Toxic Free Talk Radio: Handmade, Toxic-Free Wood Furniture That Helps Rainforests Too

Last updated on August 2nd, 2018 at 02:37 pm

“My guest today is Peggy Farabaugh, owner and operator of Vermont Woods Studios, an online furniture store specializing in high-quality, eco-friendly, handmade wood furniture from Vermont. She’s a CEO who breaks for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels, and spends her vacations volunteering to plant trees in the rainforests of Central and South America. She believes in the future and in the people who build it. A former distance learning instructor at Tulane University with a master’s in Environmental Health and Safety, Peggy turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a thriving, local furniture business. Now in it’s 10th year, Vermont Woods Studios exists not only online but in a lovingly restored 200 year old farmhouse in the woodlands of southern Vermont. ”

Listen to the radio show or read the transcript:

Handmade, Toxic-Free Wood Furniture That Helps Rainforests Too

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Building Monarch Butterfly Way Stations in Vermont

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Monarch Butterfly Waystations in Vernon, Vermont
We had a great turnout for our Monarch party on Monday.  If you’re creating your own Monarch Waystation, you can register it and get an “official sign” at MonarchWatch.org

We’re sending thanks out to everyone who gathered with us at Stonehurst this week to begin making Vernon, Vermont a Monarch Butterfly Way Station.  If you’re interested in the environment and nature, please consider joining us in this fun project!  You can learn more about our efforts to save the endangered monarch butterfly here.

Monarch Butterfly Party | Vermont Woods Studios
Thanks to all Vernon’s Monarch Butterfly advocates: MaryLynn Scherlin, Annette Roydon, Marilyn McQuaide, Ken Farabaugh, Janice Pereira, Bronna Zlochiver, Janet Rasmussen, Peggy Farabaugh, Dawn Petrovsky and Emily Vergobbe.

Vernon has many master gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts!  We shared some milkweed seedlings (the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source) and will begin planting them in our gardens and back yards.  We’re also reaching out to the Vernon Elementary School VES, the recreation department and the roads commissioner, asking them to support the project by planting milkweed where appropriate on public land.

How to grow milkweed for monarch butterflies

In August and September we will meet again when the Monarchs are laying their eggs and beginning their metamorphoses.  Please contact us through our Facebook if you’re interested in joining our butterfly rescue project or starting one in your own town.  It’s fun, and there’s wine.  What more could you ask for?

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Celebrate World Environment Day with EcoTourism!

Last updated on June 30th, 2022 at 03:00 pm

World Environment Day | Eco Tourism at Serere in the Bolivian Amazon
Protectors of the Amazon | EcoTourism opportunities at the Serere Reserve in Bolivia
Happy World Environment Day! As you know, Vermont Woods Studios is a wood furniture company, founded on the principles of forest conservation and we’re always trying to raise awareness about that cause.

Amazon Rainforest Conservation Project

Recently I traveled to the Bolivian Amazon to support the rainforest conservation work of environmental activist, Rosamaria Ruiz. Her work has been the subject of articles and videos in National Geographic and numerous other conservation magazines. It takes place in the Madidi National Park and at the Serere Reserve, the Most Biodiverse Protected Area on Earth.  Here Rosamaria welcomes scientists, artists, writers, film makers, photographers, students and ecotourism lovers to help with her conservation initiatives.

Conservation Through EcoTourism & Volunteerism

Rosamaria funds her conservation work through ecotourism and also enlists the help of volunteers from all over the world.  I wanted to share this with you in case you or someone you know might be interested in visiting or volunteering at Serere.

 

Serere is a unique biological gem!  It’s relatively small 4000 hectare reserve is home to 7 species of monkeys, tapirs, sloths, jaguars, black caimans, many snake species (including anacondas), hundreds of bird species (including harpy eagles, macaws, herons, eagles, toucans, jabirus, and hoatzin) and a wide variety of fish.

 

Animals are congregating in Serere for the safety Rosamaria and her staff provide.  Outside Serere’s borders this paradise is being eroded by illegal logging, gold mining, cattle ranching, sugar refineries, agriculture and the like.  One of two things is bound to happen at Serere.  Either it will disappear like the surrounding areas or it will be expanded due to the efforts of people like Rosamaria Ruiz and you and me.

Visit Serere and Experience the Rainforest!

I write to you on World Environment Day in hopes that you might share this message with anyone you know who might be looking for an ecotourism or volunteer opportunity in the rainforest.  I believe Rosamaria would welcome the opportunity to speak with scientists, writers, photographers and other professionals interested in supporting her conservation work.  If you have an interest, visit Rosamaria’s website Madidi-Travel.com to learn more!  You can also feel free to contact me via Facebook | Vermont Furniture or email (peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com) and read more about my trip to Serere are on my blog.

 

Thanks so much for reading this and for your support of our environmental mission at Vermont Woods Studios.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

VWS Sponsors an Aquatic Field Trip for Vernon Elementary School

Vernon Elementary School Students: Future Scientists of America?

We are so happy to have sponsored BEEC’s Aquatic Field Trip, where Vernon Elementary School students got the opportunity to explore a pond ecosystem and observe a variety of aquatic organisms. They studied the life cycles and food webs of these insects and amphibians, explored the ponds, and kept field notes on their findings. The students caught, identified, and shared their discoveries with the class! We think we have some brilliant scientists and biologists in the making!

DSC04593Students were eagerly identifying different creatures they caught, and were excited to share their findings with their classmates. 

 

DSC04619

DSC04632They worked alongside each other and collaborated on how to best catch the creatures without harming them!

 

 

DSC04657Peggy got an up close look at a water bug that was discovered by one of the aquatic explorers. 

 

 

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DSC04651Students took detailed field notes on their discoveries and sightings at the pond. 

 

DSC04667

DSC04675Teachers and students were excited to share the bugs they found with us. 

 

DSC04689Can you spot the water snake? It was the talk of the trip!

 

We’d like to thank BEEC for organizing this great trip and giving kids the opportunity to get outside and learn about the environment hands on. To learn more about them and their mission, visit their website

 

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Monarch Butterflies Need Your Help, Here’s What You Can Do

Last updated on May 7th, 2018 at 02:42 pm

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

Why is it important to create habitat for Monarchs?

  • Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed, as Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed
  • Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs
  • Shifting priorities in land management has resulted in the loss of much milkweed from the landscape
  • Planting milkweed supports monarch populations, and their incredible migration journey (Did you know–Monarch butterflies travel up to 3,000 miles each fall to their wintering site in central Mexico?)
  • In 2004,  550 million Monarchs completed the winter migration, while in 2013 only 33 million arrived
  • Much of this can be attributed to illegal foresting, but an even worse culprit is the large-scale use of herbicides that destroy milkweed
Monarch Butterflies Survive on Milkweed
Nina & Peggy are tricking our milkweed seeds into thinking they’ve been through winter. “Cold stratification” is important for good germination and growth.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts around the world are encouraging people to grow milkweed in their own yards and gardens
  • Contact your town representatives and discuss adding milkweed to your local community garden, or in unoccupied land space
  • Share blogs & articles about Monarch butterflies and milkweed online
  • Sign a petition to protect Monarch butterflies from deadly herbicides


Gathering Milkweed For Monarch Butterflies | Vernon, VT

Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies | Vernon, Vermont
Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies | Vernon, Vermont

Getting started with your milkweed garden:

  • Contact the Monarch Watch Seed Bank where you can donate or request seeds.
  • When buying seeds, always make sure they are Monarch friendly. Believe it or not, unsuspecting people have killed off butterflies trying to plant Milkweed covered in herbicides
  • Gather seeds from nearby Milkweed gardens
  • Directions for planting milkweed seed can be found at LiveMonarch.com.
  • Together and with a little help from Mother Nature we can bring back the Monarchs!
  • Remember to use the hashtag #MonarchsVT to share your progress with us!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

How You Can Help Conserve Birds this ‘Global Big Day’!

Conserve Birds this Global Big Day
Our resident bird watcher and wildlife photographer, Nina, captured this gorgeous shot of a Tree Swallow taking up residence in a birdhouse we built at Stonehurst. He’s just one of many birds we’ve spotted on the property.

On May 9, 2015, the team at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is calling on bird lovers around the world to spend some time birding and then recording their findings in eBird–making it truly a “Global Big Day.” eBird is as global tool for birders, providing critical data for science. With eBird you can record the birds you see, keep track of your bird lists, explore dynamic maps and graphs, share your sightings,  join the eBird community and make a positive contribution to science and conservation.

What is a “Global Big Day”?

According to the American Birding Association, A Big Day Count is a single-team effort in which the primary objectives are (1) to identify as many bird species as possible during a single calendar day and (2) to strive to have all team members identify all species recorded.

What your support means:

Your support will help ensure that the Cornell Lab can continue to advance bird conservation, including:

• The eBird project and the scientific data it produces to make smart land management decisions that benefit birds in your region and across the world;

• On-the-ground research and conservation across the full life-cycle of birds as they cross hemispheres between nesting grounds and wintering habitats;

• Powerful opportunities that inspire people of all ages to learn about and protect birds, including the BirdSleuth K-12 curriculum in the U.S. and Latin America; live Bird Cams; webinars with experts; free Merlin Bird ID app, and a wealth of information on the All About Birds website.

purple-finch
A purple finch enjoys his lunch outside of the Marketing office.

Why you should help:

Pledge For Passion: By helping to protect birds, you’ll protect the natural places needed for the health of our planet, people, and wildlife.

Conservation: Your gift makes possible on-the-ground conservation programs to protect birds such as Cerulean Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, and other long-distance migrants.

Research: You’ll enable the best research scientists to inform conservation management and policy to help birds and protect nature.

Motivation: Every cent you pledge motivates the top birders in the world to find every possible bird species in 24 hours to raise funds for conservation.

Education: Your support also funds conservation through education–such as conservation workshops for Latin American biologists and training for undergraduates, giving them the skills they need to make a difference.

Citizen Science: You’ll help engage the most active corps of conservation-minded citizen scientists in collecting millions of records needed to monitor and protect birds.

Web tools: The Lab reaches out to hundreds of thousands of people, promoting conservation though our All About Birds website, eBird citizen-science project, online NestCams, and much more.

Efficiency: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology receives only 1% of its funding from Cornell University. Friends and members make their work possible.

How to get started:

The first thing you should do is register for eBird, so on May 9th you will be all set to post your bird observations! Then you should clear out a time in your day on May 9th to get outside and get spotting! If you can’t get outside this Saturday, you can still help contribute to Global Big Day by making a donation to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Bolivia’s Monkey Kingdom

Last updated on May 27th, 2018 at 05:46 pm

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Conservation through ecotourism. Monkeys everywhere in the Serere Reserve of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest
A troop of about 50 of these yellow squirrel monkeys visited the Casa Grande at Serere on our second day there.  For such small primates, they sure made a lot of noise as they come crashing through the canopy, leaping great distances between branches. They’re amazing to watch.

Serere Reserve:  Most Bio Diverse Place on Earth

My son Riley was volunteering last month at the Serere Reserve, a rainforest conservation project in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin.  Serere is part of the Madidi Mosaic, the largest and most bio-diverse protected area in the world.  Kendall (my other son) and I joined Riley for a week and although our “mission” was to learn about rainforest conservation, I have to say the highlight of our trip was living with Serere’s monkeys.

Spider Monkey with Riley | Volunteering at Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
The best part of volunteering at Serere?  I think Riley might say it was getting to know the orphaned monkeys, tapirs and capybaras. Serere functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, some of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.

Monkeys Everywhere

Globally half of all primates face imminent extinction, as they face threats from loggers, hunters and smugglers.  But Serere is different and here monkeys abound. That’s thanks to the efforts of owner/operator of Serere, legendary environmental activist Rosamaria Ruiz.  Clearly, humans aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed her painstaking work in restoring the natural flora and fauna to the reserve.  Monkeys are everywhere!  During our short stay, we saw 5 different species of monkeys in the wild.  We also had the privilege of getting to know the resident spider monkeys.  After losing family members to illegal loggers these monkeys have found a safe sanctuary at Serere.  The area is constantly patrolled to protect wildlife and habitat– an activity that volunteers and guests often participate in.  It’s part of a “conservation through ecotourism” strategy.

Diego caring for an orphaned spider monkey | Conservation through ecotourism
Diego is the hospitality manager at Serere but his duties occasionally include giving a little TLC to orphaned spider monkeys. I’m guessing he never had to do that at the Club Med resorts he’s managed!

Serere’s Monkey Species

Here’s a run down on the types of monkeys we saw at Serere along with a few fun facts I learned on LiveScience:

  • Yellow squirrel monkeys (Saimiri) mate for life. We watched them grooming each other, intertwining their tails, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing.
  • Spider monkeys (Ateles) are named for their long tails and lengthy spidery limbs. They’re amazingly agile and can quickly walk on two legs across a tree branch.
  • Red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) When a troop of howler monkeys yell, they can be heard for up to three miles.  We woke up to their calls every morning. Great alarm clock!
  • Capuchin monkeys (Cebus) use tools. They can smash nuts with rocks, insert branches into crevices to capture ants for food, and use large branches to club snakes.
  • Nocturnal Owl Monkeys (Aotus) spend most of their time foraging and sleeping in the high canopy, above ten meters. They sleep in tree holes or thickets of dense foliage which may be shared with other nocturnal animals like bats.
Conservation through ecotourism at Madidi Travel in the Bolivian Amazon
Madidi Travel has posted many professional videos about their work with monkeys and rainforest conservation including several done in association with National Geographic magazine.

Voluntourism Helps Protect the Monkey Kingdom

Students, have you ever thought of taking a gap year to volunteer in conservation-related work?  Young professionals, maybe you’ve considered spending your vacation “voluntouring”? Families, are you looking to teach your children that they can change the world?  Teachers & guidance counselors, do you have students interested in primates or rainforest conservation? Researchers and primatologists, are you studying one of the monkeys listed above?

If so, consider supporting, visiting and/or volunteering at Madidi Travel’s Serere Reserve.  Here you’ll find a wonderful group of dedicated environmentalists using ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation.  Volunteer and guest programs are tailored to meet your needs and interests.  Check out the Madidi Travel website, follow Madidi on Facebook & Twitter and watch these videos about their work.  Then contact Rosamaria Ruiz to join the many scientists, artists, photographers and film makers from all over the world, who have volunteered their time and talent to conserve the wonders of the Serere rainforest reserve.

Rosa Maria Ruiz | Madidi Travel | Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
Rosamaria Ruiz of Madidi Travel, owner and operator of the Serere rainforest reserve in the Bolivian Amazon basin.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Protecting the Amazon Rainforest through EcoTourism

Last updated on October 27th, 2017 at 12:31 pm

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Protectors of the Amazon | Madidi Travel | Eco Tourism at Serere
Our tour guide, Severo navigating the waters of the Beni River in the Bolivian Amazon.  Severo is one of a team of dedicated environmentalists who protect and defend the Serere Reserve against illegal loggers and other predators.  Rainforest conservation through eco tourism is their strategy & 100% of their profits go to conservation work and the local community.

Why Does the Amazon Need Protecting?

We talk a lot about rainforest conservation at Vermont Woods Studios and I’m sure many people wonder why we’re so fanatic about it.  Part of the reason for our forest conservation mission is is my love of animals and wildlife.  And part of it is that humanity is destroying a precious resource (that took billions of years to evolve) at a rate that surpasses any previous mass extinction. Consider that:

Forests have completely disappeared in 25 countries and another 29 countries have lost > 90% of their forest cover.

Madidi Travel: Protectors of the Amazon

We’ve written before about who’s responsible for destroying the rainforest.  Today I wanted to tell you about people who are dedicating their lives to conserving the rainforest.  Last week Kendall and I visited Riley, who was volunteering for them at Madidi Travel in the Serere Reserve in Bolivia.  Ecotourism supporting conservation is Madidi’s strategy.  They are a team led by the legendary environmental activist, Rosamaria Ruiz (featured in this National Geographic article).

Diego and M Tapir | Rescue Sanctuary at Serere | Maidid Travel
Diego manages many aspects of hospitality at the Serere Reserve.  I imagine this job is rather different from his previous experiences managing Club Med facilities!  Here he and Monsieur Tapir are having a moment.  Madidi Travel uses responsible ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation in the Bolivian Amazon.  The Serere Reserve functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, many of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.  Kendall, Riley and I had an amazing time getting to know the orphaned tapirs, monkeys, chonchos and capybaras.

After decades of conservation work in the Bolivian Amazon, which resulted in the creation of the Madidi National Park, Ms Ruiz purchased a 4000 hectacre reserve known as Serere.  The land was severely damaged by illegal logging and other unauthorized exploitations but Ms Ruiz and her team have brought it back to life.  It is now one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse places on the planet (as you can see in this Serere video).

Can Eco Tourism Help Save the Rainforest?

With much of the reforestation already in progress, the job of patrolling the rainforest and protecting it’s inhabitants now takes center stage at Serere.  That’s where the strategy of ecotourism comes in.  Guests can join local guides on daily hikes and canoe rides throughout the reserve.  Thus the land is patrolled while visitors enjoy the amazing biodiversity of life in the forest (we saw 5 different species of monkeys in one day).  Learn more about ecotourism supporting rainforest conservation on this Madidi Travel video.

Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz and Madidi Travel team members
Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz,  Madidi Travel team members and volunteers.  We were in Rurrenabaque, the launch point for Amazon rainforest ecotourism adventures.  Now is the time to go, if you’re thinking of visiting the Amazon.  The US dollar is currently very strong in Bolivia and the need for your support of ecotourism is urgent.

 

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

5 Earth Friendly Companies You’ll Love

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At Vermont Woods Studios, we believe that businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place–not only on Earth day, but everyday. We realize that the planet is precious, and that both businesses and consumers have the power to protect it. The five companies we are highlighting in this blog are ones we believe do their best to protect our planet, both socially and environmentally. From organic and eco-friendly materials, to trade cycles that benefit indigenous populations, we are happy to support the unique missions of these Earth friendly companies:

1. Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch describes their products as “linens with a mission.” Their 300-thread-count sheets & cable knit throws are made exclusively from Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton, and made in fair-trade farms and factories in India. They ensure that the factory conditions are safe, and workers are paid a living wage. Boll & Branch uses only low impact, fiber reactive dyes that do not contain any known toxins or heavy metals. Their linens are beautiful, luxurious, and most importantly, eco-friendly!

2. Yellow Leaf Hammocks: Every Yellow Leaf Hammock is 100% handwoven by “hill-tribe artisans” in rural northern Thailand. The opportunity to weave hammocks and earn a good living wage is transformative for the weavers and their families, many of whom previously worked in back breaking slash and burn agriculture. Instead of going to school, many children would end up working in the fields alongside their parents, stuck in a cycle of poverty. Yellow Leaf Hammocks empowers these people through job creation– giving them the tools they need to escape poverty and join the middle class.

3. Badger: Badger is a small, family-owned company nestled on the banks of the Ashuelot River in rural Gilsum, New Hampshire. They blend organic plant extracts, oils, butters and beeswax to make eco-friendly healing balms, lip balms, mineral sunscreens, and other personal care products. Everything they make is healthy, and promoting environmental responsibility is one of their core principals. Plus, they use only USDA Certified Organic ingredients in their products!

4. Deans Beans: Deans Beans encourages you to look in your kitchen and ask yourself, “where do your beans come from?” They believe in a progressive trade system where social and environmental consciousness plays an integral part in every step of the cycle (from production and distribution, from the farmer to the consumer). They believe in building a better future through business and hope that other coffee companies follow their lead. They only purchase their beans from small farm cooperatives, largely made up of indigenous people working hard to maintain their culture and lifestyle. Dean, the company’s founder, has a long history of activism for indigenous rights, and it’s one of the reasons he started the company in the first place.  They believe that the quality of their coffee includes the quality of respect for the environment and for their southern partners in the coffee world.

5. Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is a Burlington, Vermont based maker of environmentally friendly laundry detergent, trash bags, and diapers. They took their name from an Iroquiois law that says, “in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” To make good on that pledge, Seventh Generation sells a line of products that includes biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning products, chlorine-free tampons and paper towels and natural lotion baby wipes. They even have an employee bonus program that awards workers who figure out ways to make their products even more sustainable!

We hope that these companies have inspired you to take a look around your home and think about the products you bring into it. Where are they coming from? Who makes them? What are the consequences? Who am I supporting? These are all important things to consider when buying consciously and ethically. We invite you to join us in promoting some of your own favorite Earth friendly companies! You can leave a link and what you love about them in the comments section, or write to us on Facebook or on Twitter.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

What is a Vermont Furniture Store Doing in the Amazon Rainforest?

Last updated on May 14th, 2015 at 09:09 pm

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

The Serere Reserve | Madidi | Bolivian Amazon Rainfdorest
The view of the Serere Reserve from Casa Grande, where we shared meals, plans and stories with the amazing people of Madidi Travel who are using eco tourism to fund conservation in the Bolivian Amazon.

The Rainforest & A Vermont Furniture Store

Where is the link?  Well, in the time it takes to read this series of blogs, an area of the Amazon rainforest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed.   Can you believe that?  Much rainforest destruction is done illegally, to feed the US markets for furniture and flooring.  Hmm… Vermont makes wood furniture.  With our 200 year tradition of  using local, sustainably harvested wood, we can provide an excellent alternative to illegal furniture imports.  At Vermont Woods Studios our mission is to raise awareness about the rainforest and persuade consumers to avoid illegal wood products (made from rare tropical woods like mahogany, teak and ipe) in favor of sustainable furniture and flooring made from North American woods (like cherry, maple, oak and walnut).

Massive tree in the Serere Reserve | Madidi | Bolivian Amazon
Riley is on the left, taking a break from his volunteer work to explore the rainforest with me and Severo, our knowledgeable (and entertaining) guide.

Finding A Way To Help

At VWS we’ve supported rainforest conservation since Day 1.  But quite honestly, donating our profits to reforestation NGOs (impressive and legitimate, as they are) operating 5000 miles away was not very satisfying.  We wanted to be more closely involved.  We wanted to see (and be a part of) the progress being made through our contributions.

My last post was about how my son Riley happened to end up volunteering for the legendary conservationist, Rosamaria Ruiz, of Madidi Travel in the Serere Reserve of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest.  Perfect!  Kendall (my other son) and I went down to see Riley and offer to help Ms Ruiz with her efforts in reforestation and “conservation through eco tourism”.

Yellow Monkeys | Amazon Rainforest | Serere Reserve | Bolivia | Madidi
This troop of Yellow Monkeys crashed through the rainforest right in front of the Casa Grande where we were eating lunch. They seemed as curious and unafraid of us as we were of them.

Many Faces of Rainforest Destruction

After flying over huge expanses of the Amazon and trekking through the Serere Reserve, I realized there are many different rainforest destruction problems and approaches to solving them.  Some areas have simply been clear cut, the worst possible fate.  But “luckily” the Serere Reserve was ravaged by illegal loggers who were just interested in large, high value trees. For example, I did not see a single mahogany tree other than the saplings planted by Madidi Travel.  Cedar was also completely wiped out.  The good news is that, otherwise the Serere Reserve is still intact, extraordinarily beautiful & teaming with wildlife.

Ecotourism | Hanging with Monkeys & Tapirs in the Amazon Rainforest
The little spider monkey next to me is having a word with that 200 pound tapir nosing up to him.  The two are rescues who’ve taken sanctuary at Madidi Travel’s Serere Rainforest Reserve.  In many cases, rescued animals have lost their parents, flocks, herds or other companions to illegal loggers who shoot them for food or sell them as curiosities.

It’s an amazing place, filled with exotic birds, monkeys (we saw troops of howlers, yellow monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins and a nocturnal monkey all in one day) fish and other wildlife.  Serere is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet– it’s a nature lover’s dream.  Rosamaria says that wildlife is so abundant here because the animals feel safe.

Massive Rainforest Tree | Madidi | Serere
Although illegal loggers cleaned out the huge, high value trees from Madidi Travel’s Serere Reserve, there are still plenty of massive 200 and 300+ year old trees that will amaze you.

Conservation Through Eco Tourism

Last week I learned there’s more to rainforest conservation than planting trees.  In places where the rainforest is still standing, the goal is to protect what’s left and restore what’s been stolen.  Illegal loggers are a constant threat so rigorous patrolling and enforcement are always required.  That takes money.  Rosamaria Ruiz is showing rainforest communities around the world how to raise that money through eco tourism.  Devoted wildlife and nature lovers pay to experience the wonder of the rainforest, thus providing jobs for indigenous people to conserve and defend it.

If you love being up close and personal with nature, check out Madidi Travel and their eco tourism opportunities at the Serere Reserve.  It’s the last little corner of the Garden of Eden.  Get down there soon. The rainforest continues to disappear at an alarming rate.  The clock is ticking.

Amazon Rainforest Trip
On my way to the Bolivian Amazon,  I’m holding the National Geographic article I read 15 years ago, about Rosamaria Ruiz and her rainforest conservation work in Madidi National Park.  It influenced me to create Vermont Woods Studios.  On the right, I’m in the Amazon, helping Ms Ruiz’s team members who are re-planting mahogany trees.  It was a good feeling!

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.