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January 10, 2012

Sustainable Northwest Wood keeps rural mills humming

By KC

From Sustainable Business Oregon, November 18, 2011
By Christina Williams

It makes sense that in Oregon, a state known for its forests and wood products, that builders would want to work with local materials when they pick up their hammers.

But until Sustainable Northwest Wood opened its doors last year, there wasn’t a good way to link builders with the small wood producers from around the Northwest who could deliver lumber that was both locally raised and sustainably produced.

Now the Portland-based distributor is becoming a model for other regions of the country as a way to keep small rural businesses afloat while providing a valuable service for urban builders.

And it’s not just about doing the right thing. Sustainable Northwest Wood, which was incubated at the nonprofit Sustainable Northwest before being spun off, is ahead of schedule on revenue project, despite a lackluster market for wood products.

“The market has been treating us surprisingly well,” said Ryan Temple, president of Sustainable Northwest Wood. “We’re up almost 200 percent from last year to this year and we’re running the business in the black. We got there a little sooner than we thought we would.”

Green Hammer’s Stephen Aiguier and the Build Local Alliance were also instrumental in Sustainable Northwest Wood’s launch.

The business works with 64 locally owned mills and wood products businesses around the region. Its focus is making speciality wood — varieties like juniper, white oak and madrone — available to Portland builders. Temple places orders that these suppliers can process when the mill would otherwise be idle. He advises them on everything from what will sell to how much to charge for it.

“Our success as a distribution yard is wholly dependent on the success of the small forest suppliers,” Temple said.

A lean operation, Sustainable Northwest Wood has three employees and contracts with other Portland businesses to custom finish wood as needed.

Its June to July fiscal year closed out 2011 with $750,000 in sales. Temple expects that to nearly double to $1.2 million in the current fiscal year.

Green building has been a bright spot in what has otherwise been a pretty lousy year for the building industry, a development that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Temple frequently fields calls from the old guard of the lumber sector, asking how Sustainable Northwest Wood is able to source 100 percent of its inventory in wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Innovations in the green building supply chain will spread quickly once word gets out that there’s money to be made.

As Temple put it: “Eventually what we’re doing that’s innovative moves into the mainstream. From a mission point of view and from a forest and community sustainability point of view, that’s great. From a business point of view it’s a challenge.”

@SustainableBzOR | christinawilliams@bizjournals.com | 503.219.3438

January 10, 2012

Doug fir butcher block really pops at Sizzle Pie's new shop

By KC

What's hotter that the pizza at Sizzle Pie's new location on West Burnside?

The countertops!

The inimitable Garth Klipper at G. Steel Design Build built them out of Sustainable Northwest Wood's FSC Pure Douglas fir butcher block. 

The wood was sourced from the Mountaindale Outdoor Program Center, a Girl Scout property in North Plains, Oregon, where it was super-selectively harvested by Trout Mountain Forestry as part of a campaign to help restore old growth conditions to the forest. 

We love how the butcher block graces nearly every horizontal surface in the shop, from the cashier counter at the front to each of the dining tables and counters. 

Our sustainably-sourced fir was also used for trim elements throughout the space. 

Next time you're in the area, stop by for a delicious slice and check out this beautiful new installation of sustainable, local wood!

 

January 05, 2012

Local, sustainable, affordable wood flooring - Yes, it is possible!

By KC

When it's time to start thinking about new flooring for your home renovation projects, Sustainable Northwest Wood has the solution for you.  Our solid wood flooring is made from locally-grown trees that are harvested sustainably.  Because we work directly with the lumber mills, these options are also affordable and promise decades of beauty and durability.
 

Here's what we keep in stock at our warehouse in Southeast Portland:

 

Oregon White Oak - Oregon White Oak is the Pacific Northwest's only native species of oak tree.  This super-durable flooring comes from trees harvested in the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys and is either FSC certified or comes from members of the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities partnership.  We love it with mixed face widths of 3", 5", and 7", but custom sizes are available, too.


Cascade Farmhouse Maple - Western Big Leaf Maple is ideally suited for flooring and offers warm gold tones and years of durability.  Our Cascade Farmhouse maple flooring is FSC certified and comes with a 5" face.  It is milled from trees that are harvested just south of the Puget Sound in Washington.



Zigzag Doug Fir - Our Zigzag Doug fir is perfect for matching the historic fir flooring in the Northwest's old homes.  This FSC Pure flooring is milled from trees that are super-selectively cut at the Homestead Girl Scout Camp on Mount Hood's western slope, just 40 miles east of Portland.  It offers a 3 1/4" face width and is Clear Vertical Grain.





Antique Doug Fir - This FSC Pure flooring comes from Forest Grove, where it was selectively cut as part of a watershed restoration program.  It has a flat grain and is perfect for farmhouse, rustic, and other styles where a less formal, more authentic look is desired.  It comes with a 5 1/4" face.  Expect a few knots and lots of Doug Fir personality with this choice!


All of our flooring is kiln-dried, with an end-matched tongue-and-groove profile for a traditional nail-down installation, and comes bundled with lengths up to 12'.  We recommend a natural oil finish for our hardwood floors, which allows the homeowner to easily maintain the floor without needing to move out and hire a professional to refinish it a few years down the road.

Please call or email us for pricing and current stock.
 

January 05, 2012

A Deck Cut from Paradise

By KC

From The Oregonian, October 30, 2011
Blog post by Chris Wille, aka EcoBeavers

Here's a link to the original post.

Our search for sustainably harvested wood for our Beavercreek eco-home has led us to some wild and inspiring stories. Here's one...

The Nature Conservancy, a smart, nonprofit, ecosystem-saving organization, owns and manages the 7,600-acre Ellsworth Creek Preserve in Washington. The preserve connects to the equal-size Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, home to seabirds such as brown pelicans, the marbled murrelet, wintering Pacific brant, head-bobbing shorebirds that poke for food in the mudflats, and countless critters that live in the rich mosaic of salt- and freshwater marshes.

Nearly pristine Willapa Bay is world famous for oysters and runs with chum, chinook and coho headed up-creek to spawn. The combined protected areas host bear, elk, cougar, flying squirrels, bats and their wild associates. Bald eagles patrol the skies; Pacific tree frogs chirp in the underbrush.

As The Nature Conservancy (TNC) says, Ellsworth Creek is all about "thinking big." All but 300 acres of the preserve have been logged over, high-graded, degraded and abused. TNC has developed a restoration plan, thinking long-term and letting nature do much of the regrowing and repair. Over the next century, loggers under TNC's direction will carefully thin parts of this coastal rainforest, extract any non-native trees and restore the forest's natural productivity and diversity.

The wood that has been thinned from the preserve is sold to discerning brokers such as Sustainable Northwest Wood -- and the profits provide revenue for the restoration work. Streams are being rehabilitated, and the patches of old growth are safeguarded. Some trees are centuries old, already towering adults before any Europeans passed through the area.

The preserve's recovery and management plan has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By following the FSC guidelines, managers can take commercial quantities of wood from a forest without compromising its ecological integrity. In fact, TNC is showing that commercial logging can even help restore a forest.

Biologist Tom Kollasch, Willapa Program Director for TNC, hopes that the project will provide a blueprint that can be used to restore other forests around the world, and in this article explains how selectively logging trees in old-growth forests can actually help revive marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird.

TNC is no stranger to radical restorations and has used logging, fire, cattle and other blunt instruments to recover ecosystems across the country. Ellsworth Creek is the first TNC holding in the West to earn FSC certification.

We're delighted to be among the first buyers of the certified wood from the preserve. It's beautiful cedar and carries a motivating tale of successful conservation. We love standing on our cedar deck and thinking of its connection to marbled murrelets, cougars and elk.

December 28, 2011

Dreaming of next year's garden? Think juniper!

By KC

Garden enthusiasts everywhere sooth their wintertime blues by poring over the pages of next year's seed catalogues, dreaming of what to put where and the beautiful blooms and bounty that their gardens will produce once warm weather returns.

As you contemplate the shape that your garden will take in the coming year, don't forget to consider the materials that hold it all together!  Juniper is an ideal replacement for the pressure-treated lumber that is often used to build raised garden beds, arbors, fences, and other backyard essentials.  Juniper lasts longer outside that pressure-treated fir, plus it is chemical-free, so you won't be introducing questionable substances into your soil. 

And, of course, your purchase of juniper supports family-run mills in Eastern Oregon and a constructive use for this intrusive species.

Sustainable Northwest Wood keeps juniper 6" x 6" and 2" x 6" landscaping timbers in stock and can quickly and efficiently help you source other dimensions, too.  Be sure to view the juniper photos in our Gallery and visit our Juniper page for more information about this durable, beautiful, and sustainable wood!

November 29, 2011

It's official! New product launch of our exclusive Zigzag Doug Fir

By KC

It's official! Sustainable Northwest Wood is now stocking our exclusive Zigzag Doug Fir.

Zigzag Doug Fir is FSC Pure and is sourced from the small town of Zigzag, 40 miles east of Portland on the southern slope of Mount Hood.

This clear vertical grain Doug Fir is selectively harvested from the Creighton Homestead, a 35-acre historic property owned by the Girl Scouts that is used as a scout camp and educational facility.  The forest is managed by Portland-based Trout Mountain Forestry.  The logs were cut and processed by a small, family-owned mill just south of Portland.

The Zigzag forest is a dense mixed conifer forest that supports a broad range of plant and animal life, including old growth Doug Fir, Western Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple, Alder, and many other species of flora and fauna (see photo at left, taken from the trail that winds through the property). Trout Mountain is careful to manage it in a way that promotes forest health through strategic thinning and allows many generations of each tree species to flourish.

The trees in this parcel of forest have never experienced a clear cut.  A forest fire cleaned out much of the growth in the early twentieth century, a few years before the Creighton family settled on the land in 1912 and built their homes and outbuildings out of wood felled on site.  Since then, the forest has regrown and now the majority of its population is nearing a hundred years old. A few trees have been cut every so often, and stumps in varying states of decay can be seen, many of which have become nurse logs for new trees.  

The most remarkable aspect of a trip down the homestead nature trail, part of which comprises the old Barlow Toll Road (at right), is how hard it is to see that logging has occurred.  While the stumps remain, the forest is still intact, and its health and diversity is evident with every bend in the path.

Our kiln-dried, Clear Vertical Grain Zigzag Doug Fir is stocked in 1x6 surfaced trim and 1x6 rough blanks. 

We also stock kiln-dried Clear Vertical Grain flooring with the historically accurate face width of 3 1/4".


Check out our Photo Gallery for more images and information from our recent visit to the forest.

 

November 22, 2011

Juniper Country: A fact-finding mission

By KC

Last week I was fortunate to be able to embark on a fact-finding mission to Eastern Oregon, with the goal of learning more about where Sustainable Northwest Wood's juniper comes from and the route it travels between the forest and our warehouse.

It was certainly an eye-opening outing: The spread of juniper is surprisingly vast, with seedlings and young trees covering many mountain slopes, from Fossil eastward. 

Most of these are young trees, just a few decades old (note the bevy of baby trees in the photo above).  It is easy to imagine how the landscape will be altered in the coming years, morphing from open sagebrush steppe into dense woodland, barren of the grasses and shrubs that historically hosted much of Oregon's wildlife. 

How will these animals evolve to survive in such a different ecosystem in the span of just a few decades?  Chances are, they won't.

This is why the work of the brave folks who are pioneering a juniper industry is so important. They are striving to show that juniper can be cut, the landscape can be restored, jobs can be created in communities that are desperate for them, and the broader marketplace will support their work by buying the wood. 

We look forward to continuing our work with Oregon's juniper mills, doing our part to help develop the market for their wood, selling it at a price that allows them to grow their businesses and create conservation-based  jobs, and making sure reliable standards are developed and enforced to ensure that the wood is cut in a way that minimizes or negates harm to the surrounding plant and animal community.
 

Click here for more photos and information about the trip.

October 05, 2011

FSC vs. SFI - What's the difference?

By KC

People often ask us about the differences between wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The line between the two, for many consumers, is fuzzy, and LEED 2012 appears to be on the verge of accepting SFI wood, whereas in the past only FSC was acceptable.

But there are stark differences, and a side-by-side comparison of the two standards can help us remember why we prefer FSC, and why our ultimate goal is to promote the use of wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.

Some of the biggest differences:

  • FSC prohibits the use of genetically-modified organisms; SFI allows their use
  • FSC prohibits the use of persistent and/or bioaccumulative pesticides; SFI recommends "prudent" use of pesticides
  • FSC prohibits the conversion of natural forest to plantations; SFI allows that conversion and the certification of wood from those forests
  • FSC's standards were developed by a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental and human rights activists and forest products representatives; SFI was developed exclusively by the forest products industries
  • FSC's audit results are made public and can be appealed; SFI's audit results are private and cannot be appealed

UPDATE 8/16/2013:  This well-researched Portland Tribune article explores the differences in detail.  A great read for anyone looking for more information about FSC vs. SFI.

Here are some interesting tidbits to help clarify things:

Seven More Brands Distance Themselves from 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative' (Forestethics.com)
A Picture Is Worth: FSC vs SFI Forests
(Treehugger.com)
A Comparison of the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Certification System (Yale University; PDF)

September 29, 2011

New ADU in Southeast Portland showcases FSC and salvaged wood

By KC

Built by homeowner Brent Foster, this adorable ADU in Southeast Portland is made entirely from FSC-certified or salvaged lumber.  Foster, a woodworking hobbyist, designed and built the structure to incorporate many sustainable features, including an innovative graywater system, 12" thick walls, and an ecoroof.

The ecoroof is held in place on its slope by a grid of juniper boards, strategically placed beneath the soil, which are rot-resistant for years and ideal for a ground-contact application like this. 

Foster also used locally-sourced, FSC certified lumber for the framing package, and sided the home in FSC certified cedar shakes.

Inside, an adorable table made from local FSC cedar grounds the space and adds rustic charm.  A stained concrete floor, slate mosaic tile backsplash, and cabinetry made from salvaged Doug fir add earthy color and texture. 

Outside, a hand-made cedar gate and arbor beckon guests into the yard.  A  verdant DIY living wall, nearing completion, will be installed nearby.

Foster's new space is a shining example of innovative sustainable building techniques.  Nice work, Brent!

September 13, 2011

Sustainable wood: It's not just for buildings! Check out this handmade boat...

By KC

This handmade boat boasts oars, gunwales, and breasthooks made out of local, sustainably sourced wood.  Isn't she a beauty?

Her name is Rosie, and she is the product of months of love and labor by a team of Portland women who, under the tutelage of the Wind and Oar boat school, took up woodworking tools for the first time in their lives and crafted this amazing functional piece of art.  The gunwales and oars are made of clear vertical grain Doug fir sourced from forests just outside of Portland; the beautifully figured maple in the breasthooks is from the central Willamette Valley; and the floor boards are made of local Alder.

Check out the photos here:  Rosie full length -- Rosie's breasthooks -- Rosie's Oars -- Oars close-up

Read more about Wind and Oar in this Oregonian feature.