The North American wood products industry is awakening to the challenges, opportunities and frustrations of the green building movement. The challenges are many. For starters, what does “green” mean?

For a relatively small, but growing number of wood products suppliers and manufacturers, being green means following the protocols set by the U.S. Green Building Council in its ever-evolving and expanding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. The voluntary LEED program has the fervent endorsement of many federal, state and municipal governments, plus thousands of architects and designers that have achieved LEED certification.

For wood products companies looking to capitalize on the burgeoning LEED movement, being green means incorporating woods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and using composite wood products containing no-added formaldehyde.

A key frustration for these suppliers and wood products manufacturers alike is that the supply of FSC-certified wood is limited geographically and by species. In addition, many companies face a chicken and egg dilemma. It takes time and money to achieve FSC chain of custody status and doing so doesn’t automatically guarantee a ready and steady customer demand.

Associations Pick Up the Charge

Being green by no means begins or ends with LEED or FSC. There are numerous programs that aim to certify products as being environmentally friendly. For example, Green Globes and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative are alternatives for LEED and FSC respectively.

In the past few years, nearly every — if not every — major wood products-related association has created a green program to call its own. The list, with even an annotated description of each, would be too long to include here, so a few examples will have to suffice. They include:

• The Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Product Grademark Program, which provides independent certification of wood composite products based on their use of recycled and/or recovered wood fiber and adherence to voluntarily lower formaldehyde emission standards than government regulations;

• The Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn.-Intl’s Sustainability Standard, which includes criteria for evaluating human and ecosystem health, energy, natural resource and corporate social responsibility impacts; and

• The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program, which certifies cabinet manufacturers that meet voluntary standards in the categories of air quality, product and process resource management, environmental stewardship and community relations.

Green Seminar Puts Things in Focus

Against this backdrop of growing awareness, that demonstrating one’s commitment to the environment is not a passing fad, Purdue University and Wood & Wood Products have organized a unique and timely conference, “The Dollars & Sense of Going Green.” The two-day program, scheduled for Oct. 28-29 in Indianapolis, has the cooperative support of 19 entities, including key trade associations and government agencies.

“The Dollars & Sense of Going Green” will offer representatives of the primary and secondary wood products industries an opportunity to learn more about the state of the green products movement in North America. Most importantly, attendees will be able to ask questions to industry leaders to not only gain a better understanding of specific programs, but to gain fresh perspectives on if and how their company can become a better environmental steward and leverage an elevated green product standing in the marketplace.

While there have been literally dozens of “green” building conferences, I know of no other that has brought together so many leading wood industry groups — from forest to manufacture. This conference, in a sense, is the first North American congress on wood certification and related green issues, including a workshop on California’s new regulation governing emissions of formaldehyde from particleboard, MDF and hardwood plywood. It will also include presentations on FSC, SFI, LEED, Green Globes, a half-dozen association environmental programs and narratives of individual companies’ green initiatives.

If green is in your company’s future, then attend this program to find out more of what that future might look like. Learn more at www.greenwoodseminar.com.

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