How to cut down on your wood product consumption
Brown wood products can save you money, but there’s a caveat: they’re really expensive.
That’s the view of the experts who say that you shouldn’t buy brown wood products unless you can afford them.
“I would say don’t buy them unless you absolutely need them,” says Michael Schmitt, a professor of environmental economics at the University of Texas at Austin and an author of the new book, Brown: Why the World Needs Brown Wood Products.
“The price is really a barrier.
It’s a way to keep you from making rational choices.”
What’s the cost?
Brown wood is a valuable commodity.
Its value depends on its shape and the quality of the wood it’s made of, which varies depending on its age.
The wood’s weight and density also affect its durability.
In some cases, a single piece of wood can be as durable as a house, while in others, it can only last a couple of years.
The cost of making a wood product can be high.
In Australia, where the wood used to make most of our furniture is brown, the average price of a single-piece wood product is around $6,000.
But in China, where most of the furniture is made of wood that is typically green, the price is a bit higher.
In the US, where furniture is mostly made of white, the cost of a piece of furniture made from white wood is around a quarter of what it is in Australia.
Schmitt points out that, for most of human history, wood was considered an expensive commodity.
“In the Middle Ages, the best wood for making furniture was black, and so that’s the type of wood you get,” he says.
The value of wood depends on what you buy It is a well-established fact that the quality and quantity of wood used for furniture is a good indicator of its quality and its longevity.
In fact, Schmitt says, the quality is probably the best indicator of a product’s longevity.
“You have to look at the wood to see how long the wood has been living, how much it can handle, and how well it’s durable,” he explains.
The longer it’s been living and the better it holds up, the more likely it is to last.
“It’s the durability of the timber, not the weight of the material that counts,” he adds.
The key is how long it has been growing.
If you buy a piece that hasn’t been aged, it might not have any character.
The more wood you buy, the less likely it will last.
For example, a piece made from alder, the hardest wood on the planet, can take a couple years to turn into a good piece of wooden furniture.
“A piece of alder that’s only a few years old might be a piece you buy in a second,” Schmitt explains.
If it hasn’t aged, however, it’s unlikely to have much character.
“If you buy an old piece of an oak tree, you’ll never get any character,” he tells New Scientist.
“When you buy that, the wood’s just going to be a blob of white.”
A wooden chair in a Chinese shop, which is made mostly of brown wood, costs between $100 and $500.
The price is lower in Australia, but not in the US.
What about your lifestyle?
Schmitt estimates that a person who spends the same amount of money each year on furniture as a typical Australian earns about $40,000 more per year.
This, he says, is a big reason that the average Australian spends about $800 more per month on furniture than people in the United States, Canada and Germany.
In China, a person spends less than half of what the average person in the country earns on furniture.
This means that a typical Chinese person spends a lot less on furniture every year than Australians do.
That makes sense, as people living in China are less likely to spend their own money on the furniture they purchase.
But a recent study by the US Government Accountability Office found that a Chinese person could spend $3,500 less on a house per year than an Australian person.
“What it comes down to is that the cost is an important part of the cost,” Schloss adds.
“But what it comes to is whether you’re living in the middle of a desert or not.”
He points out the big differences between the two countries: in Australia the average house price is $2,000 less than in China.
And in the last decade, China’s average household income has been almost double the US’s.
What can you do to cut back on your consumption?
Schloss points to two things.
First, it makes sense to shop more.
“People tend to buy a lot of products that are made in China,” he suggests.
And he says it’s important to do your research.
“Research is key.
You should read the product labels and look for the words ‘natural’, ‘eco-