Choose your Wood Wisely

Working a home show all week, we stared at all of these floors with names like tigerwood, cabruva and merbau. All those years of architecture school and we never heard of any of them- where do they come from? Take Merbau- Evidently, it comes off the back of a truck in Papua Province in Indonesia, and major brand names like Tarkett, Kahrs, Armstrong-Bruce and Goodfellow sell it at Home Depot and Lowes. However Environmental group EIA/Telapak gathered environmental policy information from manufacturers and retailers and conducted undercover investigations into their suppliers. They discovered that while manufacturers and retailers typically claim to buy timber only from carefully managed forests, their suppliers openly admitted to using merbau from unknown sources in Papua, where powerful smuggling syndicates drive massive illegal logging. None could prove their merbau was legal. According to illegal logging.info, llegal logging is rife in Papua, an area recently dubbed 'the Garden of Eden' by international scientists. In Janaury 2005 alone, enough merbau was stolen from Papua to produce flooring worth nearly €500 million at western retail pricess. Despite recent enforcement efforts, illegal merbau is still leaking into the market through international smuggling syndicates. These syndicates collude with the Indonesian military and police to exploit and intimidate local communities into accepting less than €15 for a cubic metre of merbau — timber worth nearly €2,700 when sold as flooring in the European market. Arbi Valentinus, Head of Forest Campaign at Telapak, said, "Europeans would be appalled if they knew that the wood used to make their flooring had been stolen from the poor, indigenous communities of Indonesia's Papua Province."

In his expert advice column in the Star, Steve Maxwell says:

"As with all such issues, the only way to really stop activity of this sort is to eliminate consumer demand. Bribes won't work if nobody wants the flooring. And in the case of merbau, eliminating demand for questionable flooring doesn't even involve aesthetic sacrifices on our part.

The fact is, there's an alternative to Indonesian merbau flooring that looks every bit as beautiful and comes with third-party assurances that responsible forestry practices exist behind the product.

Kronopol is a European flooring company that manufactures a very convincing laminate version of merbau. The visual arrangement of the wood grain eliminates the overly busy, small-chunks-of-wood look that plagues so many laminates.

Each click-together piece of flooring is about 3 1/2-inches wide by 48 inches long, with continuous wood grain across the entire face. It's one of the richest looking laminates I've seen.

Also, the Kronopol "wild merbau" laminate floor product is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (http://www.fsc.org). This international, non-profit group certifies wood products have been harvested in responsible ways.

read more in ::The Star and read the pdf ::EIA Telepak report here.