Forest Fund


MONEY DOES TOO GROW ON TREES


When Yvon Chouinard, the trendsetting founder of Patagonia, turned 65 in 2003, he took a good look at his 401(k) and decided to reinvest part of it in the thing that had made him so successful in the first place: nature. More specifically, he invested in Ecotrust Forests LLC, a one-of-a-kind fund run by Portland’s bigwig conservation group Ecotrust, which makes its money, somewhat surprisingly, from logging. But don’t scramble down to Opal Creek to chain yourself to a bulldozer just yet. While most timber investment groups buy huge swaths of 38- to 40-year-old trees, clear-cut them, and then sell the scarred land to the highest bidder, Ecotrust takes a different approach. It buys 1,000- to 5,000-acre parcels of land in Oregon and Washington that hold younger forests—about 20 years old—and it partners with local timber companies to log in a sustainable fashion: That means harvesting no more than 25 to 35 percent of the trees each year and replanting. At the same time, Ecotrust contracts with wildlife biologists to ensure the protection of any watersheds or streams in the forests it logs. “We manage our land with the idea that we’ll own it forever,” says Leif Olsson, the fund’s CFO. Currently, the fund owns 13,000 acres; it hopes to acquire up to 250,000 by 2014. In the past two years, the fund’s 30 or so investors have seen pretax returns around 9 percent, an amount that’s only slightly less lucrative than investing in Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, and that’s higher (and much less risky) than most real estate or bond investment portfolios. Looks like, once again, Chouinard’s ahead of the curve. —CD


Rest Easy


RECLAIM YOUR LIVING ROOM


“What if chairs gave you butt cancer?” That’s the question that If Green’s CEO Lisa Grove had printed on T-shirts for her employees. It’s an absurd question, sure, but Groves sees it as a great way to start talking about the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the paints and finishes used to gussy up your furniture, which can release harmful gases into your home. However, If Green uses low- or no-VOC paints and finishes for its line of modern tables, chairs, and other pieces. Moreover, If Green, along with fellow Southeast Portland companies Ecohaus and Endura Wood, are the only three furniture outfits in Oregon whose commitment to using responsibly harvested timber has earned them certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). “The backbone of Portland was built from all this great old Douglas fir,” says Grove, who requires that 80 percent of her stock comes from FSC-certified wood. Which means when you bring home a chair from If Green, Ecohaus, or Endura, you also could be adopting a little piece of Portland’s sturdy heritage. —John Chandler