How Sustainable Is Mango Wood? Here Are the Facts

How Sustainable Is Mango Wood? Here Are the Facts

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Quynh Nguyen

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Mango wood comes from the same tree as the much-loved mango fruit. It is hard yet flexible and very beautiful. Because mango plantations tend to harvest the tree for lumber only when the fruiting finishes or slows down significantly, mango timber is considered a more sustainable option than other counterparts from tropical regions. Still, we had to ask: How sustainable is mango wood?

Mango wood is sustainable because mango trees capture carbon from the atmosphere, while mango furniture works as long-lasting carbon storage. The large growing stock of mango trees means the wood is readily available as a by-product to mango fruit, thus, being highly sustainable. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of mango wood used for furniture and other household items. Then, we evaluate its sustainability, potentials, and shortfalls. And in the end, we’ll show you tips for buying sustainable mango wood. 

Here’s How Sustainable Mango Wood Is

Mango is an affordable hardwood that is easy to cut and shaped into furniture and household items. It looks great and ages gracefully. Because mango wood is a by-product harvested after the tree has finished fruiting, it is a very eco-friendly timber option.

Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

To understand the sustainability of mango wood, we assess the life-cycle of furniture and household items. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of each stage in a product’s life cycle, from the making to the recycling. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. 

In this article, we’ll use the cradle-to-grave perspective of the LCA, examining the five stages of the life-cycle of furniture made with mango wood.

The life-cycle stages of mango woodEach stage’s sustainability
Growing of mango woodGrowing mango trees is sustainable because of the potential for carbon sequestration (i.e., capturing and storing carbon) and because two products, fruit and timber, are harvested from the same tree. 
Manufacturing of mango woodTurning mango wood into furniture has a relatively low carbon footprint because the wood doesn’t require extensive processing, seasoning, and drying, and wood waste can be recycled fully as by-products or biomass pellets to offset the carbon emissions during harvesting and processing. 
Transporting of mango woodTransporting is a relatively carbon-intensive stage in the life cycle of mango furniture due to the long distances from its source and emissions associated with operating the hauling vehicles that take timber to sawmills and factories, then furniture to stores. As most mango wood comes from India, transporting mango wood furniture would typically have a higher carbon footprint than transporting furniture made with regionally available wood.
Usage of mango woodUsing mango furniture can be sustainable thanks to the carbon capture during the products’ long life. 
End-of-life of mango woodThe end-of-life stage for mango furniture is sustainable when the wood is reused or burned as bioenergy. 

Overall, mango wood is sustainable. However, the actual environmental impact of a particular product, like a table or a bowl, depends on many factors, especially the distance and mode of transportation. Let’s dive deeper into each stage and find out how it can be more sustainable. 

How Sustainable Is the Growing Mango Wood

Growing mango trees is sustainable because of the potential for carbon sequestration (i.e., capturing and storing carbon) and because two products (fruit and timber) are harvested from the same tree. 

What Type of Wood is Mango and What Does This Mean for Sustainability

Mango trees are fast-growing tropical hardwood trees. A mango tree would typically reach maturity around 15 years, much faster than hardwood trees like oak or ash or even the tropical ipe or teak. A planted teak tree, for example, often reaches maturity in 60 years and a wild teak tree after 80 years. 

How Sustainable Is the Growing Mango Wood

Mango timber’s sustainability lies in the potential for carbon sequestration, its large growing stock, and the double benefit of land used for growing mango trees.  

  • Carbon sequestration: As mango trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while releasing oxygen. During their lifespan, they act as a carbon sink. This means that they are taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the climate crisis. And they can store a lot, growing as tall as 100 feet with a trunk of 4 feet in diameter.
  • Large growing stock: Mango plantations are widespread in many parts of the world, including South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central America, South American, and Australia. It means mango wood is much more available than wood from endangered tree species like teak or mahogany
  • Land use: Using land to grow mango trees creates two economically beneficial products: mango fruit and mango wood. Fundamentally, mango wood is the by-product of the thriving mango fruit industry. Once mango trees become less fruitful (at around 15 years of age), they can be cut down for timber. It means harvesting mango wood doesn’t affect the harvest of the fruit. This fact, together with the relatively short growing time, contributes to mango wood’s sustainability. 

Where Is Mango Wood Usually Grown

Mango trees are native to South and Southeast Asia but have been cultivated in tropical regions all around the globe, including US states like Florida and Hawaii. 

Mango trees are found in family backyards, small farms, in single-crop plantations, as well as as a part of many agroforestry (land management) systems. These land-management systems incorporate different crops and/or animals and generally have more environmental benefits than a monocropping mango plantation, providing more sustainable fruit and wood. For example, one study for West Bengal, India, showed that a mango-based agroforestry system is more sustainable than mono-cropping systems. 

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Mango Wood

Turning mango wood into furniture has a relatively low carbon footprint because the wood doesn’t require extensive processing, seasoning, and drying, and wood waste can be recycled fully as by-products or biomass pellets to offset the carbon emissions during harvesting and processing. 

The first step of manufacturing mango furniture involves cutting down trees and turning them into lumber in a sawmill. The carbon emissions here come from electricity usage

The next step is to dry lumber before turning it into furniture. It takes about a week to kiln dry mango wood. A high proportion of energy can come from burning wood waste. At least 90% of all thermal energy used for kiln drying in the US hardwood sector is derived from biomass.

Mango wood is very easy to work with, meaning there is no need for heavy machines (and fuel to run them) while turning the wood into furniture. This fact also contributes to mango wood being a sustainable material. 

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Mango Wood

Transporting is a relatively carbon-intensive stage in the life cycle of mango furniture due to the long distances from its source and emissions associated with operating the hauling vehicles that take timber to sawmills and factories, then furniture to stores.

As most mango wood comes from India, transporting mango wood furniture would typically have a higher carbon footprint than transporting furniture made with regionally available wood, like maple or oak. However, as mango trees are grown in many regions, you can opt for mango wood sourced closer to home to reduce the carbon footprint. 

The actual emission during the transporting stage depends on the type of vehicles used, the fuel they need, and the distance the wood travels. Calculations made by the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute showed that smaller wood hauling trucks emitted more CO2 per transported cubic meters of timber: 1.25 times more than larger wood hauling trucks, 1.3 times more than sea vessels, and six times more than freight trains. Therefore, the sustainable transportation option would be rail or large trucks running on biofuel. You can check with your wood suppliers how their products are transported to and within the US and opt for the more sustainable option. 

How Sustainable Is the Usage of Mango Wood

Using mango furniture can be sustainable thanks to the carbon capture during the products’ long life. 

Mango has similar levels of durability to other hardwoods such as ash and oak. It is water-resistant but susceptible to both fungal and insect attacks. With the right maintenance, a piece of mango furniture can last for decades

When wood is decayed, either naturally in the forest or because of damage caused by usage at home, the carbon stored in the wood is released back to the atmosphere. Therefore, long-lasting furniture can be considered a good way of keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. If the wood is reclaimed for making another piece of furniture, its positive carbon storage environmental impact is even higher. 

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Mango Wood

The end-of-life stage for mango furniture is sustainable when the wood is reused or burned as bioenergy. 

There are a few scenarios for wood products – furniture and household items – at the end of their life. 

They can end up in landfills and don’t decompose. In this case, they’d keep their role as carbon storage. 

Wood products can also be upcycled and reused, extending their role as carbon storage and reducing the fossil CO2 emitted as much as four times when comparing, for example, a recovered hardwood flooring with a new one. Mango wood is incredibly flexible to staining, painting, and repainting – making it a perfect candidate for upcycling

New wood products often travel much further to their markets compared with recovered wood products. The latter is typically made in urban centers and sold locally, which lowers the transportation environmental burdens. 

In another end-of-life scenario, products like a mango table can be burned for biomass energy displacing coal or natural gas in generating electricity. 

With smaller household items, like a bowl or a chopping board, the offset won’t be as high as there is much less waste for burning. However, if such products are made from manufacturing wood waste as by-products, their carbon footprint is minimal. 

How Can You Buy Mango Wood More Sustainably

The key to sustainably buying any wood is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. Reliable certifications for sustainable woods are: 

An FSC certification ensures that the mango wood comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.

PEFC’s approaches to sustainable forest management align with protecting the forests globally and locally and making the certificate work for everyone. Getting a PEFC certification is strict enough to ensure the sustainable management of a forest is socially just, ecologically sound, and economically viable but attainable not only by big but small forest owners. 

Why Is It Important to Buy More Sustainable Wood

Buying sustainable wood also means helping to prevent illegal or unsustainable logging, which harms the forests’ biosystems and accelerates climate change. 

Logging of forestry products from plantations accounts for 26% of forest loss. Cutting down trees for wood has a lesser impact on carbon storage than digging up the whole forest floor and turning it into farms or mines. However, if logging is not sustainably managed, it can badly damage wildlife.

When logging happens in tropical forests – the bio hotspots of our planet – the biodiversity loss can be much more damaging. Subtropical and tropical forests are packed with unique wildlife – endemic mammals, birds, and amphibians. The displacement of such wildlife during poorly managed logging would be a major contributor to global biodiversity loss. 

Sustainable management of forests also means that trees are cut down for timber only when they are mature. These trees will then be able to regrow and eventually replace the loss of canopy, absorb carbon from the atmosphere and reduce the effect of climate change. 

Illustration of drivers of tropical forest degradation
Our World in Data: Drivers of tropical forest degradation

Final Thoughts

You can buy sustainable furniture made from mango wood as long as the material comes from verified sources that follow sustainable management practices. Opt for the wood that travels the shortest distance using the greenest mode of transportation. And, to make it even more sustainable, use any mango furniture for as long as you can, upcycle the material to extend its usage, and arrange for it to be recycled fully. 

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