Why waste wood?
urges use of recycled 'plastic lumbers' in benches, rather than hardwoods
When Tim Keating came
to Buffalo in July, he surveyed the downtown landscape.
He casually walked from
city hall through Niagara Square and ended up near Lafayette Court, all the
while taking pictures. Not too unusual for an out-of-town visitor, except for
one thing. He was photographing benches.
Keating is executive director of Rainforest Relief, based in Brooklyn, a
nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of rainforests .
He came to Buffalo to
meet with members of the environmental community to talk about the use of
tropical hardwoods in waterfront development. Most boardwalks, piers, docks
and benches are constructed with tropical hardwoods.
"We are working to
proactively engage everyone to assure the use of alternatives to tropical
woods in their redevelopment plans," Keating said. "Durability is an
issue that folks are looking for and most hardwoods are very beautiful.
Illegal logging is rampant where these woods are found. Ecologically, it's a
One of the most popular
tropical hardwoods, ipe, pronounced "EE-pay," is found in the
Amazon. It's an incredibly dense wood and does well in coastal environments.
Other popular woods include greenheart, found in Guyana, and ekki, found in
Africa. Mahogany and rosewood are also used.
98 percent of the biodiversity losses the earth is experiencing is happening
in tropical rainforests. Logging is to blame, directly and indirectly,
clearing the way for other ventures, but there are alternatives.
construction, we are advocating the use of structural recycled plastic
lumbers," Keating said. "Most are made from recycled soda bottles,
milk jugs, fiberglass and other materials."
Keating said most of
the benches he saw in Buffalo were made from tropical hardwoods.
bench that I saw was made out of rainforest woods," he said. "This
may not seem that significant, but when you add up every town in America, it's
a huge amount of wood."
An ordinance is being
drafted to minimize the use of tropical hardwoods along the waterfront and
other developments. Introduced by Buffalo Common Council At Large Member
Charley Fisher, the resolution is in committee.
municipalities can make an impact by doing their part," he said. "We
have a singular and unique opportunity to do our part. We can change our
methods of operation and find a balanced approach to an environmental
Rainforest Relief has
provided the city with a model ordinance. Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design standards, which requires the use of wood harvested
within 500 miles of all projects, are also being considered.
"Given the option
of being environmentally conscious at a painless price, people are willing to
do it," Fisher said. "We have the most available waterfront of any
city in America. We have the potential to bring heritage, culture and history
together. It's at the waterfront. This is our way of doing this better,
cheaper and environmentally friendly. We can make it beautiful, cost-effective
and done with a conscience. We've got to work together. Business is not an
enemy. It's an ally."
tropical hardwoods fits into a broader sense of environmental activism and
awareness, an area sustainability expert said.
"We don't exist
alone here," Jay Burney, director of the Learning Sustainability
Campaign, a nonprofit organization that promotes dialogue on sustainability
issues based in Buffalo. "Sustainability is about recognizing global
issues and acting locally. The deforestation of tropical hardwoods does
pertain to the sustainability of our planet."
campaign has developed media outreach programs, councils, conferences,
roundtables and a task force all with a sustainable theme.
"People need to
think about the implications of the hardwoods," Burney said.
"Rainforest destruction is a thing of great consequence. There are
alternatives. Sometimes it takes a little research but taking the time and
turning our thinking into action is the result."
Studies have shown
rainforest woods are being consumed at a rate that is unsustainable. Burney
said this has terrible consequences for the environment and a sustainable
of these forests occurs because consumers, particularly those in North
America, and in communities like Buffalo, are buying the rainforest wood as
products and using them with a kind of mindless abandon," he said.
For other environmental
organizations, the issue represents a common theme.
organization, we are concerned about the sustainable construction of the
waterfront and any other kind of development the city might engage in,"
said Mike Schade, Western New York director of the Citizens Environmental
Coalition in Buffalo. "That extends to the use of other hazardous
materials that account for other facets in construction. Deforestation rates
increase every day and many of these trees are thousands of years old and
support critical portions of native habitats. Hopefully this will pave the way
for other sustainable ordinances."
"We are very
supportive of anything that minimizes destruction of rainforests," said
Lynda Schneekloth, president of the Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers.
"They are the lungs of this earth. There are options available. It's a
matter of instituting standard operating procedures and commonly accepted
"There is a
growing awareness of the environmental advocacy available," said Bruce
Coleman, chairman of the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission.
"There is no shortage of rationale in terms of what is available for
alternatives on the marketplace. The easy to grab quick resources have severe
implications. These resources can represent everything we value as a natural
resource. Taking a stand on something like this important. More and more
people are starting to realize what's at stake."
© 2002 American
City Business Journals Inc.
"The earth and myself are of one
mind. The measure of the land and the
measure of our bodies are the
-- Hinmaton Yalatkit, Nez Perce chief
I N F O R E
S T R E
L I E F
Sparing the World's Rainforests from Consumption
Rainforest Relief works to protect the world's
and temperate rainforests by reducing the demand for the products
and materials of rainforest destruction such as
timber and paper,
industrial agricultural products such as
bananas, beef, coffee,
chocolate and cut flowers, and mining products
such as oil, gold and aluminum.
Brooklyn, NY: phone/fax: (718) 398-3760
Portland, OR: (503) 236-3031
P.O. 150566 * Brooklyn, NY 11215 USA