Made In The U.S.A.

Total success and utter failure all rolled into one.

In Adventures on April 30, 2009 at 12:42 am

Well hell.

I just called the only Home Depot in the area that sells FSC certified lumber, in order to speak with Bob at the Pro Desk who I was told could order my FSC lumber. 

And he can.

And it’s simple:

Any order = $200 shipping fee.

A single 2×4? $2.95 plus $200 shipping. A $10,000 lumber order for my next stick-built home? $200 shipping. (Presumably it’s $200 up to a point. Maybe a truck full, or a cargo container, etc.)

Still. As you can see, it is theoretically possible for me personally to buy FSC certified lumber to build my fence.

I need about 20 6-foot 2x4s (about $3 each) and about 10 8-foot 4x4s (about $10 each). So I’m buying about $160 dollars worth of dimensional lumber to build my fence. (The pickets are exempt; I don’t think I can get those FSC certified.) The 120 percent markup that I would incur to have it FSC certified and shipped directly to me is cost prohibitive, to say the least. 

But on a bigger job… no problem. In fact, if the system was easier (i.e. if you didn’t have to spend hours on the internet and telephone to find somebody who can order the stuff) it wouldn’t be so bad at all. A $200 premium on your $10,000 deck to make it verifiably sustainable? Why not?

The key, Bob explained to me, is that the FSC lumber they order is sent down from Chicago, which is where the shipping fee comes in. And it’s tracked “all the way from the woods” to prove the chain of custody that verifies it is officially FSC certified. That’s the real sticky part. A lot of the wood they buy is FSC, he says, but it’s just out of the chain of custody–meaning they can’t prove that it’s FSC since they haven’t tracked it from standing timber. 

On one hand… great! But on the other… is there any possibility that somebody higher up the Home Depot chain of command is telling them that much of their wood is FSC just so they’ll feel better? After all, they’re not making any “official” claim that it is, so they can’t be held accountable for that. But if the consensus is that “much” of it is FSC, then I shouldn’t hesitate to buy Home Depot lumber.

But there’s the contradiction from the specialist at Lowe’s I spoke to, remember? He said they don’t buy FSC lumber as practice, but there’s “a chance” it could be occasionally purchased on the spot market. That seems to me like Home Depot could be applying the reverse of the “few bad apples” axiom. Just because you happen to sell a handful of responsibly harvested 2x4s doesn’t make the millions of board feet of lumber suddenly responsible by association. 

I’m back to the importance of the certification. It’s the only way to know what you’re getting.

I guess it’s good to know that I could do it if I was rich–or if I was making a much bigger project than I am. It’s just a shame that the system is designed to keep you from having any realistic way to buy FSC certified lumber on any reasonable level.

And it’s a real shame that no local retailer or lumber yard has taken it upon themselves to build in that additional $200 charge to stock FSC certified 2x4s. If they order them even 400 at a time for that $200 charge… I’d easily pay $3.50 per 2×4 instead of $3 for FSC certification. On my fence, it would mean $60 worth of 2x4s would end up costing me $70. 

If our culture is so damn eco-conscious, and if builders really are worried about “building green,” then shouldn’t SOMEBODY in the greater St. Louis metro area stock a single freakin FSC 2×4?

I think this is one of those moments when you realize the difference between actual environmentalist practices and the hollow greenwashing of marketing materials.

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