Sustainability question

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mushroom

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Hi everyone and sorry for asking if this has been discussed before, but I have found no thread answering my question so far.
Who (which manufacturer, shop, other entity in the production process) cares about the sustainability of handle materials? Does anyone, except high-end producers, who also use the sustainability aspect as sales argument?
I read about rosewood, ebony and padauk, all of which are included in the CITES list. At least some sub-species. So, as long as no specific origin is given, these woods may be either be logged legally, illegally or improperly declared. But usually this information is not included on shop websites. This is a common problem for a lot of wood products.
Please don't discuss if you care individually or not. I don't want to blame anyone and know that there are certainly different opinions on this subject. But any reliable facts would be welcome.
Mushroom
 
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Not sure about the other two but what Japanese handle makers call ebony/紫檀 are often not 紫檀(Pterocarpus santalinus) but rather 乌檀/Nauclea officinalis or 黑檀/Dalbergia melanoxylon.
BTW endangered in wild condition does not equal to can’t be planted or harvested commercially. For example, Honduran mahogany is listed as vulnerable in its native range of South America, but there are large size plantations in South and South East Asian where it is planted commercially and not restricted by any mean.

 
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ModRQC

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Not a personal comment per say but maybe knife handles aren't the best end to tackle at sustainability. Or perhaps it is in fact quite telling that any major manufacturer of knives basically are using composite materials, and while they do not usually declare anything about sustainability, I'm fairly sure the nowadays ecological-focused movement sort of played into it in the past ten years... At least for a specific case, we recently had Victorinox shift from Rosewood handles to "modified Maple" ones.

Whereas on the handmade front, your question would likely raise frowns. A few Western makers would tell you they gather deadwood from the trees in their yards or something, while J-knives are usually a tight community where "sustainability" could be construed as "getting the reginal economy going" and where I cannot honestly suspect ecological complaints could be made.
 

McMan

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Prendergast uses sustainably managed woods:

 
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One more thing, consider the pollution caused by frigate jets and ships, the most sustainable strategy is by it once and buy local, which I doubt any knife enthusiasts do… but on the grander scale you can buy hundreds of knives directly from Japan and it’s gonna cause a lot less pollution than one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s yacht vocation.
 
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RDalman

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In this subject you might also want to take into account the climate impact of steel production. And possibly your knife have been heated (potentially unnecessarily) many times extra in fossil fuel if it's been hammer forged.

I generally agree with caring though but indeed it's probably not possible making a big impact with our small niche interest.
 

Jovidah

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In general the rule of thumb when it comes to sustainable consumption is that the biggest gain comes not from consuming sustainably, but from simply not consuming at all. So having less knives would be better... but it's probably still a drop in the bucket compared to things like air travel.

As a sidenote... the one thing I'd be inclined to question the most is the seemingly overabundance of 'mammoth ivory' that shows up on knife handles.
 

RDalman

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As a sidenote... the one thing I'd be inclined to question the most is the seemingly overabundance of 'mammoth ivory' that shows up on knife handles.

On that it's very easy to tell mammoth and elephant ivory apart so I wouldnt worry about that part. But the mammoth ivory searching by flushing out permafrost and riverbeds in russia seems not so nice indeed.
 
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In general the rule of thumb when it comes to sustainable consumption is that the biggest gain comes not from consuming sustainably, but from simply not consuming at all. So having less knives would be better... but it's probably still a drop in the bucket compared to things like air travel.

As a sidenote... the one thing I'd be inclined to question the most is the seemingly overabundance of 'mammoth ivory' that shows up on knife handles.
I don’t see much of them around tbh, maybe I’m not really into fancy handles so they don’t show up. But fancy handles are like niche within a already small niche, I doubt much mammoth went into handle making, most of them just went to traditional crafts that originally use ivory. A lot of ivory on handles are also artificial which is probably a stronger material.
 

Lurkernomore

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No one in Japan gives a single f about sustainability. Many handles are sourced from China and there has been a huge turn toward exotic hardwoods. A big part of it is that western customers don’t like magnolia and that the Chinese market is heavily into flashy stuff. Hardwood and at least three rings plus double blonde horn ferrule is the way to go if you want to make bank in China.

China and many other countries have started restricting exports of hardwood. A few more years and we might see a lot less ebony, also water buffalo horn will become increasingly hard to source. Maybe we’ll end up with magnolia and poplar with brass or resin ferrules. Poplar is already an important material, mostly paired with plastic ferrules.
 

JoBone

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Some woods should be safe no matter the shop, look for magnolia, walnut, cherry..

You can also buy a blade with no handle and reach out to a handle maker to see if they have any local or CITES certified wood.

In my case, I try to be conscientious of the wood that I use. I am certain 90% of the wood I get is CITES certified, including almost all my rosewoods. Woods that I get from smaller dealers, I am not so sure.
 
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This may not help you much but Ben Greenberg over at Greenberg woods has a short section on his site about sustainability and from my conversations with him, he seems quite studious about sticking with his goal. Additionally in the world of musical instruments, I know a lot of companies have huge backstocks of rosewood I would guess this is true of larger knife brands as well.

On the side of carbon footprint steel selection is going to have a lot to do with that. Smaller batch steels are going to tend to be less efficient and higher alloy steels are even less so. I would look for something like 52100 which is produced in large quantities for industrial use. I would avoid steel made by the maker like wootz etc. Although many others have pointed out that the impact of a knife is going to be far less than even that of a commercial flight.

Here's a bit of back-of-the-napkin math: Flying creates about 90Kg of CO2 per passenger per hr. Steel takes about 2-10x the weight of the steel produced of co2 emission to create. So if your knife weighs 1 kg (it does not) then the max emissions from the steel is about 10kg which 7 ish minutes of flight time. Now I'm sure the actual number after everything is somewhat higher but not 9X higher.
 
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