally friendly. In addition, several retailers with lower scores have already indicated ways in which they plan to improve their offerings for next year.
 
“We are pleased that more retailers than ever before have chosen to participate in our scorecard and that they are making better choices about the sources of wood in their furniture offerings,” said Eric Palola, Senior Director of Forests for Wildlife at the National Wildlife Federation. “Retailers now have an increased awareness about where their tropical wood products are being sourced from and they expect they will be asked about the sources of their tropical wood from consumers.”

The United States is the world’s largest single importer of wooden furniture from tropical timber-producing countries, with garden furniture representing about one-fifth of the wooden furniture market. U.S. imports of all tropical wood products have increased four-fold over the past decade. As a result, the once biologically rich forests of countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil are being depleted at an unprecedented rate.
 
Several species of neo-tropical birds that summer in the U.S. and Canada depend on threatened tropical forests in Latin America. A major cause of deforestation is the legal and illegal logging of remaining primary forests to meet the global appetite for tropical wood products.

“What you choose to put in your back yard has an impact on wildlife all around the world,” Palola said. “As major consumers of outdoor furniture made from tropical wood, Americans have an opportunity and responsibility to encourage and patronize those stores who source wood products that come from well-managed tropical forests.”

According to the National Wildlife Federation, consumers who want assurance that their garden furniture is truly green should look for and ask for products with a FSC logo, which means the wood is traceable to a sustainably managed forest. An FSC distinction assures that wildlife and forest ecosystems are conserved through rigorous environmental and social standards an independent company audits on an annual basis.

“Because Americans buy more wood and paper than any other country in the world, we can play a major role in helping to protect forest ecosystems and the wildlife and people who depend on them,” said Corey Brinkema, president of FSC-US. “Selecting FSC-certified garden furniture helps support responsible forest management in parts of the world where forests are particularly vulnerable to illegal and unsustainable logging.”

As wood products, FSC-certified goods reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy at all steps of production. The manufacture of metal or plastic garden furniture requires greater quantities of fossil fuels and releases more carbon than the crafting of wooden furniture. In fact, the amount of carbon a tree collects from the atmosphere and stores during its natural growth processes exceeds the amount of carbon emitted when that tree is harvested and made into furniture.

NWF plans to continue its annual surveys of major outdoor furniture retailers to track the progress of making FSC-certified products available to consumers. To download a copy of the Garden Furniture Scorecard 2009, click here. Look at www.fscus.org to find stores near you that manufacture or carry FSC-certified products.

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