In the office of Forests Ontario, Rob Keen, CEO of the not-forprofit organization, sits at a beautiful, locally-crafted pine desk. “Some folks think that it’s a terrible practice to cut down trees,” he says. “They want the wood desk and cabinets and all the beautiful wood products, but don’t want to support the idea of harvesting our forests. They don’t realize that Ontario forest products are one of our truly sustainable and renewable resources, used and admired by all of us every day.”
Keen’s statement is one being echoed across the province by initiatives trying to debunk myths associated with forestry and the use of forest resources. Ontario’s forests, and their management, make a significant economic and social contribution to the province—sustainable forestry, as practiced in Ontario, also ensures that our forests are managed in a way that maintains their long-term health for the benefit of future generations.
“It’s important for consumers to realize that when you purchase Ontario forest products, you are making a green choice that benefits all Ontarians,” says Keen.
Ottawa Valley Wood (OVW) is among the initiatives that have been instrumental in advocating for consumer awareness and promoting the purchase of Ontario forest products. This locally-based campaign extols the many benefits associated with managing, and maintaining, a healthy forest and using Ontario wood products. OWV is also designed to make it easier for people to make local purchasing decisions and provides a directory of local wood artisans and product distributors, an outreach effort that has inspired other communities across Ontario to build their own local wood directories in support of local producers. Ontario’s forests are governed by a world-renowned set of regulatory requirements. A variety of laws, regulations and policies ensure that forestry professionals from the private sector and the government follow strict environmental guidelines during the development of forest management plans and while conducting on the ground operations.
Ontario’s forest management planning process requires the engagement of all affected stakeholders to ensure that local values, such as recreation and tourism, are adequately protected. In addition, forestry practitioners in Ontario are regulated under legislation that requires them to practice within their scope, or area of expertise, and according to a strict code of ethics.
For organizations like Forests Ontario, however, encouraging consumers to buy Ontario wood-based products is as much about the economic and social contributions of the forest sector as it is about their environmental performance. “Using Ontario wood supports an important industry and ultimately benefits local, often rural, communities that rely on that industry,” says Keen. “Using Ontario wood has a human impact; it supports the many foresters, labourers, artisans, and craftsmen across the province. Consumers who use Ontario wood are helping to create and sustain jobs, and contribute to the sustainable practices that already exist in the landscape.”
In fact, the Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that the forestry sector supports 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in over 260 Ontario communities. In view of the sector’s important contributions, branding initiatives like the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Ontario Wood have been introduced to highlight the value of, and to connect consumers with, local wood products. The initiative allows partners to use its Look for the Leaf logo as a way to easily identify their products and merchandise as Ontario-made.
The Ontario Wood brand, much like the province’s regulatory framework, is designed to provide consumer confidence. For a company to label its product under the brand, it must be able to demonstrate that the products are derived from Ontario’s forests and manufactured locally. While much of the wood comes from Crown (publicly-owned) forests, it can also be sourced from well-managed private woodlots. In addition, urban wood and reclaimed wood saved from landfills can be repurposed as consumer-friendly products.
Consumers in turn, can rest easy in the knowledge that their choices are ‘green’ and ultimately support the long-term health of our forests and natural environment. So, whether it’s that artisanal wooden cheese board you’re after or something larger like a timber-framed weekend retreat, one thing is clear—the choice of Ontario Wood will sustain more than just your appetite for beautiful things.