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The Sustainability of Ash Wood: Is It an Environmentally Friendly Choice?

Timber Knowledge Industry Practices
18 July 2023 min read

The Sustainability of Ash Wood: Is It an Environmentally Friendly Choice?

In an increasingly eco-conscious world, choosing materials for your project isn't just about appearance but also the environment—your choice of wood can contribute to deforestation or support sustainable management and the health of our planet's ecosystems. 

This is where our responsibly sourced ash wood products come in. 

In this article, we will explore the sustainability of ash wood and examine under what conditions ash is an environmentally friendly choice.


The Basics of Ash Wood

Ash is a strong, lightweight hardwood that grows abundantly in Europe, North America, and Asia. Its pale yellow with a pronounced grain pattern adds character. 

Ash’s versatility contributes to its popularity—the wood is frequently used to manufacture furniture, flooring, and even sports equipment.

With a relative density of around 0.65, ash is lighter than oak and many other hardwoods. This lower weight makes it easier to handle and work with. However, despite its lightness, ash wood maintains high durability and strength, making it a practical choice for your next project.


The Benefits of Ash

Ash wood has a lot of advantages that make it a popular choice for many woodworking projects. 

  • Its beautiful grain pattern makes it an attractive option for furniture.

  • Ash wood’s surface paints and varnishes beautifully, and its natural colour can be well-preserved with the proper woods or oils.

  • Due to its flexibility and resistance to cracking, ash is an excellent choice for furniture that will see frequent use.

  • The wood’s impressive shock resistance is ideal for sports equipment like hockey sticks and baseball bats.

  • The wood is also easy to work with because it machines well, sands effectively, and finishes beautifully.


The Sustainability of Ash Wood

Now, let's address the core question—the environmental impact of harvesting ash wood. 

While ash is a renewable resource, like any other wood, we still must consider its environmental impact when harvesting it.

Ash trees are susceptible to disease and pests, such as the emerald ash borer, which has killed millions of ash trees in North America. However, harvesting ash trees can actually benefit the forest's health, as it encourages the growth of new trees. In fact, after harvesting, many forests are replanted with new trees, which helps to maintain a healthy forest.

In the UK, most ash wood comes from privately owned plantations, and the Forestry Commission regulates the harvesting of trees from public forests. This means harvesting ash can be done sustainably and with the environment in mind.

Additionally, ash wood is a durable and long-lasting material. It can withstand frequent use and last a very long time, meaning less need for frequent replacement or additional harvesting.


The Role of Ash Wood in Carbon Sequestration

One aspect of ash wood sustainability often overlooked is its ability to contribute to carbon sequestration. Like all trees, ash trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, storing this carbon in their wood, leaves, and roots. 

And even after being harvested and turned into furniture, flooring, or sports equipment, the ash wood stores this carbon, effectively locking it away from the atmosphere. 

This can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, providing an environmentally friendly material for your project that also plays a part in the fight against climate change.


The Lifecycle of Ash Wood Products

The sustainability of ash wood also depends on the lifecycle of the products made from it. For example, a piece of ash furniture that lasts for decades and can be repaired or refinished as needed is more sustainable than a piece that wears out after a few years and needs to be replaced.

Ash’s durability and strength come into play here, as high-quality ash products can have long lifespans. This minimises waste and reduces the demand for additional tree harvesting.

Additionally, ash wood can be repurposed or recycled at the end of its lifespan. For instance, old ash furniture can be refinished or reupholstered, extending its usefulness. 

And if the product is no longer usable, the ash wood can be recycled into mulch, compost, or biofuel, providing further environmental benefits.


Sourcing Locally

Another aspect to consider in the sustainability of ash wood is how far it travels from the forest to your project. Transporting wood over long distances can have a significant carbon footprint, offsetting some benefits of using wood as a carbon-storing material.

In the UK, ash wood is abundant and locally available, reducing the need for long-distance transportation. This means that when you choose ash wood for your project, you're making a sustainable choice and supporting local industries.


Encouraging Forest Health and Biodiversity

You can also help promote forest health and biodiversity by choosing ash wood from sustainably managed forests. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) both certify sustainable wood products. 

As with Woodshop Direct’s ash wood products, look for the FSC or PEFC logo on products to know that the wood came from a well-managed, sustainable forest.

Sustainable forest management practices aim to mimic natural forest dynamics, creating a mix of different tree species and ages. This variety supports diverse wildlife and helps the forest resist pests and diseases.

Further, providing a market for ash wood incentivises landowners to maintain their lands as forests rather than converting them to other uses. This helps to preserve forest habitats and the many benefits they provide, from clean air and water to recreation opportunities.


The Importance of Education

Finally, education is one of the most effective ways to promote the sustainability of ash wood. By learning about the benefits and challenges of ash wood and sharing this knowledge with others, you can help create a demand for sustainably sourced wood and contribute to the long-term health of our planet’s forests.


Woodshop Direct’s Wood Solutions

As a business, we support sustainable forestry practices and invest in responsibly sourced ash wood. Our primary approach is to progressively increase the proportion of wood products we procure from well-managed forests. We ensure these standards are met by relying on third-party certification schemes, such as FSC and PEFC, which provide credible assurances of responsible forestry practices.