Protecting the environment                                  Back to Home Page


Almost every person and every organisation these days seem to have an environmental policy or statement, but the fact is the way we live in the developed world uses more of the world’s resources than it should.  It is therefore up to all of us to think about what we do, how we spend our time and our money and what effect we are having.


Here is an example.  Virtually all of the world’s toys are made in China.  They are made wholly or largely from plastic.  When they break or are no longer needed many end up dumped in the ground in landfill sites.  Even those that are recycled need a lot of energy to get any useful raw materials from them.  So we use an oil-derived material (plastic) to create a cheap product which is then shipped across the world, and after maybe a few years (or even sometimes a few months) the product is dumped in the ground.


The scenario above doesn’t really sound very sensible does it?  OK we get cheap toys, the Chinese get a lot of jobs in factories, but what are the long-term consequences?  How much longer will we be able to use oil to make everything out of plastic?  What happens when we eventually run out of places to dump our rubbish?  What about all the places in the world where there are no jobs because almost everything is made in a few parts of the world where they have the lowest costs?


By contrast a simple wooden toy made by a local craftsman with local wood does not involve any significant use of fossil fuels.  Of course there is some use of petrol/diesel etc to cut the tree down, to convert it to timber, maybe power tools used by the craftsman, and then delivery to the customer.  But all this is tiny compared to the energy used to create a plastic toy the other side of the world and then to dispose of it sensibly when it breaks or is no longer wanted.  A wooden toy will just rot into the ground when it is no longer needed, and unlike plastic it is almost certain it can be repaired if ever it breaks.



Illegal logging


The example given above relates to toys, but the same principle applies to virtually everything we buy or use.  Building a house using wood uses much less energy than bricks and mortar.  We have become used to a way of life that this world simply cannot support indefinitely, and this will have to change.  One simple change is to think about what we buy and why.  The timber trade can be a very confusing one, because of the concerns over the destruction of natural forests.  It is very sad to think of how much beautiful and important woodland has been destroyed over the last hundred years or so.  Although many countries are now succeeding in managing their forests, there are still areas where illegal logging continues on a massive scale.  Imagine how difficult it is for a very poor country to police vast areas with very few roads.



Wentwood Timber Centre buying policy


This is the reason why Wentwood Timber Centre will never buy any of the tropical woods, as it is so difficult to know what is sustainably sourced and what is not.  The huge majority of our logs come from South East Wales, with further supplies coming from the Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and occasionally neighbouring counties.  All felling in Britain is controlled by the issuing of felling licenses, and we are no longer losing our woodland.  Unfortunately we have already lost the vast majority of our natural woodland – it has been cleared by people living in Britain for at least 5000 years and the result is we are probably the least wooded country in Europe.  Furthermore, most of what we have left is un-natural plantations of conifers, mainly Sitka Spruce.  Even as recently as the 1960’s the Forestry Commission used to cut down natural oak woodlands, and plant (faster growing) conifers in their place.  Our story does not even have the happy ending that we produce lots of good timber from those conifers – mostly they are felled fairly young and are sold cheaply for pulp and wood-chip.



Hope for the future


But all this can change.  The Forestry Commission have much more wholesome policies these days, and charities like the Woodland Trust, RSPB and Coed Cymru have a huge role to play in encouraging sensible forest management.  The Woodland Trust in particular is an amazing organisation that actually owns well over a thousand woods (Including about one-third of Wentwood Forest), with an area of over 45,000 acres and they manage these woods not for profit but for wildlife, environmental benefits, and so on.  The RSPB is also a huge land owner that carries out amazing conservation in a lot of woodlands. 



Should we stop using timber?


But to get back to the confusion that surrounds the use of timber, you might hear it said that we should stop using timber altogether and use alternatives like plastic and steel instead.  Wouldn’t this save the forests?  Well, actually no.  What is destroying forests is illegal and unsustainable logging.  Where a woodland is properly managed it can produce a good supply of timber, and the landowner will see this as a valuable income, and a reason to look after the woodland.  If wood has no demand the landowner may be tempted to cut down the fortest and turn the land over to another use.  So using wood is a fundamental part of looking after the world’s forests.  Care has to be exercised over where wood is sourced.  Buying wood from the other side of the world, where it is impossible to really trace whether it was sustainably sourced is the problem, not local use of properly managed woodlands.


Every piece of timber sold at Wentwood Timber Centre can be traced back to the landowner, and we will always be happy to pass this information on to the customer.



And what about carbon?


We all know that humans are releasing far too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Doesn’t cutting down trees contribute to that?  Well if the forest is destroyed, yes, but if the forest is managed, no.  When trees are felled in a managed way the new trees that spring up will absorb large amounts of carbon, so the whole process is carbon-neutral.  In a similar way, burning firewood from managed woods is carbon-neutral.  Trees are felled, which release their carbon, and new ones take their place which absorb carbon.  The problem is caused by indiscriminate (often illegal) felling, and of course above all the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal.  If we burn them at the same rate as they are produced there will be no problem, but of course it takes millions of years for oil, gas and coal to form, whereas the world’s oil and gas reserves may have already peaked even though we have only been using them on a large scale for a century or so. 





So please feel good about using wood in every way you can, and take pleasure in the natural beauty of the grain and the warm feel, just give a thought to where the wood comes from.