Finland is rich in forests that cover in all 86% of the country’s area. Wood has been one of its most important natural resources that was utilized in industry since the late 19th century. However, there is a large diversity of plants and species in the forest ecosystem. Europe’s largest area of protected forests helps Finland to secure the number of endangered species in its forests. In addition, forest owners in Finland need to plant a new forest after harvesting trees in their forest. Unlike most other parts of the world, Finnish forests are under certification. In total, 95% of its forests also meet the international certification. This ensures that the wooden material comes from forests that are used and managed sustainably.
Green Gold – The Renewable Resource
Our current way of life consumes more and more the Earth’s limited natural resources every day. The nature is also constantly overloaded with the impurities caused by our actions. Demands for more sustainable way of life and increased use of renewable and environmentally-friendly, ecological materials are strenthening. Forests are one of the Earth’s most important renewable resources. Reserves of this green gold are constantly increasing in Finland, more than what is annually consumed. Wood has been one of the most important raw materials in Finland’s cultural history. For centuries, it has been used in many different ways both in homes and industrial production. No wonder 3 of the selected 7 World Heritage sites in Finland selected by Unesco are related to the country’s wood culture.
Finns Love Their Forests
Forests are the Mother Earth’s lungs by contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. Green pines and spruces purify the air throughout the year and provide outdoor people with fresh and clean air. Wandering in forests is found to contribute to people’s physical and mental well-being. Stillness together with diverse scents and colors offers a profoundly relaxing experience that calms the body and mind. Forests are an important part of Finnish nature and the nature of Finns. Finns love their forests. They can hear trees whispering in the nearby forest and enjoy birds’ early morning concerts in summer. Traces of a hare, a fox or even a moose show up in the white snow of winter days. In the late summer, people can hike in the forests and pick a variety of tasty wild berries and mushrooms.
The Secrets of Wood
As a renewable resource, wood has valuable multi-function properties and new usages are being developed especially in bioscience and chemistry. Wood interests researchers seeking new solutions for energy production. Other scientists are developing new wood-based materials for replacing plastic packaging. Wooden material is organic and versatile: it is a good insulator; it smells good; and it feels comfortable both in hot and cold conditions. People do not complain about volatile scents of a spruce, nor does a wooden house cause allergies. Wood has a patterned surface that is unique for each tree and piece of wood. Compared to its weight, wood is a hard material that yet is easy to work with. It always returns to the natural cycles of our environment. Furthermore, processing wood products requires less energy than usage of other conventional materials.
The Antibacterial Properties of Wood
Wood was also a key element of Finnish culture in the 19th century. Peasants’ crofts were made of wood and they all had a planked wooden floor. There were tools in the hut for woodwork as the peasants often made their dishes and furniture themselves. Wooden spoon was the most common cutlery at those times. Each family member had his/her own carved spoon that after eating was licked and hung on the wall to wait for the next meal. We may question the hygiene of such a habit. However, ability to stop bacteria from breeding and to kill off the germs is one of the most astonishing properties of wood. The latest study shows that bacteria die particularly on the coniferous surface. This is due to both the extracts and the fragrance of those trees containing volatile organic compounds that are harmful to bacteria but not to humans. For example, wood cutting boards are more hygienic than cutting boards made of plastic. Likewise, the harmful bacteria that survive on the glass surface gradually die on the wood surface. The extracts of coniferous trees seem quite effective even against strong hospital bacteria. We do not know all the amazing properties of trees and wood yet but this green resource seems fundamental to our lives and well-being.
Further information about the antibacterial properties of wood can be found here:
T. Vainio-Kaila. 2017. Antibacterial properties of Scots pine and Norway spruce
(Männyn ja kuusen antibakteeriset ominaisuudet).
Aalto University publication series Doctoral Dissertations, 179/2017.
D.O. Cliver. (1999). Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards.