Creating a new pathway for family forest owners to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points is some of the best news for forests that I’ve heard in a long, long time. The U.S. Green Building Council should be congratulated for recognizing forests certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) standards.
It may seem odd for a rock ‘n roll piano player to be picking up this cause. Let me explain: Back in the mid-1980s when I was between Rolling Stones tours, my wife, Rose Lane, and I began to actively manage our family forest that we inherited from her grandparents. Through the now 2,900 acre Charlane Plantation, we are carrying on the tradition of good stewardship that her family started many generations ago.
I’m proud of the progress family forest owners like Rose Lane and I have made on the sustainability front. Many of us are committed to managing our forests in ways that support core LEED principles. Managing working family forests in a sustainable way delivers benefits we can all cherish: cleaner air, safer drinking water, greater biodiversity, and opportunities for recreation. Forests are also a critical resource in the fight against climate change. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, they sequester and store carbon, reducing greenhouse gases, improving air quality and reducing the construction sector’s contribution to global climate change.
As the green building market grows, it will have a positive influence on working forests run by families like mine. Family forest owners provide about 60% of all forest fiber for products we enjoy every day, like lumber and paper. I’m sure the LEED decision will motivate more family forest owners to pursue certification to SFI and ATFS so they can be part of the emerging green building sector. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, which manages LEED, green construction will contribute $303.5 billion to U.S. GDP from 2015 to 2018.
Motivating family forest owners to see value in their forests is good news for all of us. Wood’s inherent properties — as a sustainable, natural and renewable resource — make it an excellent environmental choice for any new construction or renovation, provided it comes from a responsible source. These responsible sources include the 25 million acres of Georgia forests that are sustainably managed every day, largely by private landowners and family forest owners. I’m excited that this LEED change provides forest owners with an economic incentive to take care of their forests today – and for years to come.
Chuck Leavell is the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and the co-founder of the Mother Nature Network. He is also the author of several books including his most recent, Growing a Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable.
Watch Chuck’s message of congratulation to SFI and ATFS for LEED recognition.