Next year California takes a major step forward for the environment. A new California regulation
takes effect January 1, 2009. As far as I can tell our beloved E.P.A. has not the jurisdiction to interdict. This is the federal agency that quashed California and other states' attempt toreduce auto emissions. That's swell because you should think of the E.P.A. in this context as the Environmental Pollution Agency. The E.P.A. record over the past seven years speaks for itself.
On the surface it seems a minor modification by California of technical standards in a less-than-sexy industry: lumber and construction. But on decisions such as this could hang the
future of life as we know it. Continued destruction of the globe's forests and continued reckless
pollution of our homes and offices would bode ill for the survival of even the fittest, or the richest.
Buildings and building materials actually use more energy and produce more greenhouse gas
emissions in the U.S. than the higher profile transportation industry. American buildings &
their occupants pollute more than cars. Here's how the U.S. Green Building Council breaks
"In the United States alone, buildings account for:
• 65% of electricity consumption,
• 36% of energy use,
• 30% of greenhouse gas emissions,
• 30% of raw materials use,
• 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually), and
• 12% of potable water consumption."
Construction's another source of pollution with debris and land clearing a source of two-thirds
as much solid waste as all the municipal garbage collectors in America. And making cement? Well, it's a greenhouse gas bonanza.
Forests are important for carbon sequestration and moderation of global warming. Fewer forests
means more environmental problems. More flooding, more desertification, more soil erosion. The move toward responsible use of timber and sustainable business based on forest
products has been championed globally by the German-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). And there are many ways to abuse a forest and the timber from it. That's where the new California regulation comes into the picture.
It's called the "Composite Wood Product ATCM Notice & ISOR." And it was adopted by the
California Air Resources Board, that pesky bunch that's forever trying to keep people from
breathing killer chemicals. And in this case the new regs will lower the amount of formaldehyde
and other noxious gases that can be released into your kitchen, office, cafe or
mobile home by engineered wood products.
It's good for those of us who insist on breathing air to know that those standards are getting
tougher. And I first learned of this pending new regulation from a CEO who's in the construction
industry. And he was NOT complaining about government regulation and the other
anti-government cant we've come to expect from the Enron/Halliburton/Countrywide crowd. I was talking with Ecotimber"s CEO, Lewis Buchner. He and his San Rafael-based company are working to bring recycled and sustainable wood and bamboo products to the building industry. All the wood they sell is FSC-certified. Ecotimber also aims for no emission or low emission, non-toxic finishing products. He was glad to see the new Cal reg because it'll draw attention to the need to reduce the release of formaldehyde and other
dangerous gases that often come with glues and finishes on manufactured wood products.
With the help of a few regulatory decisions and a lot of forward-thinking businesses like Ecotimber we might actually build ourselves a sustainable future.