Our Sustainability Story

Sustainability

Sustainable Furniture

Vermont Woods Studios got its start because we wanted to help save the rainforest right from where we live in Vermont. We knew that rainforest land is often clear cut for timber that’s used to make furniture, destroying precious animal habitats across the globe - and we knew we had to do something about it.

With a lot of hard work and passion for the environment, Vermont Woods Studios was born as a way to promote sustainable wood furniture as an alternative to furniture made from exotic woods like Mahogany, Teak, and Brazilian Cherry.

Our wood furniture is made from North American Hardwoods such as Cherry, Maple, Oak, or Walnut which are harvested using sustainable forestry practices.

Our mission has always focused on planet, people and profit—and we are trying to inspire others in the furniture industry to work towards a more sustainable future on all three fronts.

Craftsman Craftsman

Vermont Furniture Makers have a Heritage of Sustainability


At Vermont Woods Studios, we bring together the work of a talented group of world-class fine furniture makers who work independently from small studios & large workshops scattered across the state of Vermont. Based on their passion for both excellence in craftsmanship and sustainability, these furniture makers are at the foundation of our mission.

Each individual workshop has its own preferred methods and procedures for sustainability (which we are happy to discuss further based on the workshop your furniture will originate in) but one thing we share is that the “green” values we speak of have been passed down through generations of Yankee woodworkers.

We can say with honesty that for Vermont woodworkers, practicing sustainability is not a new idea. A respect for the land has been a consistent part of our culture throughout history.

As seen in the locavore movement where Vermont farmers are at the heart of a booming organic & local food industry, we’re paving the way for a sustainable furniture movement driven by the handcrafted works of local Vermont woodworkers.

Enviromental Impact

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.

Organized crime is currently responsible for an unprecedented rate of rainforest destruction. Unchecked illegal logging is rampant in tropical countries too poor to effectively monitor and enforce conservation regulations.

The U.N. estimates that illicit logging is now worth between $30 billion to $100 billion, or up to 30 percent of the global wood trade. That illegal wood is often shipped from pristine rainforests to China, Vietnam and other third world countries where it’s fabricated into low quality furniture which is sold to US consumers.

If you’re committed to buying American Made Furniture—No worries. Chances are it’s made from legal wood, sustainably harvested from well-managed forests right here in North America. But if you’re buying imported wood furniture (and according to a Washington Post article 70% of furniture sold in America is imported) then: Houston, we have a problem.

By purchasing sustainable American made furniture, you'll be doing your part for the natural world, while beautifying the environment of your own living room!

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.

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:

We currently design, specify, make, sell, import, source, and/or distribute 98% 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 Vermont furniture makers are able to earn a livable wage while maintaining the tradition of fine, handcrafted American furniture. Through our efforts, we hope to aid a growing movement towards more sustainable economies in the local, state, and national level.

Local Partners

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

Local Partners

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

Read more about what we’re doing to aid our local community:

Read More »

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

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!

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Rainforest Sustainability Facts

More than half of the world's 193 countries have already lost 90% or more of their forest cover. Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth's land surface now cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be gone in less than 40 years.

We are losing our rainforest at the average rate of:
  • 1.5 acres every second
  • 75 acres every minute
  • 108,000 acres each day
  • 40 million acres a year, an area roughly the size of Oregon

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Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for timber and then are followed by farming and ranching operations. In Indonesia, the current rate of logging could totally wipe out native forests within only 10 years. The forest has already been totally wiped out in countries like Haiti and Ivory Coast where barely a tree can be found anymore.


In only ten minutes a logger with a chain saw can cut down a thirty-three foot wide tree that took over a thousand years to grow. This is happening around the clock!


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Many of the earth's most precious, biologically diverse gems are rainforest tracts.

In a four square miles of Brazilian rainforest, we have found:
  • 750 different species of trees
  • 1,500 species of flowering plants
  • 125 species of animals
  • 400 species of birds
  • 100 species of reptiles
  • 150 species of butterflies

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Nearly half of the world's species of plants and animals will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next 25 years due to rainforest deforestation.

Each day, 50 to 100 species of animals and plants are driven extinct by human influences. We are driving species into extinction before we have even identified them, losing approximately 137 plant and animal species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year.

  • As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases
  • 40% of our pharmaceuticals come from the rainforest. However, only 1% of rainforest plants have been assessed for their medical value
  • More than 2,000 tropical forest plants have been identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties
  • Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources
  • Many more could be developed as only about 1% of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists

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More Rainforest Facts Everyone Should Know

  • The global timber trade is now controlled by organized crime. Major buyers of illegal timber include IKEA, Home Depot and Lowe's
  • Brazil's Amazon rainforest alone is responsible for producing more than 20 percent of the oxygen we breath
  • 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
  • One-fifth of the world's fresh water is stored in the Amazon Basin
  • 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