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Volume 6   Issue 6                July  2005


Seeing the Way through the Forest
by Tara Taffera

Talk about being right. Pete Walker, chair of the Window and Door Manufacturer’s Association (WDMA) environmental stewardship committee task group, was just that when he spoke before WDMA members regarding environmental issues at the association’s annual conference in February. Walker asked attendees how many had heard of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). While few had, he said, “Keep this name in mind. You’ll hear a lot more about them.” (see April DWM, page 127.)

Walker also spoke of other groups that are making their voices heard in the environmental arena such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

So after hearing so much about these groups in the past few months, you can imagine how a full-page ad published in the May 20 edition of The New York Times caught my eye. The headline was this: “SFI = Same old Forest Industry. Destroying Forests, Deceiving Customers.” The ad was sponsored by the same entity that Walker advised members about-the RAN, along with eight other environmental groups.

I decided to call Walker to ask him some questions and for some help in helping you, the manufacturer, decipher the truth behind the ads. 

First, according to Walker, the answer is “no”—the SFI is not as bad a program as the RAN ad makes it seem. The SFI program originated from the American Forest and Paper Association, which is why the RAN appears to be so against the program, according to Walker.

“It appears that in the RAN’s eyes, associations are ‘bad’ because they represent an industry’s manufacturers. Many associations and manufacturers represent tremendous pools of talent and knowledge and are resources that should be utilized in developing policies and programs,” he says.

Walker explains that there are four major sustainable forestry/wood certification programs in place in North America and all have good components. These include the SFI and FSC, along with the American Tree Farm Program (the oldest) and the Canadian Sustainable Forestry Management Program (CSA). 

According to Walker, the problem is that the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environ-mental Efficiency and Design (LEED) only recognizes the FSC program. 

“Competition is good,” says Walker. “I would not recommend a monopoly of anyone’s forestry program which is what LEED is doing.”

However, he adds that a positive of this is that LEED/FSC is causing the other organizations to make improvements to their programs. 

“In one area, LEED is saying they will not recognize/award points for anything that is not rapidly renewable,” says Walker. “Anything that takes more than ten years to grow is not rapidly renewable, which rules out just about all trees. Wood is perhaps one of our most renewable and environmentally friendly building materials. This seems incomprehensible.”

Unfortunately, representatives at USGBC/LEED have not always been receptive to industry input, and have not recognized industry associations in the past. 

“I very much applaud LEED and USGBC for trying to promote green practices, but it appears that some elements of the program were not developed under a fully open process,” says Walker. “The fact that WDMA is comprised of the major producers of wood windows and doors and this collective of knowledge and experience has not been fully utilized is astounding in this day and age.”

But LEED is not the only program being criticized for not being receptive to feedback from others.

“Some of the environmental groups behind the USGBC have a ‘we will not negotiate attitude.’ It’s tough to have a dialog in a situation like that,” he adds.

Yes, it is, but thanks to Pete for helping WDMA members clear up some of the miscommunication out there regarding these environmental issues. As Walker said earlier this year, you’ll definitely be hearing more about RAN. We can add LEED and other “green” building programs to that list. 

As all of this affects window and door manufacturers, I’ll say this: you’ll definitely be hearing more about all of this from DWM in the months to come. 

As usual, I welcome your input on these and other issues affecting fenestration manufacturers. 

E-mail your feedback to ttaffera@glass.com.

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