This year’s meeting of the Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI) and the 5th European Forest Week revolves around the topic of the circular economy. We are moving towards a non-linear economic model that is based on recycling, reusing, minimizing waste and lowering carbon emissions.
Packaging, furniture and even clothing and washbasins can be made from renewable forest-based raw materials. These sustainable products can be used on a daily basis. Our current way of life consumes more and more the Earth’s limited natural resources every day. The nature is also constantly overloaded with the impurities caused by our actions. Demands for more sustainable way of life and increased use of renewable and environmentally-friendly, ecological materials are strenthening. Forests are one of the Earth’s most important renewable resources.
The world’s population is growing and people are moving to the cities. More apartments need to be built and old apartments need to be renovated and expanded. People are furnishing their homes and needing everyday objects. Wood is a renewable and ecological option. When it grows, a tree uses the carbon dioxide in the air, which it then stores. A wooden house also acts as a carbon sink. At the end of their lifecycle, wood products can be recycled or turned into energy.
Forests are the Mother Earth’s lungs by contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. Green pines and spruces purify the air throughout the year and provide outdoor people with fresh and clean air. Wandering in forests is found to contribute to people’s physical and mental well-being. Stillness together with diverse scents and colors offers a profoundly relaxing experience that calms the body and mind. Forests are an important part of Finnish nature and the nature of Finns. Finns love their forests. They can hear trees whispering in the nearby forest and enjoy birds’ early morning concerts in summer. Traces of a hare, a fox or even a moose show up in the white snow of winter days. In the late summer, people can hike in the forests and pick a variety of tasty wild berries and mushrooms.
The secrets of woods
As a renewable resource, wood has valuable multi-function properties and new usages are being developed especially in bioscience and chemistry. Wood interests researchers seeking new solutions for energy production. Other scientists are developing new wood-based materials for replacing plastic packaging. Wooden material is organic and versatile: it is a good insulator; it smells good; and it feels comfortable both in hot and cold conditions. People do not complain about volatile scents of a spruce, nor does a wooden house cause allergies. Wood has a patterned surface that is unique for each tree and piece of wood. Compared to its weight, wood is a hard material that yet is easy to work with. It always returns to the natural cycles of our environment. Furthermore, processing wood products requires less energy than usage of other conventional materials.
What about Design?
Since ancient times, wood has been a popular option. Even today a lot of people prefer wood over other options, because of both traditional and practical reasons. There are a number of advantages of using wooden tools compared to stainless steel or plastic.
Woodcarving in the Viking Age was a rich and well-developed decorative art. What makes Viking Age woodcarving so distinctive are the various styles of design that appear throughout Viking art. This heritage brought us the elegant combination of practicality and sophistication that was perhaps unmatched by many of their contemporaries in other countries.
The antibacterial properties of wood
Wood was also a key element of Finnish culture in the 19th century. Peasants’ crofts were made of wood and they all had a planked wooden floor. There were tools in the hut for woodwork as the peasants often made their dishes and furniture themselves. Wooden spoon was the most common cutlery at those times. Each family member had his/her own carved spoon that after eating was licked and hung on the wall to wait for the next meal. We may question the hygiene of such a habit. However, ability to stop bacteria from breeding and to kill off the germs is one of the most astonishing properties of wood. The latest study shows that bacteria die particularly on the coniferous surface. This is due to both the extracts and the fragrance of those trees containing volatile organic compounds that are harmful to bacteria but not to humans. For example, wood cutting boards are more hygienic than cutting boards made of plastic. Likewise, the harmful bacteria that survive on the glass surface gradually die on the wood surface. The extracts of coniferous trees seem quite effective even against strong hospital bacteria. We do not know all the amazing properties of trees and wood yet but this green resource seems fundamental to our lives and well-being.
Wood is the natural and renewable resource and more environmentally responsible choice. We can help save our environment by using tools that are made from renewable, biodegradable and non-toxic materials. Scandinavian design is timeless because it is simple, beautiful, finely crafted, and made with natural materials that appeal on a fundamentally human level.
Wood has been used in construction and for everyday objects for centuries. The trend will continue in the future due to the increasing focus on the bioeconomy and eco-friendliness.
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