How sustainable are we?
In the text below we described what we do that we believe contributes to a cleaner environment and more sustainable resource use. We give you a chance to grade our business on a 1-5 sustainability scale. We also invite you to contact us and provide suggestions as to how we and others could contribute to further reduce our negative and enhance our positive environmental footprint..
It is hard to think of more overexploited or even more abused words these days then the following ones: green, sustainable, and organic. The use of these words in business indicates consciousness change of a global consumer. Given the gloominess of climate change and unsustainable resource use reports, one should, perhaps, be nothing but content with the new collective consciousness. However, as you well know, in a world of plenty but imperfect information, consciousness and paradigm shifts will inevitably be exploited by clever businessmen to draw demand for their products.
There is nothing bad about doing that per se, as many companies have, indeed, been able to develop products and adopt business processes, which help reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to resource sustainability in other ways, creating a win for all; but unlike all dollars, all businesses wearing the “green” label are not green.
Forest Resource Use
We buy walnut and cherry logs from private orchards throughout Bosnia. These are trunks of old trees, which are cut when their productive life of fruit bearing is over and need to be replaced by new ones. We buy them directly from villagers, often in very small quantities, whenever it is offered to us. Not having to deal with middlemen reduces transaction costs to our suppliers and results in better deals for them. This sourcing model increases our transaction and inventory costs, but we get somewhat better deals and are the first buyer to whom local villagers offer their best logs.
Other hardwoods (i.e. maple, oak, elm, and ash) we source from public forestry companies, the management of which has vastly improved in recent years. The forest certification process has started and several forests are FSC certified. There is also concrete evidence that forests are exploited sustainably. A recent forestry inventory (financed and supported by the World Bank) has shown that Bosnia’s forest volume has increased significantly since the last inventory was conducted in 1960s. In fact, the study indicated that Bosnia, ostensibly, has more trees per capita than any country in Europe or Central Asia.
Furthermore, we have launched a legislative initiative, which prevented unsustainable exploitation and exports of cherry and walnut logs in years immediately after the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. In the aftermath of war, when the local economy was still in shatters and refugees had no access to their land, illegal logging became a lucrative business for unscrupulous profiteers. We lobbied for a ban to be introduced on export of unprocessed logs and lumber and with the support of the international community present in Bosnia we succeeded in our efforts. If the process of log theft and illegal exports continued, Bosnia today, perhaps, would not have enough walnut trees to produce baklava, let alone to export hand-carved designer furniture. Fortunately, that is not the case.
At the production plant
There are three sustainability objectives that we have set for our production process: 1) to optimize the use of energy, 2) to eliminate all substances harmful to humans or environment, and 3) to optimize material use and maximize the useful product life cycle.
With respect to the first objective, we generate 100 percent of our heating energy by burning sawdust and tiny wood particles. The same combustion process provides 100 percent of the energy needs for steam wats and dry kilns, wherein we steam and dry our lumber. Finally, air conditioning is not employed to cool Rukotvorine production plant. The same ventilator system that takes the sawdust out creates sufficient air circulation to cool a well-insulated plant, enough to provide a comfortable work environment. Finally, we have started preparations to implement an energy efficiency project, supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to further improve our energy efficiency by optimizing the utilization of electrical equipment to minimize the use of peak load energy, as well as to minimize machine empty running time.
Furthermore, no harmful substances are used in our production process. We apply only tested glues, which are safe for both humans and the environment. Most of our products are finished in natural oil and wax and, if we do use lacquers, they are mostly water based. On a small number of traditional products, we apply a solvent based lacquer (as it is the most effective in closing open pores of carved surfaces), but a system of ventilators and a circulating water curtain prevent the release of lacquer and solvents into the air.
Natural hardwood is the core and often the only material of which our products are made. The wood is a gift of nature with the warmness, colors, and patterns that make it more appealing than, perhaps, any other material. If used rationally, we will perpetually be able to enjoy the beauty of wood in nature, rely on its ability to produce life-supporting oxygen and we will also be able to enjoy the products made of wood. These principles define the bounds of product design for Rukotvorine. More wood is never used in a product than is necessary to achieve its functional and aesthetic requirements. Through the application of design and hand-carving, the value of the products becomes a multiple of the value of materials used. In the process, we create jobs and facilitate the development of skills.
Finally, the length of a product’s life cycle is a huge determinant of its environmental impact. Some chairs will last a couple of years and they will be replaced with new ones, the production of which requires, perhaps, the same amount of natural resources; then again natural resources are required to package them and transport to customers. If you buy a piece of furniture from us and if historical data tell us anything, it will most likely be inherited by your children, and quite likely even your grandchildren. If your grandchildren for some reason are not interested in furniture bought by their grandparents, an heir to current Rukotvorine owners will buy these products from them, as we have done, and sell them with no or minimum repairs to connoisseurs of heirloom furniture. Our furniture is multi-generational.
In Our Lives and Community
Outside of Rukotvorine we are consumers, like people who buy our furniture, spending earnings and time on various activities with different environmental impact. It would be horrible if we were to spend the earnings of customers who care about environment on activities which offset the positive impact of whatever we do at Rukotvorine. We believe that we don’t do that. We love nature and we live with nature. We spend much of free time at our weekend home by the Neretva river, where we grow most of our food without any pesticides or artificial fertilizers. We love to fish, but we have also worked hard to protect the native fish (in particular endemic soft-lip trout) in Neretva. We were behind the first catch and release fishing resort on Neretva (see flyfishingneretva.com) The owners of Rukotvorine have all taken part in activism aimed at stopping pseudo-legal construction of hydro power plants on Neretva, which would have had a severe impact on local ecosystems.