Building sustainable decking solutions tends to be a large challenge, because it means trying to get the materials involved in the decking to do what they are not naturally meant to do, including lasting for many years without requiring a great deal of maintenance. Most of the methods that are commonly used to accomplish the maintenance required by decking are actually rather harmful to the environment and therefore are not solutions at all. Even some apparently ecologically sound materials cannot hold up under scrutiny. On the other hand, some solutions that appear to be destructive to the environment can provide a much more sustainable solution.
As far as sustainable decking solution goes, natural wood decking comes with advantages that you will not find with any other decking materials. Wood is non toxic, and is extremely strong considering how light it is in weight. Wood is also easy to work and has a beautiful appearance. Wood is a completely renewable resource as long as it is managed intelligently, and wood can be produced with a comparatively small input of fossil fuels, especially if the wood products are brought it from local forest sources. Wood is also easily reused and recycled, and it can biodegrade easily without creating any pollutant byproducts.
The one problem that is associated with wood deckling springs from one of its advantages. The natural biodegradable nature of the wood is to return to the soil where it comes from, because of weather, mold, bacteria and insect activity. In order to delay these effects from occurring, it is vital to use wood products that have rot resistance in them naturally. Some of these wood products include native redwoods and cedars, and imported tropical hardwoods such as ipe or ironwood and teak.
Wood that is naturally rot resistant can be really wonderful, but these woods are more difficult to find and have become more expensive as a result. This fact forces people to search for alternatives that are most cost effective, such as decking options that are constructed from softwoods that are less rot resistant and cheaper, but that are pressure treated using chemicals as a means of inhibiting the decay. The depth of the treatment is what determines the degree that the wood can be rot resistant. The decking materials can retain the same strength as natural wood and can be finished with a variety of different stains and other treatments that inhibit decay and add to the natural beauty of the wood.
In the past, standard wood preservatives were Pentachlorophenol, Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) and Creosote, but these are all extremely toxic and poisonous treatments. These chemicals are beginning to see replacement by Copper Azone (CA) and Amine Copper Quat (ACQ) which are far safer results but still far from being truly benign.