Forest
Sustainability

What is Sustainability

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the environmental, social and economic requirements of present and future generations.

Our mission has always focused on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

In 2005, we saw that the furniture industry did not meet many of those requirements, and we realized that there was an urgent need for change. Now.

We believed that we could help build a better future for tomorrow by building a better kind of business today. See what we're doing to try to lead the furniture industry to a more sustainable future on all three fronts.

People

People Matter

Vermont Woods Studios was founded when a talented group of world-class fine furniture makers, working independently from small studios scattered across Vermont, came together to share their passions both for excellence in craftsmanship and for sustainability.

The tradition of fine, handmade furniture in Vermont is something that we are very passionate about preserving. We care about our community, and are always looking for ways to help strengthen it.

It's important to know who's behind your furniture. Here you'll never find a factory with poor working conditions or illegal labor practices. Instead, you'll find hard working and passionate people who want to bring you furniture that lasts a lifetime.

Tiger

How You Furnish Your Home Affects My Home

Harvesting rainforest woods and moving manufacturing operations to regions with fewer environmental regulations seems like a shortsighted way of doing things to us.

By sourcing locally, using sustainable materials and crafting practices, as well as through our activism, we hope to minimize our impact on the resources that we must all share and protect.

Want to make your purchase part of the solution (to environmental conservation) rather than part of the problem? Learn about where your furniture comes from and how it's made:


Locally & Responsibly Sourced Materials

Vermont Woods Studios works exclusively with Vermont furniture makers who source their lumber from North American forests (usually in Pennsylvania or New England) that have forest management plans in place to protect the integrity of the forests.

Responsible forest management takes into consideration long term timber production, while addressing water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, forest aesthetics and recreational opportunities.

The predominant method for harvesting is Single Tree Selection where trained foresters select individual trees. This creates openings in the forest canopy that allow more precipitation, sunlight, and nutrients to reach the forest floor, which helps ensure the health of surrounding trees along with the long term health of the forest.

We try to source our hardwoods within 500 miles of our studios. This reduces carbon emissions from transportation and ensures that the wood comes from a well managed forest within the U.S., where the volume of hardwoods in forests has doubled over the past 50 years, according to the American Hardwoods Export Council.

By educating people and providing an environmentally sustainable alternative, we hope to do our small part to help preserve and protect one of our planet's most valuable resources.

Our Woods

All of our furniture (with the exception of our Outdoor line, which is made from recycled milk jugs) is handcrafted in Vermont using real, natural hardwoods. We do not work with inferior substrates like Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), particle board, or flimsy faux wood veneers.

We work mostly with cherry, maple, oak and walnut. Each board in your furniture is selected by hand, and inspected for quality, strength, straightness, grain and color. When requested, we use FSC green-certified lumber, although there is still a premium for FSC certified wood. Sometimes our artisans harvest lumber from the woods on their own property, a sustainable approach that adds another dimension to the story of your furniture.

For more information, visit our woods and construction details pages.

Our Finishes

Many of our furniture makers continue to use traditional oil and wax based finishes, but even those that use more modern finishes ensure that they are non-toxic, formaldehyde-free and eco-friendly with little or no Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs).

As concern over indoor air quality continues to grow, many of our furniture makers are moving towards water based finishes. Conventional petroleum based solvents contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are harmful to the atmosphere. While most of these VOCs are released at the time of manufacturing, a small amount remains on the product and can off-gas in the home. Many of our collections can now be requested in a non-emitting water-based finish.

POLYWOOD® Outdoor Furniture

Plastic waste is a serious environmental concern, particularly when it comes to protecting the health of our oceans and marine life. When researching outdoor furniture we decided to introduce our customers to POLYWOOD® recycled plastic furniture. Besides being a high quality, American made product (that we can guarantee for a lifetime) POLYWOOD® helps us implement a win/win strategy for the environment. Recycling plastic containers leaves trees and forest habitats unharmed while at the same time, removing plastic from the waste stream.

We support the Ocean Conservancy's efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is estimated to cover an area twice the size of Hawaii. It is critical to reduce the amount of plastic we consume and recycle or reuse what we do use. Made from recycled materials and built to be durable enough to ensure that it won't end up in the oceans anytime soon, we hope that our POLYWOOD® line is doing its own small part to alleviate the stress on our oceans.

POLYWOOD® is created from recycled plastic lumber (RPL) using a process that replicates the beauty and texture of real wood. We use RPL that is more than 90% post consumer recycled HDPE containers such as milk or detergent jugs. The result is a super durable and rigid board stock that replicates solid wood and will endure in all weather. No more painting, staining, or reapplying protective overcoats. You can keep your outdoor furniture looking good as new with regular soap and water.

From forest to furniture: How is it made?

We work exclusively with Vermont's finest, independent quality oriented furniture makers.  Many workshops are small, family owned operations.  Some have grown over the years into larger, manufacturers like Copeland Furniture and Lyndon Furniture.

We work with furniture makers, real people, who are just as passionate about sustainability as we are. Every workshop faces different obstacles to environmental sustainability, and they are always striving to confront the next challenge head on.

Below are some of the ways that a few our furniture makers are striving for excellence.

Copeland Furniture

Copeland Furniture is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, holds Silver Exemplary Status from the Sustainable Furnishings Council and has also been awarded the Sage Award for environmental excellence by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA).

While the environmental impact of their factory and the environmental cost of the furniture they build for us is among the lowest, they're not standing still. They've continued to work to reduce VOC emissions. They've reduced packaging material purchases with the installation of a box making machine that allows them to make only what they need. They recycle all packaging waste and have reduced their reliance on landfill disposal. They also heat their building completely with wood waste from their manufacturing operation, further reducing their consumption of fossil fuels.

Lyndon Furniture

Another fellow SFC Member, Lyndon utilizes advanced technology and responsible manufacturing to maximize yield and minimize wood waste. They make every effort to ensure that all by-products are put to some use. Their sawdust is no exception, which is recycled as a biomass heating source for their building as well as by local farmers for animal bedding.

All of their cardboard boxes are made in New England with 100% post-consumer material. They work with cardboard vendors who promise them a "closed loop" system in which they can return used and waste cardboard to be recycled into new boxes.

Lyndon has also made significant investments in energy efficiency to reduce their costs and, more importantly, their carbon footprint.

Not bored yet?

We're so flattered! Because we work with so many furniture makers scattered throughout the state it would be impractical to list all of them and their respective sustainability credentials here. Lyndon and Copeland are two examples that are representative of the passion that all of our furniture makers share for the conserving the environment. If you'd like to know more, feel free to contact/grill us for more detailed information any time!

Certifications

The Sustainable Furniture Council evaluates companies regarding their conformance to accepted criteria for "sustainable furnishings". We are a founding member of the SFC and we have been evaluated as exemplary based on the following criteria:
98%

We currently design, specify, make, sell, import, source, and/or distribute this percentage of sustainable product.

We pay a living wage rather than minimum wage and extend that around the globe.

We have a written Social Equity Code of Conduct as a baseline for employee relations.

We and our partners meet or exceed all local health and safety codes and can document our health and safety working conditions in all our facilities/stores.

We have participated in or sponsored in-store, community and/or regional educational events on sustainability and the environment.

We investigate and mitigate any negative environmental impacts from our operations.

We regularly ask for verifiable chain of custody documents (legal logging certifications) before buying wood products.

We are eliminating unsustainable virgin materials from our product offerings while increasing our percents to total of rapidly renewable resources, reused/reclaimed components and recycled content. We factor disassembly, recyclability and product reclamation.

We have decreased our use/acceptance of known toxic chemicals for treatments, binders and finishes, replacing compounds that harm indoor air quality and are carcinogenic.

We are asking our vendors for organic cotton in place of conventionally-grown cotton and for textiles that are Oeko-Tex certified.

We extract, manufacture and distribute for consumer use within a 500 mile radius for at least a portion of our product line.

We use recycled or recyclable packing/packaging materials, offer blanket-wrap transportation arrangements for customers and have a carton return/reuse policy.

We hold third party certifications for some of our products/as a store, we promote and educate the consumer on the meaning of various third party certifications.

We take responsibility for sharing our commitment to sustainability up and down our entire supply chain, rewarding our vendors with increased business for partnering with us on this path to sustainability.

We save reams of paper with our policy expressing a tree-free approach to excess written documentation.

We have had an energy specialist/utility company audit to measure our conventional energy usage and are on track to reduce it, replacing a portion with certified renewable energy, either directly or by contacting Green e-Power.

We have replaced outdated and inefficient equipment, identified and changed wasteful resource procedures and implemented tighter operational controls.

We have increased the use of daylighting and instituted a fluorescent bulb exchange policy for direct cost savings.

We make only verifiable sustainability claims in adherence with FTC mandates against greenwash and in support of their Environmental Marketing Guides. Authenticity and adoption of one credible standard reduces confusion in the marketplace, driving sales.

We conduct training in-house and in the broader community about global climate change and our partnership with the SFC.

We have written and distributed a Supplier Equity Code of Conduct for our vendors and conduct training at our partner facilities on the adoption of same.

We offer a product reclamation/product reuse policy.

We are getting quotes on doing a Life Cycle Analysis and/or are applying for SMaRT certification.

Economics

Sustaining the Economy

Historically, places like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine and Vermont were well known for handcrafted, American made furniture and the artisans and woodworkers that crafted it. Over the last 30 years, a lot of companies have moved their manufacturing operations to regions where they don't have to treat their workers as well, leaving many communities of furniture makers to struggle to compete on their own, often against their own former employers.

We're working to restore some of those jobs and help ensure that talented furniture makers are able to earn a liveable wage while maintaining the tradition of fine, handcrafted furniture in America.

Through our efforts, we hope to aid a growing movement towards more sustainable economies at the local, State, and national levels.


Local Partners

As a small business ourselves, we support our local economy by working with sustainable local partners and other small, locally owned businesses whenever possible.

Stonehurst

Built in the early 1800s, Stonehurst was a small ski slope in the mid 20th century, and we are very excited to be opening our new showroom there in Summer 2013. The acquisition and renovation of Stonehurst has contributed over $1 Million to our local and state economy.

Fun Food Fridays

Every Friday we treat our office to lunch at one of our favorite local hotspots. It's a fun and delicious way to thank our Green Team for another hard week's work while supporting all of our favorite local restaurants.

Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association

We are proud members of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association. The VWMA is an organization of over 100 small businesses in Vermont's wood industry that employ about 6000 people who produce wood furniture, bowls, toys, carvings, flooring, windows, doors and much more. VWMA's mission is to "support the industry in Vermont and promote its long-term viability." All of us who produce wood products in Vermont need the services that the VWMA provides. None of us are big enough to do the work they do on our own. Organizations like the VWMA that foster collaboration and synergy are going to play a huge role in making America great again.

Revitalizing Vermont's Rural Economy

We've been working with the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership to develop an Action Plan to create a rural renaissance in Vermont that focuses economic development efforts on our working landscape. We have a tremendous opportunity to restore our working lands economy (farming, forestry, and value-added processing like furniture making) to it's former glory as the cornerstone of job creation and rural revitalization in the state.

Many of the pieces are already in place to make this happen. More and more Americans in our regional market are looking for sustainably produced products, such as our Vermont Made Furniture. Vermont stands ready to serve them.

Made in America Holiday Shopping Challenge

By the time Diane Sawyer and ABC News established the "Made in America" series, we had already begun to notice that many of our customers were finding us through searches for American made furniture. They wanted to know where their furniture came from, and where their money was going.

Inspired by the TV series, our staff member Dennis Shanoff recognized an opportunity to challenge people to buy American made during the holidays when they were buying the most. In the office, we committed to having an American made holiday party and were surprised to see the difference that such a small group of people could make. So, we reached out to our friends, neighbors, and customers across the United States and we were amazed by the response!

Soon after, our Made in America Holiday Shopping Challenge caught the eye of the producers at ABC News, and we were invited to join Diane Sawyer in an episode of the Made in America series!

ABC calculated that $46 Billion in back to school spending this year created over half a million jobs. Following ABC's logic, the $462 Billion that Americans will spend this holiday season according to the National Retail Federation could generate more than 4.6 million jobs if it were spent on gifts made in the USA. Join us this holiday season and we can really make a difference!

Sustainability Facts

  • Environmental Facts

    Each day 50 to 100 species of animals and plants are driven extinct by human influences.

  • Environmental Facts

    More than 2,000 tropical forest plants have been identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties.

  • Environmental Facts

    At the current rate of tropical forest loss, 5 - 10 percent of tropical rainforest species will be lost per decade.

  • Environmental Facts

    One-fifth of the world's fresh water is stored in the Amazon Basin.

  • Environmental Facts

    A typical four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.

  • Environmental Facts

    Try switching to cold or warm water when doing laundry. 85 - 90% of the energy consumed in washing your clothes is used to heat the water.

  • Environmental Facts

    Before 1500 A.D., there were approximately 6 million indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon. But as the forests disappeared, so too did the people. In the early 1900s, there were less than 250,000 indigenous people living in the Amazon.

  • Environmental Facts

    Covering less than 2 percent of the Earth's total surface area, the world's rainforests are home to 50 percent of the Earth's plants and animals.