Reclaimed materials are a sustainable alternative to other building products. Because reclaimed materials are considered recycled content they meets the Materials and Resources criteria for LEED certification and may also earns points towards a certification with Green Globes and other building rating systems.
Using reclaimed materials keeps trees standing. Every tree not harvested absorbs on average 31.5 pounds of carbon in its lifetime, filters out 48 pounds of carbon dioxide every year and produces enough oxygen to sustain two human beings for life. Greenpeace prefers reclaimed wood, and has called it the most environmentally friendly form of timber production.
The manufacture and transport of new building materials have environmental impacts. For instance, producing 1 cubic meter of wood flooring from virgin wood materials consumes 13 times the energy required to use reclaimed flooring. And manufacturing 1 cubic meter of wood flooring from virgin wood materials creates 470% more fossil CO2 emissions than reclaiming the same amount of wood flooring.*
About 10% of old wood ends up in landfills where it decomposes over time, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. The other 90% is burned, immediately adding to carbon emissions. Reclaiming old wood rather than disposing of it keeps the carbon stored within it out of the atmosphere for many more years to come.
*From a joint study by the Army Corp of engineers, USDA forest products lab, construction engineering research lab.