- WISH LIST
Learn how GreenWood entrepreneurs are earning a livelihood and preserving forests. See more videos of our work.
GreenWood Deploys Practical Technology to Solving Today's Urgent Problems
GreenWood employs technology appropriate to all the resources in a host community: natural, material and human. Natural resources include tree and plant populations and the related forest ecology; material resources involve the access to tools and machinery, hardware and glues, electricity, investment capital and markets; and human resources are reflected in the training, experience and craft heritage of local artisans.
The GreenWood program was launched in several forest communities on the North Coast of Honduras, where it began training artisans in the ancient hand-tool technologies embodied in Appalachian-style furniture. These techniques of wet/dry joinery are easily and cheaply adapted to a small-scale, cottage-industry production environment. To produce GreenWood furniture, for example, an individual artisan can purchase a complete set of tools for about $100, and workshops are typically installed at home, where the whole family can participate.
Whereas conventional machine-tool technology encourages debt and the centralization of manufacturing, simple hand-tool technology fosters independence and flexibility of production. Minimal additional investment is necessary for the establishment of a productive workshop. Whereas machinery often leads to a reliance on a handful of heavily exploited commercial wood species—the kiln-dried timber that is already in the marketplace—GreenWood technology lends itself to experimentation with smaller trees and lesser-known wood species.
Over time, our program has expanded to encompass other woodworking trades, such as boatbuilding, woodturning and the production of a wide range of high-quality furniture and guitar parts. This diversity suggests that GreenWood principles can be effectively applied to the manufacture of many different wood products and can be readily adapted to virtually any enterprise that involves the use of wood or nontimber forest products, such as vines or tree bark.
What Is Appropriate Technology?
Technology does not follow a linear progression—from crude hand tools to sophisticated machinery. In fact, much hand work is exceedingly sophisticated, whereas machine production is often quite crude. A solid grounding in the use of hand tools almost always provides the best foundation for an understanding and mastery of wood as an organic material and its transformation into a high-value product.
In some communities our work still relies on the simple hand-tool technology used in our original furniture. In other places, GreenWood production also incorporates gas- or diesel-powered bandsaw mills or electricity. The key to appropriate technology is not whether it employs motors to power machinery—sometimes it does, often it does not. The key is to establish the best possible balance between producing high-quality woodwork, earning a good living and preserving a natural forest environment. Appropriate technology is simply the tool (or tools) we use to get there, and it will have many different faces. For GreenWood, all of these factors combine to foster independence and sustainability—for the artisans we train, the communities they inhabit and the forests on which they both depend.
Read more about the early foundations of GreenWood:
Old-World Craft, Third-World Development: Appropriate Technology in the Tropics
by Scott Landis