Wall Street Journal doesn’t know “green”


The Wall Street Journal today wrote about the financial problems plaguing Sustainable Northwest, a Portland lumberyard that carries mostly Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood. Two things, in particular, jumped out from the story.

First, the WSJ reporter, Jim Carlton, fell for the idea from some environmental groups that FSC-certified wood is the only wood that can be called “green” or “sustainable.” Of course this isn’t true. There are several other reputable and respected standards out there, including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which is the most widely used standard in the U.S.

Second, the WSJ story brings up some legitimate issues surrounding green building. While the future remains bright, the poor economy has clearly made things difficult for just about everyone in the timber world. What is unclear, though, is whether Sustainable Northwest’s reliance on FSC wood has anything to do the lumberyard’s financial problems.

Here is what WSJ reader Neil Ward had to say in the comments section of the story:

Typical Jim Carlton piece: accepts the claims of the Forest Stewardship Council at their face value and declines to recognize that Pacific Northwest logging–federal or private–occurs under the most exacting conservation rules on the planet in any case and that–even with foundation funding backing it up–the applique of the FSC standard on top of the Washington and Oregon state forest practices acts adds overhead without enhancing conservation values and thus drags at any claim to add real value. If this log yard fails, it won’t be because wood users compromise their “green” values in hard times. It will be because exponents more penetrating than Carlton perceive that buying a brand does not, in itself, buy value.

A few other interesting news items:

  • A Sacramento company, ECO2 Forests Inc., is planning a large kiri tree plantation north of Reno, Nev. The kiri tree is a broad-leafed hardwood that regenerates from the stump after harvesting and is native to China. The tree could go a long way toward helping slow deforestation and sequester a lot of carbon along the way, according to the company, but the Northern Nevada Business Weekly has also raised some doubts about the Reno project.
  • The Society of American Foresters held its annual meeting last week in Oregon and the speakers had plenty of interesting things to say, according to a story in the Albany Democrat-Herald. One of the highlights, according to the paper, was an appearance by legendary forester W.D. Hagenstein, who wrote in his book: “Live without wood or wood fiber in your life for a year and then come talk to me. Talk is cheap. Life isn’t.”