The Australian timber industry is currently undergoing massive change. From new coding legislation that will allow for timber to be a much more common construction material, to timber being deemed an environmentally sound choice, it is definitely in a state of flux. The current relationship with the timber industry and environmentalism is strained, at best. However, now more than ever, it is time that these two opposing entities to make amends.

With the timber industry seeing some big growth in the past year or so, disputes over where the timber was coming from escalated. Many critics were angry over the timber industries – at times – relentless harvesting of native forests. Those critics remain across Australia, and it has negatively impacted the industry and its public image. Many still feel that the industry is rife with lumberjacks that butcher old growth forests for financial gain, when the reality is far from this.

The concerning aspect of this is that, partly due to media frenzy, people today don’t differentiate between an environmentally conscious piece of timber and old wood lumber. To many, they are one and the same. This idea needs to be changed if the public perception of the timber industry is ever to change. People need to trust this industry again, instead of fearing that it is undermining the conscious effort of environmentalists.

With the introduction of FSC & PEFC certification, timber suppliers could now provide peace of mind to consumers who wrestled with the issue of wanting to own their own slice of timber without knowing whether or not it was hurting the earth. Chain of custody and Sustainable Forestry Management schemes now separate the more reputable timber suppliers from the morally bankrupt backyard operated timber mills.

Below is a simple diagram which illustrates timber as a renewable resource as long as these sustainable schemes are followed.

Australia is blessed with swathes of lush, green forests and jungle. An estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in Queensland’s forests alone. From an environmental standpoint, that removes around 8 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from our atmosphere. From a construction standpoint, all of that timber can be used as a natural store of carbon if it is used in buildings. So, the timber industry can drastically drop the carbon footprint in construction by playing their part. For example, the 45,000 or so new house that Queensland builds every year could store around half a million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide if they were all timber-framed.

It is about time that the timber industry learns to harness environmentalism as an asset rather than a cost. In our current carbon trading environment, it is a no-brainer to consider using timber as a construction material. More to the point, it is imperative that the timber industry jumps on this huge opportunity to grow. By embracing this straightforward message, the public image of the timber industry will become a lot more popular.

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