Environmental

Wood, Steel & Glas, Inc.

Introduction

The purpose of this page is three-fold:  

"Environmentally Friendly"

What is meant by "environmentally friendly"? In our society, it is difficult to know when you are purchasing an "environmentally friendly" product.  Does it mean that its use is not harmful to the environment or does it mean it creates an environmentally safe environment for the people who use it?  Ultimately, we as consumers are left to make our own decisions on what products to use often with limited knowledge of all the environmental issues at hand.  The lumber industry is no exception.  Battles rage over the California redwood forests as well as the tropical rainforests in South America.  Most lumber yards have limited knowledge of where their wood really comes from and what techniques are used to harvest the wood.

Is white cedar endangered? As I accepted the responsibility of working within the family business, this was the first question that demanded my attention.  The materials I read suggested white cedar had been a commercially important tree and highly regarded by early settlers but relatively limited in use today.  As it turns out, the reason for its limited use does have a lot to do with its availability.  Only about 1/5 of the white cedar range of colonial times exists today.  As the populations have grown along the east coast, it has been cut, burned, drowned, and harvested while the land has been filled, transformed, paved and developed.

Atlantic White Cedar.  To understand what is necessary to ensure the white cedar habitat is properly managed, one must understand a little about the Atlantic white cedar (chamaecyparis thyoides) species.  Atlantic white cedar grows in swamp-bogs from Maine to Mississippi.  This narrow belt is called the coastal plain and is important not only for the white cedar tree, but also for groundwater storage, discharge and recharge.  This natural filter also serves to control flooding and hosts a distinctive plant and animal habitat.  The water in these wetlands is acidic and low in nutrients making it difficult for more common flora and fauna to survive.  Among the plants ideally suited to these conditions is the white cedar - it is no coincidence the very conditions making this tree well adapted to this extreme environment serve to make it so durable and decay resistant as lumber.  Unfortunately, the importance of these wetlands has never been fully appreciated.  As society has expanded and increased its demands on the local environments, wetlands have often been destroyed.  Though naturally protected by the swamps, these areas have been drained, turned into cranberry bogs and even burned by George Washington to clear areas for farming.

Sound Harvesting Techniques. Only within the past few decades has legislation been passed protecting some these areas from destruction.  The irony is that careful harvesting alone does not pose a threat to white cedar.  Obviously, if the land is filled in or otherwise converted from wetlands, the white cedar would be wiped out from that area.  Otherwise, as long as the land was managed, white cedar would grow back and reach maturity within 50 to 70 years.  Since there is no such thing as old-growth atlantic white cedar swamps, the trees could grow back cyclically ensuring a constant, if limited supply.  This proves to be the case as some swamps have actually been harvested up to five times.  Moreover, with some effort, areas suitable to white cedar growth could be planted to help expand the range of the species.  We get our timber from managed timberlands.  The wetlands are neither destroyed nor converted and the continued regeneration of white cedar continues.  The goal of more timber growth than timber harvest has been achieved in recent years and will hopefully continue into the future.

Completely natural, completely safe. As for consumer safety, white cedar is a very special wood.  Unlike pine or most other woods, white cedar has exceptional natural decay resistance.  It does not need to be chemically treated with copper chromium arsenic to resist decay.
 
Other Species We Carry

The other species we stock are old-growth redwood and old-growth cypress.  Like the white cedar, these woods are extremely decay resistant, and their habitats are limited to unique ecosystems.  Cypress grows in the swamps of the deep south whereas redwood is limited to coastal California.  Unlike the white cedar, however, these trees can live in excess of one thousand years, forming old-growth stands that cannot regenerate in 50 to 70 years.  Moreover, no more than 10% of the old growth stands remains.  Consequently, it is environmentally unsound to harvest these old-growth species.

We reclaim our old-growth material, avoiding freshly cut old-growth stands. The redwood we supply has been salvaged from pre-existing structures such as water tanks and bridges.  The large timbers from these structures are resawn and the wood cleaned up to be re-used as siding, trim, and decking.

If you are interested in learning more about the Environmental initiatives to learn more about white cedar, please follow the links to the web pages below. (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

Wood, Steel & Glas, Inc.
9 Old Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
Tel  203 245 1781
Fax  203 245 0755
email: sales@whitecedar.com 
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Updated May 25, 1998
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