David Kienholz was once an old-growth logger. He worked with his lumberjack dad until his mid-20s, when he lost the heart for clear-cutting the forests of Washington state. He cringed at all of it, especially the waste: "We were only supposed to send 'the best' to town," Kienholz says. The leftovers — mountains of logs — were chopped into firewood.
Now, as the sourcing manager for Seattle custom sawmill Green Tree Mill, Kienholz uses only wood that's been salvaged or grown and harvested under strict Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) guidelines. For Kienholz, his work is atonement, but it's also good business. Green Tree's customers clamor for its sustainable flooring, cabinetry, siding, and other furnishings, despite paying a premium of up to 20%. Clients include Nordstrom, which ordered salvaged-wood display tables, and Starbucks, which wants FSC-certified countertops for its U.S. outlets.
Similar operations — such as Urban Timberworks in Portland, Oregon, and Elmwood Reclaimed Timber in Smithville, Missouri — are also thriving. "I don't think we'd be doing as well as we are if we weren't using sustainable wood," Kienholz says. "We're proving the model works."