Made In The U.S.A.

Lowe’s is to Home Depot what Target is to Wal Mart.

In Adventures on April 3, 2009 at 12:52 am

I tore out the chain link fence that’s on the other side of the crappy wooden fence that separates my yard from the yard of the empty house immediately to the east of me. It was actually quite enjoyable. And it means that I’m officially underway with the fence replacement project. I still have to tear out the wooden fence before it can be replaced, and I need to figure out what materials to use when I do that. But I started, so that’s good.

To that end, I also went to Lowe’s today. First, let me say this: Lowe’s is to Home Depot what Target is to Wal Mart. Yes, they’re the same kind of store. No, their respective shopping experiences are nothing alike.

Employees asked if I needed assistance. They smiled at me. I didn’t feel dirty and angry while I was in the store. The whole experience was quite pleasant–even if I couldn’t get the MITUSA materials I needed or any meaningful lumber information.

First, I hit the fasteners aisle. Sure enough, I found Maze nails as promised. But Maze makes nails–not the deck screws I need. (They do, however, print little American flags on their boxes so they stand out fairly well in the aisle–even though they represent approximately four percent of the nail real estate in the the fasteners aisle. At least there’s an option here; at the Depot, there was nothing MITUSA to be found in fasteners.)

Next, I checked the Quikrete to verify the country of origin. The bag of fast-drying concrete I prefer for this fence-post gig didn’t specifically say that it was made here. Instead, it said what a can of beans usually does–made for ____ company at an American address. The wording leads you to believe that’s where it was made, but I think it’s usually the address of the headquarters of the company. I usually take it as a good enough MITUSA endorsement, because if it was in fact imported it would have to say so.

Then, drumroll please, I checked the lumber.

Nowhere did I see any indication of FSC certification (signifying non-old-growth lumber that is also not clear-cut) or any other conscientious consumer information whatsoever. I even asked a friendly employee. He said the only “green” lumber they had was dimensional treated lumber. I’m assuming, based on the lack of information I could find in the store, that what made it “green” was that it was treated with a better chemical process than the old really-earth-unfriendly chemical process that most pressure treated wood was treated with for years.

The most interesting thing about the process is how when you visit the stores–be that Home Depot or Lowe’s–nobody really has any idea about anything green or responsible or certfied or anything pertaining to the lumber, other than where in the store it can be found. That’s apparently enough for most of us: where do I find it, as opposed to where it comes from. But if you visit either store’s web site, the “green” marketing machine is everywhere, touting responsible stewardship and FSC certification and generally earth-friendly and consumer-friendly practices that work so wonderfully as marketing devices. But it’s an empty gesture if, when you really want to buy something responsibly, it’s for all intents and purposes impossible.

It’d be bad enough if you couldn’t find any of this stuff in these stores. But it’s worse when each company touts responsible lumber practices by promoting things like, “giving preference to the procurement of wood products from independently certified, well-managed forests” and, “look for products such as FSC certified wood products that come from forests where environmental, social and economic interests and benefits are safeguarded.”

Lowe’s even has a page outlining its environmental policy and where it stands, as of 2006, in purchasing lumber. Interesting facts re: sourcing and imports and species and such. And statistics about how much more FSC certified wood it’s buying, without actually giving a percentage of total wood it’s buying.

That sounds nice. But all it means, to me anyway, is that their corporate marketers are interested in the appearance of propriety without the actual gritty reality of making a change in the store–or making it possible for me to be an informed shopper. And that pisses me off.

I’m going to email each company right now to ask a simple question: How much of your lumber is FSC certified, and how can I tell when I’m buying it in the store?

Now we wait.

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  1. This is a noble cause. I think you will have better luck shopping at an Ace Hardware store if you can find them in your area. Good Luck!

  2. Great post, Sir. The disconnect between the web facade and the store reality is akin to the distance between intention and action.

  3. Have you contacted FSC with your product requirements? http://www.fscus.org/faqs/fsc_product_inquiry.php

    Looks like they can direct you to someone that sells what you are looking for.

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