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Carmelita forest concession. Photo courtesy of Sergio Izquierdo,

As the oldest guitar manufacturer in America, C. F. Martin & Co. is accustomed to change and innovation, both in terms of manufacturing—they created the dreadnought guitar body that is now the common style and shape of modern acoustic guitars—and have been long-standing leaders in responsible guitar building practices and environmental responsibility. Martin stopped using ivory for bindings and bridges in 1918. In the 1960s, when the demand for ivory led to soaring tusk prices and the subsequent slaughter of elephants, Martin phased out their use of ivory (commonly used for saddles and nuts during this time period) in favor of synthetic materials like Plexiglas®, Micarta™ and Corian®. In the early 1990s, they formalized their ecological practices to include judicious forest management and the responsible use of natural materials and alternative wood species. Most of the world’s premium guitars are built from a combination of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. However, these traditional tonewoods often come from areas of the world that are under severe pressure from logging and development. According to an FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimate, the world lost 0.8% of its tropical forests every year between 1980 and 1990. From 1990 to 2000, the annual loss continued, in some cases at a rate of over 1% per year. Faced with the scarcity of exotic tonewoods and the damage of illegal logging, Martin Guitar began looking for ways to ensure their wood imports came from sustainable and legal sources. Chris Martin IV, Martin’s Chairman and CEO, explained that in the late ’90s, they started looking for a third-party certification entity. “Early on, there wasn’t enough certified wood to purchase because people weren’t certifying it,” he said. “We looked for a legitimate third party to make sure the wood we were buying was not sourced illegally, and we found the Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC ® ).” The FSC ®, which the Rainforest Alliance helped establish in 1993, sets the highest standards for responsible forest management by requiring forest managers on both public and private lands to engage local communities and to


MARTIN | The Journal of Acoustic Guitars: Volume 7  
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