Following the National Wood Flooring Association’s promise to deliver a life cycle assessment of hardwood flooring, and leading consumers to believe that this would be a cradle to grave assessment, the NWFA sponsored a report that was not anywhere near what its title implied.
The “Life Cycle Inventory of Solid Strip Hardwood Flooring in the Northeastern United States”, produced by the Consortium for Research for Renewal Industrial Materials (CORRIM), was conducted by a reputable group of scientists at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). It was sponsored by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and published in April 2008.
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As far as the methodology and research design are concerned, the researchers appear to take their subject matter seriously and generate good findings. However, one has to get a way into the study to discover that the term “life cycle” – which is not qualified in the report’s title, and not certainly not transparent in the NWFA’s promotion of the study – is a far cry from the cradle to grave meaning that consumers believe it is.
One learns in a footnote in the 60-page document that it’s about a rather truncated kind of life cycle called a “Gate-to Gate” life cycle. To simplify, what this means is that it measures the environmental impact from “the point at which the hardwood flooring arrives at the mill to the point it is converted and packaged.”
Most notably, if you read far enough, you find the study states: “Impacts associated with growing, harvesting, and transportation of logs is not included.”
Compare that with the following statement in the March 14, 2008 press release by the NWFA:
“The National Wood Flooring Association recently conducted a Life Cycle Analysis of solid hardwood flooring in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin.
“The report analyzes the life cycle of wood flooring, from seedling, through growth, to harvest, to manufacture into lumber and finally, wood flooring.”