Our Environmental Commitment
At University Loft, we've made a conscious and strategic decision to do what we can to help preserve our environment. We feel certain that if we do not protect the environment, we will have nothing for future generations to inherit. And as a manufacturer, we know that we must guard our natural resources even as we maximize our production capabilities. With this in mind, ULC uses environmentally farmed timbers in our furniture production so we do not contribute to deforestation.
Why is this important? Worldwide, more than 3/4 of the planet's original primary forests have already been destroyed or degraded. Still, irresponsible transnational corporations continue to engage in destructive logging for wood and paper production. The result? Each year tropical rainforests alone are reduced at a rate equivalent to an area the combined size of the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Worldwide, forests are under attack due to harvesting practices widely used by logging industries. Deforestation and the destruction of the environment has become an enormous problem. That's why, in 1998 with Executive Order 13-101, President Clinton mandated that Federal agencies use any resources available to them to "green" the government. At University Loft Company, we recognize the urgency of this issue and support environmentally responsible efforts at all levels.
The Many Advantages of University Loft's Environmentally Farmed Timber
At ULC, we know that our customers expect only the best from us. That's why – in support of our environmental commitment – we use Hevea Brasiliensis (HB), an eco-friendly species of tree we refer to as Environmentally Farmed Timber, or EFT. Classified as a hardwood, HB has been proven stronger than Northern Red Oak in independent lab testing.
Another benefit of HB is that when finished, it looks virtually identical to natural oak. With mostly straight grain with few concentric markings, it's an attractive and durable solid wood furniture material.
HB is also the environmentally responsible choice. During its growth cycle, HB produces a natural form of latex that is tapped from its trunk to be used in the production of rubber. Hevea Brasiliensis produces latex for 20 years, after which it is cut down for timber use. Since the late 1800’s, HB trees have been farmed, grown for their rubber and then harvested for timber.
Hardwood Hevea Brasiliensis Proven Stronger Than Oak in Lab Test
Northern Red Oak is often considered the standard for strength and durability in furniture production. But at University Loft, we've found an alternative that's been proven stronger than oak in independent laboratory testing.
In one such test, the "screw pull" test, HB broke at 160 lbs. of pressure while Northern Red Oak snapped under 140 lbs. of pressure. This test and others have shown time and again that HB is a superior material for furniture manufacturing.
Better Hardwood and Superior Construction Win the Strength Test at Federal Testing Laboratories
At the request of Southern Illinois University to determine the quality of Hevea Brasiliensis, University Loft Company compared a complete range of our case goods against a national competitor during independent testing at Federal Testing Laboratories. In these tests, the products endured repeated cycles of pressure at a certain weight.
As shown in the test result diagrams in Figure 1, one such test involved ULC’s 3-drawer chest, constructed with HB. The ULC chest endured 204 cycles at 350 lbs. before structural integrity was compromised. Our competitor's product, made from Northern Red Oak, failed after 341 cycles of only 250 lbs. This test, among others, proved that HB is stronger than Northern Red Oak (and ideal for furniture manufacturing), and that ULC uses superior construction methods to complement the native strength of the HB hardwood.
Hevea Brasiliensis is Environmentally Farmed Timber
University Loft Company purchases our HB from farms certified by The Malaysian Timber Council and from the SCS Forest Management Program endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council which ensures farm quality, land management, and work practices. Our staff in Malaysia regularly visits these farms and saw mills to guarantee that our strict quality standards continue to be upheld.
Hevea Brasiliensis is a managed crop. It is laid out in sectors and harvested on a 20-year plan. When HB trees are 3 to 4 years old, they are tapped for latex. This latex is used to produce tires, surgical gloves, and other rubber products. In the past, HB trees that had exhausted their latex supply were burned or left to rot. In time, however, it was discovered that HB dried to a hardwood suitable for furniture production. With virtually no timber waste after years of productive latex tapping, HB is indeed an eco-friendly Environmentally Farmed Timber.
HB Trees Have the 3-to-1 Environmental Advantage Over Oak
HB trees take 20 years to grow to harvestable maturity. Oak trees take 60 years. In other words, 3 Hevea Brasiliensis trees can be grown and harvested in the time it take for one oak tree to be ready to be milled. This 3-to-1 HB advantage demonstrates the sustainability of this natural resource.
Although many logging companies have begun using responsible forestry management practices, this typically only includes planting additional oak seedlings for every full-grown tree cut down. This is a good start as a hedge against deforestation, but it will still take at least 60 years for each of these trees to reach a harvestable diameter. In that same time frame, 3 full-size HB trees can be harvested for furniture production by University Loft. Because of this, we believe our use of this Environmentally Farmed Timber is the eco-responsible way to supply our furniture production without depleting the world’s forests.
HB Treatment Classified as Safe by the EPA
Hevea Brasiliensis is kiln dried. This process subjects the wood to temperatures that kill any insect that might be in the wood. That means that a smaller amount of chemical treatment is necessary. While almost all wood must be treated during the drying process, HB is treated with a compound of Boric acid and Borax. This guards against infestation after drying. Because our HB is pressure treated rather than dipped, the process also ensures absorption at the cellular level as opposed to surface-only absorption. Another advantage of this treatment is that it actually helps make the wood harder, contributing to its greater-than-oak strength.
In addition to being ideal for furniture production, HB has been proven safe by the United States Environmental Protection Agency; and is approved for use in retail as a base material for bowls, tables, spoons, knives and more.
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University Loft's Green Plan
To maintain commitment and focus in our environmental initiatives, ULC utilizes a Green Plan. A Green Plan is a resource the Greenpeace organization defines as containing long-term environmental strategies that ensure a high quality of life for present and future generations.
A successful Green Plan considers all aspects of the environment and is developed through consultation with major social sectors. It pulls together a society's intellectual, scientific, and economic resources to implement a responsible, workable plan for environmental prosperity. Green plans can be developed for a country, a state, a region, a city, or – as with University Loft Company – an environmentally-responsible company or organization.
Any good Green Plan must be long-term and comprehensive; and it will clarify environmental goals and translate them into specific actions. Green plans consider not only environmental, but also economic conditions.
Under the direction of ULC's President and CEO James Jannetides, University Loft Company was an early adopter of green initiatives. In January 1999, Jannetides drove the company to become a model for all businesses in caring responsibly for the environment, now and for future generations. The ULC plan, encouraged by the establishment of the Governor's Green Government Council, represented the first step of any furniture manufacturing company toward environmental protection.
The true and continuing effect of this initiative is that it changes how businesses purchase products. Working cooperatively, businesses find new ways of sharing "green" knowledge and best practices while involving an ever-increasing number of employees, suppliers and clients. By purchasing furniture of environmentally sound material produced in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner – from an eco-conscious producer like University Loft Company – customers can help support a healthier global environment.
ULC Maintains Workforce Standards and Benefits Around the Globe
At University Loft Company, we import raw material from Malaysia, where, governed by the Malaysian Timber Industry Board, they maintain strict guidelines for safe environmental and labor practices.
Malaysia is an advanced country with a complex economic system. Like the United States, Malaysia has strict labor laws which include a 40-hour work week, an Employee Provident Fund [similar to a 401(k)], and an Insurance Government Fund (similar to Social Security in the U.S.). Malaysian law also regulates the use of child labor similar to U.S. laws.
University Loft Company is committed to its employees and we believe that every employee has rights to fair and ethical treatment. By choosing to position our workforces in places like Malaysia and the United States, we are supporting the world’s economy while doing what we can to help the environment.