Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Greening Blues

I was reading an article today about a company out in Arizona that has done some very Green projects. Using water-based finishes, formaldehyde-free items, recycled, reclaimed and salvaged products.

But the article brought up an important issue. To quote the article: There are several new products that Clark says she would like to incorporate more into her architectural woodwork projects.

Last I checked, a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" think bamboo plywood is $300 a sheet, making it 9 TIMES more expensive than the typical sheet of oak plywood used to build your furniture. At this point products coming solely out of Asia are at a high price point, but items where the raw material comes from America, ships to Asia and then is shipped back to America as a final product are basically dirt cheap. Why are our natural resources so cheap and disposable and there's aren't?

They go on to offer a suggestion: . . . until demand lowers the price, it is unlikely for now, she adds.

I think this is backwards. If the price lowers, the demand will go up. There is all of this funding for greening coming out of the government. Instead of using it to reward a large company for switching from paper cups to ceramic mugs in their break room, how about using it to subsidize some of these innovative, sustainable products coming onto the market. Lowering the price will bring the product to more and more companies, and the raised demand will help to keep the price down.

While we wait for this to happen. There are ways that our industry can go green without going broke.
Surprisingly enough, woodwork is a very green industry.

Here are some of the things already happening in our shop and many around us:
  • We use low-VOC (275, lowest in the Country). In California, EPA laws are stringent. My fellow California woodworkers will know that "stringent" is me being kind.
  • Many local suppliers are LEEDS certified. We are hoping to get our certification soon.
  • 90% of our waste is sawdust. We do our best to use up every part of the wood. There is a pile in the shop of off-fall that is often dug through to be used as part of other jobs, and anything not used gets given away as firewood. (Cherry makes a wonderful campfire.) .
  • In the last 6 years, we haven't bought a single rag. We recycle old clothes and linens from our home instead.
  • We rarely generate any paperwork - other than the necessary receipts/ invoices. Much of our work is done on the phone or in e-mails.
The next step can be to look to the local area. Trees are everywhere. And many get pulled out for different reasons. Too many of those end up at the dump. This is a wasted resource that can and should be tapped.

Unfortunately, I'm finding that local tree removal companies aren't as willing to work with me as I would hope. They are more willing to pay the dump and waste the resource than to let me take the tree. It's really discouraging to know that it's often the more basic green ideas, the ones that don't cost as much, the ones that could save everyone money, that are the least used.

Hopefully I'll be able to report back about some companies that are willing to work with us in a mutually beneficial way.

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