Thrifty, yes, but is it ‘eco’?

Over the last 9 months, I have written confidently and comically about eco-thrifty renovation and eco-thrifty thinking. But this week I’m not so sure. I’ll try to keep a sense of humour, but this is serious business.
Among many ‘issues’ our villa had when we acquired it, one of the most notable was a large hole in the lounge floor through which – based on the available evidence – an unidentified person entered and exited for the purposes of sleeping and writing dirty words on the walls.

We painted over the dirty words early on, but it was not until Boxing Day of this year – 26 months into the renovation began – that we officially sealed the hole in the floor and installed over it an engineered timber ‘floating floor.’ While we would have preferred restoring the existing native hardwood tongue and groove floor, most of the boards were cupped and some had split due, presumably, to the home being moved from an area with rising damp from the soil to our present location on sand with no rising damp. When timber dries out, it shrinks, leaving gaps. And who wants gaps in their floor letting cold air into the home? OK, maybe certain Queenslanders, Victorians, and New South Welch (?!?) may enjoy a cool breeze at present. But I digress.
Interns, Jessea and Molly, slotting the floor together. 
Our approach to dealing with the lounge floor situation was to install a manufactured wood product floor, ie, sawdust and glue with an image of wood grain on top. Thrifty, yes, but is it ‘eco’?
The wood products industry would have us believe that this is an ‘eco’ product because it is made from ‘waste’ materials and low quality timber that is not straight enough to be milled into dimensional lumber. But is that just spin, or ‘green-washing’ as critics say?
In other words, is labeling this a ‘sustainable’, ‘green’, ‘earth-friendly’ product a forethought or an afterthought? And does it matter? Surely the industry makes this product because it has the technology and materials to do so profitably. Profit, after all, above all else is the legal obligation of a corporation.
Cat tested and approved.  
Don’t get me wrong, I think the floor looks great. It is shiny, and crisp, and square – unlike most of our home. It will both reduce drafts and insulate our feet come winter. It has been cat-tested and approved (see photo), but is yet to bubs tested. (By the way, she rolled over this week for the first time, so I reckon she’ll be crawling soon.)
But what do you reckon? Here are a few questions for readers of this column:
• Are manufactured wood products sustainable products or just a sign that we’ve already cut all the good timber on Earth and are scrambling for scraps?
• Should manufactured wood products we labeled as ‘earth-friendly’?
• When a floor is made of manufactured wood products, does it lack an authenticity of a floor made from actual pieces of wood?
• Is Neil Diamond simply a great singer/song writer, or the greatest singer/song writer of all time?
I would enjoy publishing your thoughtful comments in a future column. Please email me your thoughts to
 Peace, Estwing

2 thoughts on “Thrifty, yes, but is it ‘eco’?”

  1. Wouldn't it be great if these products came with an "embodied energy" figure on the packaging or info sheet. Of course transportation is a variable – it might have to be energy to the factory door.

  2. HI RIchard,I often picture in my mind a small 'price tag' attached to manufactured items that shows the embodied energy involved. In some ways this would be similar to a carbon footprint. See you soon.

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