Taking the road less traveled toward a better environment: Ensure your musical instrument is created from legally certified timber

The Lacey Act states that it is a 'federal criminal offense to import, sell or hold any product containing wood or plant material that was harvested in violation of any law in its country of origin'. The Act affects all imports of pianos and stringed instruments such as guitars or pianos.

If often seems that a large majority people assume we are going to have unlimited global resources for our children and our children's children. No matter how unimportant it may be to some, it is still our duty to preserve the earth for future generations. You might think twice about throwing a plastic bottle in the garbage or whether or not to drive your car to work, but did you ever think about how your favorite musical instrument came to be? Most instruments are made from wood, and it's our job as environmentally conscious people to question where that wood came from.

In keeping with this mindset, the US Department of Agriculture implemented the federal Lacey Act to assist in staving off deforestation. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is a subset of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the main organization that is executing The Lacey Act. The Lacey Act states that it is a 'federal criminal offense to import, sell or hold any product containing wood or plant material that was harvested in violation of any law in its country of origin'. The Act affects all imports of pianos and stringed instruments such as guitars or pianos. It's a huge wakeup call for those companies, whether in the US or abroad, that create instruments such as guitars, pianos, and drums. If the wood that the instrument is created from is illegally harvested, the construction of that instrument is a crime punishable by law.


With our current level of awareness regarding the impact of deforestation and global warming, it shouldn't have to come down to jail time in order to stop those who are illegally harvesting timber. Why would one choose to purchase illegally harvested wood as opposed to legally certified? It boils down to one word: cost. It's more expensive for companies to purchase wood that has been approved for purchase.


Starting in 2010, companies will be held accountable for their wood purchases. For each wood product that is brought into the country, the company must record the precise name of the wood and anything else used to create the product. In addition, they must state the country that the wood was purchased from. Although the Lacey Act currently controls the imports of pianos and stringed instruments, there is interest in expanding to other pieces such as wind musical instruments and drums. In a nutshell, the Lacey Act is going to make it very difficult for big companies to import illegally harvested wood products.


There are huge environmental benefits to using legal wood for musical instruments. Controlled logging cuts the rate of deforestation by removing only certain trees and encouraging new tree growth. When lumber is legally harvested, new trees are planted to replace the ones taken away. It's a win-win system for the environment, and one that must not be tampered with.


Our musical instruments become treasured possessions. The next time you are strumming your guitar or tickling the ivories of your beloved piano, take a minute to consider where your instrument came from. You'll feel a lot better about playing it if you know that the path it took to get to you was a green one.