Is Oak really a sustainable resource?

The Sustainability of Oak

At Moore Inspiration, we pride ourselves on our attention to sustainable practices and sourcing our materials in a way that respects the environment. Understandably, many people may hold misconceptions about the sustainability of hardwood orangeries and the raw materials they consume. However, we would like to clear up these misconceptions and show how the use of oak in our orangeries, along with other hardwoods, is environmentally sustainable provided it is handled properly

To reassure you, we can first turn to some useful statistics. According to “The Hardwood Market Report Executive Summary” in September 2015, the annual growth rate of hardwood exceeds the rate at which we harvest it by 70%. As a result, the use of hardwood in luxury builds such as orangeries does not contribute to a decline in the wild hardwood population, or even come close to causing one. In particular, white oak, our main construction wood, is the 2nd fastest growing hardwood, so we are using a wood that quickly replenishes.

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Sustainability of Oak

At Moore Inspiration, we pride ourselves on our attention to sustainable practices and sourcing our materials in a way that respects the environment.

The sustainability of products in relation to their raw materials is often measured in terms of a life-cycle assessment, or LCA, which takes into account the impact of the life cycle of a product from raw material to deposition in comparison to the life cycle of its materials. The fact that oak is slow-growing, taking hundreds of years in some cases, may lead some to believe that it is therefore not sustainable, but this age is offset by the long lifespan and usage cycle for the finished product, processed hardwood, and the abundance of oak in the wild compared to its harvest rate. Generally, white oak and other hardwoods perform well in LCA assessment and so are deemed to be fairly sustainable materials.

We can also say the intentional growth of oak for harvest is sustainable because of its potential for carbon sequestration during its growth period. Oak can absorb a lot of carbon during its life cycle leading to harvest, and this remains beneficial since the harvest rate does not outweigh the growth rate. White oak makes up 15% of hardwood growing stock in America, and the US can grow 1m³ of white oak in 1.57 seconds, which is enough to support the hardwood furniture trade without aggregate negative environmental effects.

Furthermore, improvements in forestry science, further knowledge on soil quality and novel harvesting techniques has meant that the white oak that grows in the modern day is 1.5x more harvestable than 20 years ago, and 2.5x more harvestable than 40 years ago. Further developments will mean that we can harvest more wood per felled tree in subsequent years and therefore continuously improve our efficiency and the sustainability of the farming practice.

Suppliers of hardwood products further commit to sustainability by using waste products for high energy processes. Sawdust, bark and offcuts can be used for fuel and charcoal or landscape products.

In summary, what we can take away from these statistics is that the efficiency of harvesting, the abundance of white oak and the environmental benefits of growing it all contribute to the hardwood furniture industry being a sustainable practice that, in many ways, benefits the environment more than it causes damage.