The Healthy Abode: FSC – What is That? by Melanie Holden

In several of my previous blogs I’ve referred to FSC Certified wood products, which has generated the question on more than one occasion: what exactly does FSC Certified mean?


FSC is an acronym for “Forest Stewardship Council,” which was established in 1993 by various representatives from social, environmental, and forest management groups to raise awareness of and transform destructive logging practices. The FSC is a third party certification organization that assesses those who manage the care of forests. The Forest Stewardship Council realizes the fragility of the earth’s natural habitat and strives to protect it while preventing deforestation. Based in Germany, the Forest Stewardship Council exemplifies the world’s strongest system for setting forest management standards ranging from legal issues, regional circumstances, and environmental impacts of forest management. Their mission is to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable forest management. A simple way to recognize sustainably harvested FSC certified wood or bamboo is to look for the FSC label on the packaging or the material itself.

fsc logo

By following FSC requirements, forest managers adhere to a sustainable plan that imitates the natural life and death cycle of the forest. FSC codes prevent harvesting more trees than what grows back, and do not allow the harvest of rare ancient trees. FSC also mandates forest practices that reduce chemical use and protect the natural habitat. The use of genetically modified trees and organisms (GMO) is prohibited, and FSC assesses and strictly monitors nearby springs and streams to detect any signs of contamination or vegetative disturbance caused by harvesting. When forest managers make the decision to strive for FSC Certification, they must comply with all applicable FSC rules and practices and cannot use the FSC label without first earning certification. After becoming certified, they must continually prove compliance with FSC standards through annual audits.


An added measure to ensure integrity of FSC certified products is Chain-of-Custody certification (CoC). FSC certified wood is tracked and documented through the production process from forest to finished product. CoC certification requires the FSC certified products are kept separate from other products throughout the production process. Only operations with the FSC CoC certification are allowed to label products with the FSC trademarks.

Practically anything that is manufactured from trees can be FSC Certified. Not just limited to building materials and finishes; paper, pencils, cutting boards, even musical instruments can be made from FSC certified wood! It is important to note that FSC Certification does not have anything to do with the materials being recycled or reclaimed ñ only that they were derived from trees from a well managed forest.


Until recently, Bamboo products were not eligible for FSC Certification, but thankfully, they are now! Though it is a popular renewable resource because it regenerates approximately every 7 years, the harvesting practices of some bamboo growers are less than sustainable. Some bamboo is harvested too early, and some countries are actually deforesting their native trees to make way for bamboo forests! Bamboo absolutely needed to be regulated.

bamboo forest

FSC is not the only certification program and should NOT be confused with the paper-industry backed Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The American Forest & Paper Association basically created SFI to promote “business-as-usual” logging practices as being sustainable. It is the epitome of greenwashing and is funded by large paper companies for their own best interests. The photo below shows an example of an SFI compliant forest in the Sierra Nevada’s in California.


And this photo is from an SFI Certified forest in Maine.


Tell me, what is wrong with these images!

In comparison, the following is a photo of an FSC Certified forest, also in the Sierra Nevada’s shortly after a harvest.

after harvest

The FSC is by far the most credible and scientifically sound standard for sustainable forest practices. Today nearly 125 million acres of forest are FSC certified in 76 countries. For more information, go to the Forest Stewardship Council’s website:

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