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  • BluePlanetLover

    This reminds me of the folks who salvage ancient logs on the bottom of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, lost from 17th-19th century logging efforts. Huge old growth trees, massive things. Brought to the surface the wood is discovered to be of such excellent quality that one of the salvagers' markets is makers of fine musical instruments. I believe several companies now salvage underwater logs in many places, for flooring and table tops as well.

    At least with fine musical instruments, that take hundreds of hours to make, one expects to pay a high price in the first place. So using exquisite rare wood makes sense because it's not *just* a piece of furniture. Violins and mandolins do not go out of style.

    But another more important difference between the Great Lakes salvage operation and this one is the carbon footprint. I think carbon footprint should always be included in discussions of "sustainability" because we cannot continue beating up life support system planet earth no matter how proud we may be about our hybrid cars, solar panels and wind farms (and reused lumber).

    The people in this article used monumental quantities of fossil fuel to get to their distant location, and to salvage and bring back these (very pricey, I'm sure) finished products for sale to likewise distant well-heeled markets so that some wealthy person on the other side of the globe can feel proud of themselves for buying "sustainable" furniture.

    But it's not sustainable. Romantic perhaps, and a lovely story (though I'll wager the locals would have appreciated the firewood at least as much)--but certainly not carbon-neutral by any stretch.

    I'd be more excited about a truly sustainable business that used as their raw stock LOCALLY SOURCED ginormous solid wood full-wall entertainment system monstrosities that have gone obsolete now that we have flatscreens and wireless. Rescue those hideous pieces nobody wants any more by cutting them up and reusing parts to make smaller furniture pieces that make more sense in today's lifestyles.

    I'll grant you my idea is not as romantic and probably wouldn't make it onto these pages, but traveling halfway around the globe on a surf vacation that you write off as "business expense" to further your "sustainable furniture company" is poppycock.

    • Daniel Husserl

      @blueplanetlover: You are obviously thoughtful, and I appreciate you reading my article. However, I believe that in your passion to explain your point, you made some assumptions that were simply incorrect.

      - You make an interesting point about carbon, and it is one that in my 10 years as a sustainability strategy consultant, I've researched extensively. When considering carbon, we must talk full life cycle. Taking wood from the bottom of a lake is incredibly disruptive to the lake bed habitat. The Great Lakes also harbor a significant amount of pollution in their lake beds, which is re-introduced to fish and swimmers when the lake bed is disturbed. Additionally, the fossil fuels required to run the tree dredging operation alone (forget the drying kilns and cutting machinery) far outweigh the hand tools we use to disassemble disused boats.

      At your suggestion, if my Brooklyn based company bought submerged wood from the Great Lakes, we would need it delivered to Brooklyn. A truck would use about 54 gallons of fuel at 15mpg (808 mile round trip) to delivery perhaps two full logs to my shop (enough for about 50 pieces of furniture). By comparison, the Emma Mearsk container ship would use about 400,000 gallons of fuel to bring 11,000 containers of product from Indonesia to New York, which breaks down to only 36.4 gallons of fuel per 40' container full of over 250 pieces of furniture. With this in mind, I challenge your assumption that "local" is unquestionably better.

      Finally, our workshop in Indonesia uses no air conditioning, no heating and almost no lighting, and is nestled into a treed landscape. Natural ventilation takes place due to open louvers near the roof space, creating a temperate climate zone in a tropical environment. Regarding lighting, the day starts after the sun rises and ends before the sun sets. It is an impressively sustainable operation by design.

      - Regarding your point on local production, I feel lucky to be able to say that Aellon is now a global company. I sell to customers around the world. So, even if my products were local to your house, they would not be local to a customer in Argentina or Spain.

      - I’m glad to hear you know about violin design. I play both the violin and mandolin and appreciate their craftsmanship as much as you, I'm sure. However, it is awfully difficult to have a dinner party on a violin. I also play guitar. And while they are just as beautiful (and slightly bigger, so easier to eat off of), they are also part of the reason why Brazilian Rosewood is nearly extinct.

      - Your statement about "the locals appreciating the firewood just as much" is unnecessarily snarky. My business partner and Australian friend spent a long time speaking with the ship's captain and the village chief before we made the decision to purchase the boat. You should be more careful about falling into the unhelpful role of "eco-snob" when making comments. Please ask before assuming.

      In conclusion, I strongly believe that if one’s underlying intention is to do good in the world, that the net effect is positive across the board. If more people would take that initiative in business and life (and when writing messages on articles), the world may be a much more thoughtful, happy place.

      Best wishes,

  • dtkeyx

    This is interesting, but it's a little too much of an advertisement. I am finding that more and more with Good articles, folks are writing about what they are doing, not about general trends and news. It would be nice to see some more journalism and less journaling.

  • Mali Phelps

    Beautiful! Considering the origin of the wood that the decks were made of, which was ultimately the source of product for the tables, wouldn't that make the furniture a bit expensive and/or unattainable?