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July 29, 2005

Green Architect Raphael Sperry Answers Questions

Grist Magazine Grist Magazine

Q:  A furor has come up in New York City that jeopardizes passage of a "green" municipal building law. The issue revolves around Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards and whether Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards should be added to the legislative language. What is the problem with SFI? — Nancy Anderson, New York, NY

A:  One of the biggest differences between Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative is that FSC requires third-party certification while SFI does not, so if a forestry company chooses to lie about its forest practices but sell its wood with an SFI stamp, no one would actually know. Because eco-labeled wood is more valuable, the incentive is there for forest companies to do exactly this; even President Reagan said "trust but verify." Another big problem is that SFI has less stringent standards for protecting overall forest ecosystem health — for instance, clear-cut logging can be allowed under SFI.

But what gets me angriest is that SFI is a program created by the timber industry specifically to compete with the FSC standard in order to muddy the water for consumers and greenwash bad corporate behavior. The folks who drew up SFI could have spent their time working to comply with FSC and protect forests, but instead they chose to intentionally generate disinformation. They are wasting even their own time, and yet they ask us to believe they stand for conservation!

ADPSR awarded our 2005 Lewis Mumford Award for the Environment (Mumford was a famous planner) to Rainforest Action Network for their campaign against SFI.

The latest published draft of LEED version 2.2 seems to have again excluded SFI from counting for LEED points. I'm very happy that the U.S. Green Building Council (publisher of LEED) has taken that stance; I hope this will help to resolve the issue for New York.