Can Cutting Teak Help the Environment?

The Earth Needs Trees—Now, More Than Ever

Vast tracts of Costa Rica's forests have been depleted to graze cattle for low-cost beef

Vast tracts of Costa Rica's forests have been depleted to graze cattle for low-cost beef.

Teak furniture poses a real dilemma for the gardener. Teak is a beautiful, durable and weatherproof natural material—perfect for use in the garden or anywhere outdoors. On the other hand, it's well known that in Asia the teak industry can have serious impacts on the environment and catastrophic effects on local communities. But there's good news for conscientious teak buyers: Reforest Teak™ is a line of furniture that benefits both the local environment and the local community.

Most of the world's teak comes from Indonesia or Myanmar (Burma), where native forests are clear-cut, often thousands of acres at a time. Non-teak "waste trees" are typically burned to clear the land, which is then used for abusive agricultural practices or left vulnerable to erosion. These destructive practices show no signs of abating; in fact a few years ago the Indonesian government signed a deal with China that will level much of its remaining tropical forest. For more on this story, see The Earth Needs Trees—Now More Than Ever.

Poor planting and harvesting practices

Poor planting and harvesting practices in monoculture teak plantations lead to erosion and the release of toxins into surrounding waterways.

Some teak is "plantation grown," which is an improvement over clear-cutting natural forests, but a long way from being sustainable. That's because most plantations include no other tree species — just row upon row of teak trees. These monocultures do little to provide wildlife habitat. And because the trees were planted at the same time, they are harvested at the same time — clear-cutting under a different name.

Reforest Teak wood is grown in Costa Rica, using a sustainable approach to forest management. Under approval of the world's most ecologically advanced government, Reforest Teak is actually re-foresting, rather than de-foresting, the land. This is land that was cleared decades ago to make pasture for cattle, to feed America's demand for inexpensive hamburger. Stripped of trees, the land became unable to retain water in the dry season, and unable to stop soil erosion during the rainy season. All that is changing now that the land is forested once again.

A Reforest Teak forest is not a monoculture, but a mosaic of different tree species that provide an abundance of wildlife habitat. Trees are carefully thinned so they grow straight (resulting in a better-quality wood) and are harvested in succession—the whole forest is never cut at once. That's good for the environment, and it also means steady, sustainable work for the local community for decades to come.

Well-managed teak forest

In a well-managed teak forest, trees are thinned out so there is room for them to grow straight, with less lateral branching.

Reforest Teak timber operations also support the local community by providing fair and above-market wages, social security and insurance plans, an industry-leading pension plan designed to empower women and extra incentives for sustainable forestry practices. Workers are craftsmen who put pride and experience into each piece, not just hands on an assembly line. Profits support the local schools or are reinvested in expanding ecological forestry. Reforest Teak attends to environmental and social concerns at every step, from the teak seedlings in the nursery to the shipping of finished products.

When you buy Reforest Teak furniture, you're helping to support sustainable forestry. You are also getting a top-quality product that will last a lifetime. All furniture is constructed with First European Quality (FEQ) teak, marine-grade, stainless-steel hardware, aircraft-grade adhesives, fine joinery and careful hand-finishing.

If you're considering purchasing teak furniture, I encourage you to compare price and quality and also get the full story about where the wood comes from, how it was grown and harvested, and how the furniture was manufactured. Vote with your pocketbook for a greener future.

Share This Article