A set of well-built wooden cabinets and cupboards brings timeless class and reassuring durability to any kitchen. However, installing new kitchen cupboards in this day and age involves more complex issues than price and aesthetics -- the impact of your kitchen renovation on the environment should be taken into account as well. While classical wood choices, such as mahogany and teak, are attractive and tough, they are also taken from endangered trees, felled in some of the most delicate and important ecosystems in the world, and exported to Australia by fossil fuel-burning ships or planes. If you're the environmentally conscious type, this is less than ideal.
Fortunately, some superb woods for kitchen cabinets can be found on your own doorstep. Australia's isolated and undeniably harsh environment has spawned some remarkably strong and attractive woods, and since they don't require polluting importation their green credentials are much more robust. Many are also grown in managed, sustainable plantations. If you want a beautiful kitchen with a clean environmental conscience, consider the wood species listed below:
Jarrah is a species of eucalyptus that fits every criteria for a good kitchen wood you could imagine -- it is immensely strong, richly coloured and grained, and relatively inexpensive. It is also practically immune to termite and woodworm infestation, and responds well to oiling and waxing, which tends to bring out the vibrant red colour of the wood and make graining more prominent.
All fine properties to have, and that's before you get to jarrah's environmental friendliness. Jarrah is a common tree that grows throughout southwestern Australia, and the tree is commonly cultivated in sustainable plantations. It is also widely available as repurposed wood taken from building demolitions and renovations.
However, actually finding kitchen cabinets made from jarrah, or finding craftsmen who work with the wood, can be difficult. Jarrah is an extremely dense and heavy wood that tends to quickly blunt woodworking tools, making it difficult to machine especially in custom-ordered kitchens. Its weight may also make it unsuitable for wall-mounted cupboards.
This tree is also known as black ash, but is not actually an ash at all. Instead, it is a south-western eucalyptus species related to the jarrah. Despite this, the two woods could not be more different -- silvertop ash has a robust but lightweight wood, with a pale silvery colour quite unusual amongst Australian woods. Silvertop ash also tends to be liberally marked by growth rings, sap veins and knots, giving panels an eye-catching and distinctive look. Sadly, plenty of the silvertop ash you'll find on the market is taken from old growth, but silvertop ash is widely available as plantation growth, and many plantations are overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
If you plump for silvertop ash, however, you should be careful to inspect the wood you're going to be purchasing before money changes hands. Wood from different trees can vary significantly in colour, particularly when trees are from different locations. Charming imperfections such as knots can also badly undermine the strength of a panel if they are too closely packed or too large.
Another misleadingly named wood, Tasmanian myrtle is actually a species of southern beech, and is sometimes referred to as myrtle beech to reflect this. It is, however, Tasmanian, and also grows in Victoria and other areas of south-eastern Australia. This wood has long been regarded as excellent for cabinetry, and the rich golden wood can be crafted with remarkable intricacy and detail, without sacrificing much-needed strength. It also responds very well to waxing and other finishes.
Like all the woods on this list, Tasmanian myrtle is available as environmentally-sustainable plantation growth. However, sourcing it can be complicated - much of the wood for sale is taken from the unique and rapidly dwindling ancient forests of Tasmania, while some of it is actually grown in plantations in Scotland and flown halfway around the world. As such, you should pay particular attention to where you source this wood from.