As an industry based on the use and consumption of rare wood, it is cruicial that luthiers prioritize the care and repair of our environment. This environmental concern is both a requirement and a personal passion for me. Fun Ukuleles are built using recycled and repurposed wood as well as fallen logs and plantation grown woods. My sources are variously fallen logs, shipping pallets, firewood, damaged vintage furniture or instruments and other discarded material. All the precious metals and gemstones I incorporate into the ukuleles are recycled from estate jewelry. When a custom order requires it I will use plantation grown and sustainably managed wood sourced from trustworthy, environmentally conscious suppliers such as Luthiers Mercantile International, Inc., Notable Woods, and Alaska Specialty Woods. I am passionate about the added value and uniqueness of what I call "rescued firewood." When you see the finished product, you would never guess it used to be a chair, a stool, and a coffee table, with a little bit of old barn rafters from a Costa Rican farm.
Environmental law and how it may apply to international travel
Many of the ukuleles we build include some reclaimed woods or other materials that are either CITES appendix I or appendix II. Remaining not only in compliance with these laws, but going above and beyond to set a standard of environmental stewardship is not only a personal value for us, but also an integral part of the mission of the Fun Ukulele Co. We will never include any protected materials in our instruments without providing full and transparent disclosure to you, including our sourcing information. We are happy to build custom instruments that do not include any such materials. If your instrument does include protected material and you intend to travel internationally, it is important to familiarize yourself with the regulations that pertain to your instrument.
The large international treaty regarding trade of rare and protected natural resources is known as CITES, or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This convention includes the vast majority of all countries in the world, each with its own laws regarding the import and export of protected materials. The simplest way to avoid any confusion is to only travel internationally with instruments made from unambiguously non-regulated wood species. There are many, many more species of wood that are NOT restricted then those that are. However, it is not altogether prohibited to travel with instruments made from protected woods either. It does require careful attention to the regulations to ensure that you are in compliance, and in certain circumstances your instrument will need to be properly documented. The guidelines explained below only apply to CITES regulations for US residents and thus it is very important to familiarize yourself with the laws specific to the countries you are entering and exiting. For a complete list of international CITES offices please visit https://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp
The restriction on international trade in rosewood species under CITES law generally does not require documentation for instruments for personal, non-comercial use that contain less than 10 kilograms of non-Brazilian rosewood. No acoustic guitars or ukuleles would ever approach that weight limit. It is nevertheless critical for musicians to familiarize themselves with the local laws of their destinations before embarking on international travel, and it would be prudent to print a copy of the following document to keep with their instrument as they travel: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=0280f336c99e8ecfee0996409232f126&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&r=SECTION&n=se50.9.23_115
A Musical Instrument Certificate is also available that acts as a passport for your rosewood ukulele. It is optional for non-Brazilian rosewood but required for Brazilian. The application can be obtained at https://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/permit-application-form-3-200-88.pdf
Brazilian rosewood and a few other materials found on Fun ukuleles are under stricter laws. To travel internationally with a Brazilian rosewood instrument, in addition to obtaining Musical Instrument Certificate, one must also travel through a USDA-APHIS-CITES designated port. A list of these ports can be obtained at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/manuals/ports/downloads/cites.pdf#page=207&zoom=auto,0,726
Links for further information:
https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html - summary of the regulations discussed above
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7EXqrPNFFM&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop - webinar providing a detailed overview