Wood flooring is not only durable and provides health benefits compared to other types of flooring, but it remains the most sustainable and environmentally friendly option available.
Unlike other flooring materials, the raw materials regrow after they are cut down, replacing what is harvested.
To ensure an ongoing supply for future generations, companies like Middle Tennessee Lumber Co. are taking care to act as stewards of the environment. Their efforts include improving forests, eliminating waste, and taking steps to ensure their business positively impacts its surrounding community.
“We depend on these forests for our livelihood, and we need to do all we can to maintain them. We’re blessed to have these trees, and we are committed to making sure they will be here for future generations,” says Jesse Joyce, president of Middle Tennessee Lumber. “There always has been a misconception that what we do depletes our environment, but as I got involved in the industry, I quickly learned nothing could be further from the truth.”
Joyce says focusing on sustainability is critical not only for his business, but also for the community.
“I grew up around these forests and this company, and l had a great view of the fact that what we do as a company impacts our local community and neighbors. We harvest our timber from smaller farms that average about 20 acres in size, located within a sixty-mile radius,” explains Joyce. “We also harvest selectively, and the approach works well for us. Today, as a company and as an industry, we are growing more trees than we are harvesting.”
These growing trees are monitored throughout their lives to ensure they exhibit characteristics critical to their future use.
“The timberlands in our area are healthy, but we proactively thin out less-desirable trees and encourage the growth of trees with good genetics, which in turn, creates strong and healthy offspring,” says Joyce. “We’re also harvesting carefully, and not simply clearing entire hillsides as some people might imagine. It’s this approach that allows us to meet the needs of today while conserving resources we know we’ll need tomorrow.”
For Middle Tennessee Lumber, sustainability doesn’t end when the tree is cut down.
“As soon as the tree is down, things not involved in making wood flooring are removed and reused. For example, the limbs are sent to a paper mill. Lesser grade wood can be sold as pallet lumber,” notes Joyce. “We also focus on maximizing the yield from every piece by using lasers and scanners. We are careful to get all we can out of what we harvest.
Being a good steward of the environment and eliminating waste continues as the wood is processed.
“Sustainability also is something embedded within our manufacturing process,” says Joyce. “For example, we supply our own wood-fired boiler with our sawdust to power kilns instead of relying on natural gasses and fossil fuels.”
As Middle Tennessee Lumber manufactures the flooring, cut-offs that contain defects are also rendered into sawdust.
“We collect sawdust we produce and store it in our silos. There is no waste as we go through the entire manufacturing process. It saves us a lot of money and has less of an impact on the environment,” he says. “There also is a market for our excess sawdust. We sell it to charcoal briquette manufacturers, as well as dairy farmers who use it as bedding for their animals.”
Growing up around wood flooring, Joyce says he has a unique perspective on the product’s lifecycle and notes another attribute about wood flooring that is not often thought about.
“Wood flooring is the ultimate as far as beauty and durability, but at the very end of the wood’s service life, there’s still more that can be done with it. At no point in its lifecycle will it impact our environment negatively,” says Joyce. “Wood floors can be recycled into other materials. Wood also is combustible, which means it can be used as fuel or as a heating source. Finally, if the wood does end up in the landfill, it can decompose.”
Working with sustainable material from its beginnings to its end-result as a floor is something Joyce feels is rewarding, as is being able to have a positive impact on the environment surrounding his community.
“Our trees don’t grow overnight. So, when we harvest, we put a lot of care into what we’re doing. Every board is touched multiple times because we know that when an installer puts down our flooring, it will be there for a long, long time,” says Joyce. “We take a lot of pride in that and the path it took to get into the installer’s hands. It’s a journey everyone can be proud of, whether you’re making it, installing it, distributing it, or selling it.”