The use of ipe lumber has been a hot topic for a number of years, with the constant question of “is it a sustainable product or isn’t it” never really being answered. There are arguments for both cases but in our opinion the arguments that prove ipe lumber is not sustainable outweigh the arguments that say it is. That’s why we at Classic Displays have decided to no longer manufacture any of our benches in ipe.
For as long as we have sold site furniture we have offered our benches in ipe because it’s a great option for outdoor use. It resists decay, and is an extremely hard, dense wood that can last at least 25 years without being stained. It’s so sturdy it’s used in a number of boardwalks across North America; its ability to handle foot traffic and elements is incomparable.
Sounds great right? Here’s the problem, ipe comes from an extremely slow growing tree, we’re talking 0.5 – 0.7 cm of growth in diameter at breast height per year (a white ash tree grows 1.1 cm in diameter at breast height per year) and usually comes from rain forests in Brazil and Peru. The trees require specific lighting conditions and appear at low densities making them harder to find than you might think.
As ipe continues to grow in popularity you can imagine it’s only getting harder to find, which in turn makes it the product of illegal logging. To help protect the rain forest and the species that live and grow in it, there are a variety of logging and harvesting regulations in place. The amount of paper work required for a logging company to be licensed is making it hard for the illegal loggers to keep up, but with the amount of players in the logging industry enough of them are still managing to get around the regulations which makes it hard to know if the ipe lumber you’re receiving is actually certified sustainable.
At Classic Displays we take pride in the variety of sustainable products we manufacture and offering the option of ipe no longer fits into our commitment to sustainability. All of our benches are available in 100% recycled plastic lumber and for a number of years that has been the majority of what we sell. Not only is it a sustainable product but it’s a reliable one as well. With a standard 25 year limited warranty against rotting, warping, splitting and cracking, recycled plastic lumber can easily withstand the elements that Mother Nature throws its way just as well as ipe can if not better; it’s also easy to clean and virtually maintenance free.
As the demand for sustainability in our market grows and becomes a bigger part of our product line, we hope all of our current and future customers will continue to make informed decisions when choosing enhancement products to meet their needs.
To read more about the problems facing ipe check out A Trail of Stumps from Landscaping Architecture Magazine.