1. Consider antique, secondhand, and custom furniture.

Furniture is obviously a big part of the wood industry. Even upholstered furniture needs wood for framing. Going the route of antique pieces, furniture made from old wood, or secondhand furniture prevents the need of using new wood. Or consider having a piece made out of reclaimed wood—for example, my coffee table (pictured below) is made from an old weaving loom. Many local woodworkers will make custom pieces. You can ask one of your local salvage shops or reclaimed wood centers for a list of names of carpenters who work with reclaimed materials. For second-hand furniture you can easily find it at your local furniture consignment shop, antique shop, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, or even online on Craigslist, eBay, or Front Porch Forum. Do a search for locally made furniture with reclaimed wood—you'll be surprised what is available to you.

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2. Consider recycled or salvaged wood.

Reclaimed wood can be anything from 2 x 4s taken down from a recent house to vintage 1880s floorboards. Old wood, doors, and other wood-salvaged materials not only keep you from using new wood but it also keeps these products out of our overflowing landfills. My kitchen island top is made from 1880s Douglas fir that was from a railroad building. Wood is as different as your designs are, so choose wisely—thicker wood for island tops, thinner wood for wall paneling, tongue and groove for flooring, and so on.

3. Shop local.

When purchasing wood, consider local first. Purchasing your wood from a sustainable managed local forest, whether or not it is certified, is good for the forest, the watershed, and the community. A forest that is managed correctly, following sound forestry practices, will have an environmental impact far greater than simply good management of the trees themselves. A well managed  and/or certified forest, will positively impact area watersheds, for example. An added bonus of buying local wood?  Transportation needs go down, which is also good for the environment.

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Here I am, looking for salvaged wood for a mantel project at the rebuild center in my town.
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4. Always look for certification.

When shopping online, at a larger retail store, or if you are simply not sure about your local forests' sustainability practices, always look for certification. There are many types of certification. One of the most credible forest certification programs is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It is an independent, international nonprofit organization that sets a strict environmental and social standard for sustainable forest management. Their website, fsc.org, gives you information about the organization and places to find local FSC products and services. Look for their logo or ask for FSC certified wood.

5. Opt for "imperfect" wood.

Most woods have a variety of grades. Knowing which grade creates the least waste can help save wood and lower your costs. Number one common (sometimes called third grade, or rustic wood) cherry, for instance, is a more basic grade of wood with more knots and color variation, than, for example, clear or first grade, which is free from most visible defects and discolorations.  Each wood has variations in their grading system, grain and cut, so take a few minutes to learn about the wood you want.  But no matter which wood you choose, opting for a more "perfect" wood will result in more waste. Remember, that older salvaged wood is from a natural forest where the growth rings are tighter, which makes the wood much harder than wood that is grown faster in a managed forest. So even when it is a softwood, if it is from an older tree it can be very hard. 

6. Avoid the endangered list.

Teak and mahogany from old growth forests in Brazil or Indonesia are places that suffer from over-forestation that not only devastate the forests but the communities around them as well. With the number of sustainable wood and non-wood options, there is no need to continue to support over-forested woods.  If you must use teak, make sure it is reclaimed or certified.  These same types of wood, from certified managed forests, can be just fine to purchase. This is where certification is important — do not use a tropical or exotic wood that is not certified—and stay away from endangered forests.

7. Never judge a piece of wood by its cover.

I always tell folks to never turn their backs on ugly reclaimed wood — because there is a swan underneath all those years of oxidation. If you are looking for wood — bring a piece of sand paper with you and a water bottle. That way you can sand a bit of the top off and then moisten, to get the feel of what it will look like with polyurethane, shellac or a wax sealer on it

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The barn wood doors were made from salvaged wood that was sanded, cleaned and sealed.
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8. Demand action.

First and foremost, get involved. If you (or even your community) are building, remodeling or purchasing lots of wood, make a conscious decision to choose the right kind of wood by following the above guidelines.  Also, avoid pressure treated, or chemical treated wood—much of the inexpensive wood (including particleboard) out there contains toxic substances that can off gas and are not good for you or the planet. Encourage your retailers to carry wood from well-managed forests. Remember, it is all about supply and demand. If you demand protected, well-managed forests, then you'll get them.

For more information about wood, designs and other great ways to decorate using reclaimed wood and other earth-friendly ideas, I hope you check out my books, Salvage Secrets and Salvage Secrets Design & Décor.

A version of this article originally appeared on SalvageSecretsDesign.com. Meet Joanne Palmisano in person at our upcoming Country Living Fair in Atlanta, October 23-25