By now, we all know that the "organic" seal identifies foods and beverages made without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or antibiotics. But there's another, lesser-known logo that conscious consumers should always be looking out for in stores, too: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.
The FSC label marks wood and paper goods created using best forestry practices. This means that they were produced responsibly, with old-growth forests, rare species, and water quality in mind. Old-growth forests are those that have grown uninterrupted for long enough to establish rich habitats that support a wide variety of wildlife.
FSC certification is essentially the "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" for forests and products from them, explained Linda Walker, the manager of World Wildlife Fund's Global Forest & Trade Network–North America program, in a recent email.
Like the organic label, FSC is an optional one for farmers. WWF works to highlight the initiatives of tree farmers who decide to have their forests certified in an effort to put a face to the products we see in stores. By connecting consumers to producers, the nonprofit hopes to encourage more people to make responsible purchasing decisions.
One of the success stories featured in WWF's forest initiative is that of Donna Janssen. Donna is a timber farmer on a family-maintained plot in southern Arkansas who chose to get her land FSC-certified in 2012 — a decision she says broadened her perspective on the natural environment.
By ensuring that her production goals align with what's best for the earth, Donna has discovered a newfound appreciation for native species and a desire to protect the future of their habitat.
"Throughout my lifetime, I have watched the timber industry transform from a 'here and now' view to a much more long-term perspective," she said.
As Donna makes plans to pass her tree farm — a plot she lovingly refers to as "the thread that sews my family closer together" — on to her nephews, she's proud that its wood will be contributing to products that are truly sustainable.
Check out the video below to get a better sense of Donna's story. And the next time you're shopping for wood and paper goods (this interactive map can show you exactly which ones), support Donna's farm, and those of like-minded producers, by looking out for the FSC seal of approval.
Video courtesy of Domtar
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.