Both The Home Depot (THD) and Lowe's have made significant changes to the
mix of wood products they sell. However, while both companies
committed to an entire phase-out of all wood products from endangered
forests, neither has done so. While some products have been
eliminated and others reduced, many still come from endangered
forests. As well, in the case of flooring, both companies are today
selling old growth rainforest products they didn't sell in 1999.
The Home Depot committed to not selling wood products from endangered forests within three years of their commitment, made in August of 1999. Since that time, THD has phased out of the sales of ramin dowels and has reduced the amount of lauan plywood they sell.
Interior doors, which were faced with lauan, are now faced with
Masonite, a brand of hardboard, with a faux-lauan exterior facing.
However, THD still sells sheets of lauan, mostly logged from
Indonesia's dwindling old growth rainforests but also from the
Brazilian Amazon, alongside sheets of much-less-destructive temperate
hardwood plywood. Studies have shown that 75% of wood exports from
Indonesia are originating from illegal logging operations.
Lowe's was the first to phase out ramin dowels (they are now made of
poplar) and has also reduced sales of lauan. However, Lowe's chose to
shift to hollow interior doors faced with okoume, a rainforest wood
logged from West Africa (mostly from the old growth rainforests of
Gabon). While the 'skin' of interior doors sold by Lowe's is made up
mostly of hardboard, the exterior face is okoume.
As well, lauan is found in both The Home Depot and Lowe's as drawer
bottoms in many of the kitchen cabinets they sell. In The Home Depot, lauan can be found in drawer bottoms in cabinets made by Thomasville Cabinetry, Kraft Maid Cabinetry, Premier Cabinetry and American Woodmark.
In 1999, many of the tool handles sold in these stores were made of
ramin, an endangered species of tree found only in the swamp
rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia and Malaysia). These
islands and the forests they support are the primary habitat of the
critically endangered orangutan. Ramin has since been listed on
Appendix III of the CITES treaty, with a zero export quota from
Indonesia. However, ramin continues to be smuggled across the border to Malaysia where it is laundered into the global market. While The
Home Depot and Lowe's have reduced sales of ramin significantly, some ramin can still be found. Ramin sconces were found in The Home Depot, made by Levelor.
As well, rake, mop and broom handles, while usually not ramin, are
now made from many different species of wood, indiscriminately turned into tool handles in Thailand, Taiwan and China. Many of these
species are logged from rainforests from throughout Asia.
Both The Home Depot and Lowe's have, since 1999, entered the market in sales
of exotic hardwood flooring. It is a disturbing sign when major companies such
as these can take such flagrant steps backwards, in clear violation of a public
statement and agreement with environmental organization.
THD sells flooring cut from rainforests in Africa, Southeast Asia and
Brazil. THD's "Out of Africa Village" collection includes woods
logged from West Africa with commercial names such as African Pear, African Walnut, African Rosewood and African Cherry. Which species
these are in reality is yet to be determined - in fact, they may be
made up of different species. But these woods are clearly rainforest
hardwoods. THD also sells flooring from Brazil. Commonly called
"Brazilian Cherry" in the US, the wood is jatoba, a wood that is
mostly illegally logged from the rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon.
THD also sells merbau flooring which is most likely originating from
logging operations in Malaysian Borneo, an area of dwindling
rainforests where loggers have been in violent conflict with local
indigenous tribes for year.
Lowe's sells kempas flooring marketed by Bruce Hardwood Floors, a
division of the Armstrong company. Kempas is logged from the
rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Old growth western red cedar planking can still be found in The Home Depot, manufactured and marketed by Weyerhauser. Called CedarOne, this WRC, milled from trees that can be as old as 1800 years, is clearcut logged from the temperate rainforests of British Columbia. Other cedar products such as planters and trellises are questionable and may be coming from old growth rainforest logging.
Mahogany floats can once again be found at The Home Depot. These
floats, made by Marshalltown, are made from a wood that is listed on
Appendix II of CITES and is most likely logged from the old growth
rainforests of Brazil or Peru.
Both The Home Depot and Lowe's are selling a good deal more wood
products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Particularly, it seems that the aisles at Lowe's are now well
populated by certified wood. While this is significant and laudable
(we especially like that Lowe's does not carry outdoor furniture made of nyatoh, a popular old growth rainforest wood - but instead uses
eucalyptus, a plantation wood), these gains are offset by the lack of
enforcement when it comes to companies finding alternatives and the
moves into new old growth rainforest products.
tim keating, director