More than 10 years ago, Executive Director Michael Snow and the rest of the team at the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) were working to develop ways for the world to better understand the high sustainability of American Hardwoods and softwoods. Now, after their highly acclaimed Seneca Creek Study, the groundbreaking Life Cycle Assessment, and AHEC’s work with PE International and ISO, the verdict is finally in.
One method of certification has evolved from all AHEC’s studies and hard work. The result of their vision is this: there is now one streamlined method of certification for American Hardwoods, and it promises to improve not only environmental credentials, but also expand market potential.
Formerly, Miller Wood Trade Publications featured articles mostly concerning AHEC and the development of Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs. An EPD is a new kind of label, similar to a nutrition label on food products, indicating the carbon “footprint” or environmental impact created from the production of a particular lumber product.
In a recent conference in Cologne, Germany, Snow unveiled an additional profile, which should enhance the use of EPDs for American Hardwood lumber producers. This newest development is known as AHEP, or American Hardwood Environmental Profiles. The AHEP concept was developed by AHEC to bring together the legality data (based on Forest Service RPA Data); legality (based on the Seneca Creek Study and FSC “Risk Register”) and the LCA data (based on PE International’s GaBi environmental profiling software system). The GaBi system is ISO compliant and AHEC will operate under a licensing agreement with PE International.
What will this new AHEP do, and how is it different from EPDs? In a written statement, Michael Snow said, “We have decided against doing full EPDs for the lumber since they are of limited value in an intermediate product like lumber, which is not ‘consumed’ as lumber, and focus on creating these AHEPs, which will provide manufacturers of products that will have EPDs—such as furniture, flooring, doors, etc.—fully ISO-compliant data on the U.S. Hardwood, which they can then incorporate into their own product-specific EPDs.”
In other words, the EPDs will still be a valuable tool, but with the additional implementation of AHEPs, American Hardwoods will increase in global marketability while assuring the buying public that U.S. Hardwoods don’t need so-called “green-washing”—they’re naturally that way.
The AHEP will reveal such information as description of the (wood) product, sub-national region of harvest, company receiving the profile, common and scientific names of the product, and concession of harvest (such as “Multiple Private Forest Owners”). The profile will also indicate thicknesses and quantities of the wood products, and prove legal compliance of the product as well as certification of sustainability.
Snow further described implementation, accessibility and accountability of AHEPs. “We plan to have AHEC member companies begin to use the system early this fall,” he indicated. “Each AHEC member will have access to the database and the AHEP system, through a licensing agreement between AHEC and PE International. They will receive a login and password, which will be closely monitored. Because the licensing system is being paid for by AHEC members through their dues, it will be a ‘members only’ benefit. The LCA Data and ISO-compliant Life Cycle Inventory data will be available to all U.S. companies, regardless of their affiliation with AHEC. In fact, there is one U.S. sports floor manufacturer who is currently using the LCA data in their own Environmental Product Declarations.”
Snow added, “The AHEP data will be shared between AHEC members and their customers, and is designed to be a tool to assist manufacturers with EPD inputs. There will be no ‘Master’ copy of the reports.”
What do AHEC members think of AHEPs? Here are a few members’ perspectives.
Dave Bramlage, sales manager with Cole Hardwood Inc., based in Logansport, IN, had this to say about the latest developments. “I am very pleased that AHEC has developed the American Hardwood Environmental Profiles. We have long known in this country that Hardwoods produced here are very environmental and there is little chance of them being harvested illegally. The AHEP system will definitely help increase global marketability for American Hardwood lumber.”
Giving his reaction from Maiden, NC, Sales Manager Steve Staryak of Lawrence Lumber Company offered this insight. “The AHEP information will further instill in our U.S. and global markets that North American lumber companies have been and continue to be true stewards of the environment and is supported by more scientific data. These additional EPDs will also assist us in countries that scrutinize the origin of every piece of timber that enters their country, and make them feel more at ease knowing the legal compliance process companies here in the U.S. have to abide by.”
From his office at Middle Tennessee Lumber Company in Burns, TN, President and CEO Bill Joyce offered his thoughts
on these latest developments. “I am very encouraged about the work AHEC has done in conjunction with the American Hardwood Environmental Profiles. We in the Hardwood industry have a great story to tell about stewardship of the American forests. Until of late, it has been extremely difficult and economically impractical for the smaller, privately owned businesses, which make up the lion’s share of our industry, to get the story out. With the work AHEC has done, there is hope to get the word out not only to existing domestic and international customers, but to the huge number of potential customers who care about being good stewards of the environment as we do.”
The legacy that has been created by the American Hardwood Export Council is one that is now a part of the lumber manufacturing world. Their stamp on the viability and sustainability of American Hardwoods will be seen in markets around the world.
For more data and information about EPD’s, please visit the following websites.
• The Life Cycle Assessment, commissioned by AHEC in 2010, contains extensive data on the environmental profile of U.S. rough-sawn, kiln-dried Hardwood lumber. The study used a comprehensive, from “cradle-to-gate” environmental impact. The study was prepared by PE International. For more on the LCA, go to www.americanhardwood.org/sustainability/life-cycle-assessment/.
• PE International is one of the global leaders in the field of sustainability and prepares EPDs for a wide range of clientele. Their website is www.pe-international.com.
For more information or to contact AHEC, please visit online at www.ahec.org.