The Cedar Solution for Climate Change

A look into how the responsible production of certified cedar can alleviate carbon emissions and provide long-lasting homes, furniture, and products.

The term “sustainable wood” may sound redundant, and it would be reasonable to assume that using any plant-based product would be sustainable; however, the truth is sustainable wood refers to any method of harvesting wood that ensures continued growth.

For wood to be sustainable, it must be harvested legally, and the logging must create minimal harm to the environment the trees live in. Not only must the trees continue growing, but the nearby animals must be able to live undisturbed, and water must remain unpolluted. Sourcing wood in a sustainable manner means the landscape is left intact, and the forest is managed accordingly to keep ecosystems thriving.

As many know, deforestation has been an ongoing issue. Trees have been cut down with little regard to the damages made to the environment and without effort to replace what has been taken. Over the last thirty years, the rate at which deforestation occurs has slowed. Despite this, the issue is still one of concern since global warming and carbon emissions remain a threat to the health of the planet. It is not enough to slow down deforestation. We must also look to ways to use Earth’s resources that promote continuous life cycles. This is where the discussion of cedar comes in.

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Perfect Properties of Cedar

Cedar trees belong to the coniferous group of plants. This category is mainly characterized by the ability to grow cones. Cedar trees originate from the Mediterranean region in Europe and the Himalayas, but today they are also found in North America. There are over 15 cedar species and what makes them notable to the discussion on renewable resources is their durability.

Because they possess a natural chemical preservative, cedar trees do not deteriorate easily and are hardly affected by damp climates and extreme weather. Ironically, cedar is classified as a softwood and is lightweight and not very dense. This makes cedar trees easy to carve and cut into. This characteristic is a main contributing factor as to why it is harvested so frequently. In addition, nails and screws can be implanted with little effort, and cedar wood’s surface generally retains polish and paint well.


Because they possess a natural chemical preservative, cedar trees do not deteriorate easily and are hardly affected by damp climates and extreme weather. Ironically, cedar is classified as a softwood and is lightweight and not very dense. This makes cedar trees easy to carve and cut into. This characteristic is a main contributing factor as to why it is harvested so frequently. In addition, nails and screws can be implanted with little effort, and cedar wood’s surface generally retains polish and paint well.

Is Cedar Good for the Environment?

The question of whether cedar or any material is “good” for the environment doesn’t always have a simple answer. In many cases, the definition of what is good for the environment is based on whether the resource in question is more or less harmful than other options. Because so many products are produced at a large scale, it can be complicated to say whether something is wholly good for the planet.

For example, in comparison to steel or concrete, cedarwood is absolutely better for the planet. The production of concrete creates CO2 emissions, and steel production leaches toxic chemicals into the water. Furthermore, cedar requires less energy to produce than steel or concrete. It also is naturally insulated, which can save more energy when used in homes. Because it is a naturally occurring plant and not man-made, cedar trees can regenerate and grow to keep ecosystems thriving and our air healthy. Using wood in place of steel and concrete leads to less greenhouse gas emissions and less pollution.


In terms of quality, cedar is more durable and more resistant to insects.

When comparing cedar to bamboo, on the other hand, both are renewable sources that absorb carbon dioxide. However, bamboo’s life cycle is a lot shorter than most trees, cedar included. Bamboo can mature in as little as 1-5 years, which is five times faster than trees. Despite this, cedar is still more readily available in several countries, whereas the bamboo market is mainly dominated by China.

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Cedar vs. Other Woods

Cedar and oak are both commonly used in furniture, floor, and cabinetry. In terms of quality, cedar is more durable and more resistant to insects. While white oak is also durable, red oak is very susceptible to insects and isn’t durable at all. Both cedar and oak polish and stain easily; however, cedar is easier to work with in terms of malleability. Whether by hand or power tool, cedar can be smoothed and drilled into with less effort.


In terms of quality, cedar is more durable and more resistant to insects.

When comparing cedar and cherry wood, cedar is a lot more affordable than cherry wood, which is used often for luxury furniture. Both are good for furniture, and preference may come down to the varying price points. For flooring, cedar is more easily dented than cherry. However, cherry wood does not perform well in humid or damp environments like a laundry room or bathroom.

Certified Wood

Investors, business owners, and consumers who want to use sustainable cedar can do so by working with wood that is certified by organizations that follow guidelines set forth by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC created a standard for responsibly managed forests in recognition that a complete abandonment of forest products would be unrealistic. Instead, its goal is to keep forests maintained by restricting the use of harmful chemicals and preserving biodiversity. Its forest certification standards are supported by the WWF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and other organizations. On the FSC website, a list of approved certifiers can be found for companies to apply for the certification process. Certified wood guarantees that the forest the wood is sourced from is responsibly maintained.

There are different kinds of certification that can be done depending on which part of the industry a company operates in. There is a chain-of-custody certification that reviews the manufacturing process that occurs for forest-based products. This includes wood that goes from sawmills to lumber yards, factories to furniture stores, and wood that goes from paper mills to print shops. After this stage, finished retail products are certified and labeled so that consumers can easily determine which building materials or furniture pieces have been produced with the environment in mind.

Certified wood guarantees that the forest the wood is sourced from is responsibly maintained.

Shopping FSC-certified products gives the consumer the peace of mind of knowing their purchased product was produced while protecting water quality, endangered species, and prohibiting deforestation. Some brands that use FSC-certified materials include IKEA and Patagonia. The FSC also provides a public database that shows all brands that have received their certification.

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Organizations in the Cedar Industry

Based in Vancouver, Western Red Cedar Lumber Association is a nonprofit association that prides itself on representing the Western Red Cedar industry. Its goal is to educate consumers, builders, and architects about cedar and why it’s one of the most environmentally responsible building materials. On its website, visitors can find helpful information about cedar products for outdoor and indoor use.

Longhouse Specialty Forest Products is a family-owned company also located in British Columbia. The company specializes in Western Red Cedar, and since 2007 Longhouse Cedar has held FCS certification through the Rainforest Alliance. This company, in particular, produces decking, solid wood flooring, different varieties of FSC® certified cedar siding, and other products. Longhouse shares that its cedar is sourced sustainably from nearby forests in the Pacific Northwest. As a result, the cedar doesn’t need to travel far and cuts down on the company’s carbon footprint. In 2020 the company won manufacturer of the year for its cedar siding that was used in the Pacific Centre Family Services Association building located in Victoria.



Building with wood also requires less energy in comparison to cement or steel.

Some species of cedar Longhouse uses include Western Red and Yellow Cedar. Both of these varieties are completely recyclable. Reclaimed wood has been used for hundreds of years and helps reduce the number of materials that are needed for construction and thus reduces the impact on the environment. Aged cedar can be used for new purposes after a little cleaning and staining. Longhouse recognizes these benefits and makes a point to share this information with consumers.


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Cedar’s Biodegradability

Landfills have been quickly filling up, and the need for biodegradable products is urgent. Recycling was the original solution to this issue; however, the human population still manages to produce an estimated 2.12 billion tons of waste each year. In California alone, there was a whopping 44.4 million tons of trash that went to landfills in just one year. Landfills receive construction waste, industrial waste, household waste, plastic waste, electronic waste, radioactive waste, sewage, and run-off waste. These products can take years to decompose, which is why biodegradable items are so essential when considering what we buy and invest in.

There are endless options when it comes to housing materials, yet there are only a few when biodegradability enters into the equation. Construction involves a lot of adhesives, metals, and paints that can have toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, petroleum, and volatile organic compounds. Many of these materials are man-made and therefore do not easily if at all, break down naturally. Because cedarwood can biodegrade back into the Earth, it’s an excellent material to include in housing and furniture to combat the negative consequences of these other harmful building materials.

Grain Surfboards

When it comes to fostering a healthier planet, eco-friendly changes can be made in just about every industry. Surfing is one such industry where most modern surfboards are manufactured from polyurethane, polyester resins, and other toxic and non-biodegradable materials. Surfboards made from these materials will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years when thrown out.

Because of this, Grain Surfboards was founded in 2005 by Mike Lavecchia to begin a “surf re-evolution” through the manufacture of hand-built wooden boards. Because cedar had already been used for boats and Native American canoes for hundreds of years, the founders of Grain Surfboards turned to cedar for their designs. Using locally grown Northern White Cedar, the company works with a family-run mill that uses sustainable practices for harvesting.

On top of rejecting the traditional and harmful surfboard materials, Grain Surfboards has also committed to a “waste no waste” protocol. The shavings and splinters made from surfboard production are put to use as animal bedding or garden compost. Any extra planks are repurposed for surfboard fins and sometimes even their gift cards. The company’s inspiration to create a better and more sustainable surfboard and cut down on waste is a prime example of how everyday items in our lives can always be improved.

Cedar in Our Daily Lives

Beyond purchasing homes and furniture made with certified cedar, there are additional measures someone can take to implement cedar products in their life at an individual level. Do-it-yourself, or DIY, projects have become a popular means to both save money and engage in a creative activity. Those looking to incorporate sustainability into DIY can do so with cedar. From coasters to planters, cedar can be crafted into a variety of household items without breaking the bank. Anyone looking to do so can visit local milling and lumber companies for scraps to pick up. Oftentimes these companies will provide their scraps for a low price and, in some cases, for free.

Because take-out food orders create a lot of plastic and paper waste, keeping reusable utensils handy can help reduce the amount of plastic we waste. From to-go bags to disposal utensils, the restaurant industry still has a long way to go to operate sustainably. Until changes are made on a larger scale, purchasing wooden utensils is one small way to help combat the overproduction of plastic forks, spoons, and knives. Cedar utensils can be easily found after one quick search online. To think of other ways cedar can be used in daily life, take the time to reflect on the items you use every day. The tools we use in the kitchen, products for the bathroom, decor for the home, and other aspects of our lives can surely include a cedar substitute in one way or another.

Summing Up Cedar

Responsibly harvested cedar is a worthwhile investment for anyone concerned about quality, long-lasting products that won’t strip away from the environment. Cedar has always been a desirable building material for its low economic cost, durable nature, and resistance to insects. However, what really takes it to the next level is its ability to contain carbon, its value as a reclaimed wood, and potential to be used for a number of products. Whether for construction or consumer goods, certified cedar guarantees forests are thriving and continuing to provide for our planet.