<p>Photo: Spruce forest damaged by acid rain, Poland</p>

A virtual tree-graveyard of Norway spruce trees in Poland bears the scars of acid rain. Caused when rain droplets absorb air pollution like sulfur and nitrogen oxides, acid rain weakens trees by dissolving nutrients in the soil before plants can use them.

Photograph by David Woodfall/Getty Images

By Danielle Masterson

Republished from the pages of The Green Guide

"Recycled" and "reclaimed" are the new buzzwords in eco-friendly wooden gifts. Not only does reusing wood keep perfectly good materials out of landfills, it preserves endangered old-growth forests.

But certifications for responsibly gathered, recycled, and reclaimed wood are scarce, especially among decorative wood products. Currently, most certified companies, monitored by the Rainforest Alliance's Rediscovered Wood program, supply large construction and furniture businesses. Small businesses and artisans who can't afford certification usually find wood themselves from nearby forest floors and scrap piles.

Ryan Temple, director of the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities Partnership, says that recycled wood has an unusual appearance, which thwarts counterfeiters: "Reclaimed wood has a certain look to it—black spots where nails have been, grain characteristics in the wood. It's a difficult thing to imitate," he says. Still, to ensure that the wood hasn't come from older construction that utilized harmful resins or lead-based paints, it's best to buy from small artisans who have gathered the reclaimed wood themselves and can give you detailed information about its source and any work done to remove finishes.


  • Touch Wood Rings are handmade from wood scraps and naturally blown-down or bug-killed trees.
  • Uncommon Goods' Heart of the Forest Deep Forest serving block uses Scientific Certification Systems-certified reclaimed oak from the Great Lakes.
  • VivaTerra's Root of the Earth chip and dip server and medium bowl are carved from reclaimed Chinese fir tree root balls.
  • The Classic wooden toy tree house from Tree Blocks is made from reclaimed fruit and nut trees taken from end-of-productive-cycle.
  • If you prefer non-recycled wood, the Rosscarbery breadboard by Shackleton Thomas can be made with SmartWood-certified, virgin cherry.
  • Vivavi's square daisy clock is made from renewable bamboo.
  • The fairly traded Cinnamon Bark tea box made by women in Vietnam features the bark of plantation-grown cinnamon trees. Proceeds help street children attend school.


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