The palm oil controversy asks why it is bad but is there any good from it either? We take a look at how palm oil affects the environment and communities.
An important distinction to make is that the crop itself is not inherently bad for the environment, but rather the way plantations operate. We believe it is important to make that distinction because of our own commitment to sustainable practices. Only reporting that palm oil is bad is a “black and white” mindset that leaves little nuance for the communities trying to change its production.
In 2018, people in the US threw away 18.35 million tons of paper and paperboard. Paper products made up about 12 percent of landfill waste (EPA). But it doesn’t have to be this way… adopt these zero waste hacks to go paperless and reduce your impact!
1) Reuse whatever paper you already have
First things first, reuse before recycling! Those junk mail envelopes you’re planning to toss? Use them for your grocery list. Other paper items you can reuse are shipping mailers and cardboard boxes, paper bags, and documents with printing errors. Make sure you’ve used them until they’re no longer functional before recycling them!
A lot of the wood furniture you see in stores today is manufactured overseas. Fast fashion furniture is designed to be made as cheap and quickly as possible by cutting corners in the production process. Often the wood is harvested illegally from one of the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests.
Not only is fast fashion furniture contributing to deforestation, but some brands are abandoning solid wood altogether. Brands like Ikea use particleboard and vinyl designed to look like wood in order to reduce overseas shipping costs. All of our furniture, except for our recycled plastic outdoor chairs, is made out of solid wood because of its long-lasting durability. Our furniture is meant to be enjoyed for a lifetime, not end up in a landfill like 80% of furniture.
Forests, rich in biodiversity, thick in oxygen, and natural filters of greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide. In one year, one single tree sequesters 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it into oxygen. The amount of oxygen that is released through this process every year, is roughly 260 pounds per tree.
Furniture: we all come in contact with it every single day. Whether at our home, out in the park, on the sidewalks, or your place of work, chances are you probably saw a table, bench, desk, chair, and other furnishings throughout your day. But have you ever thought about where all of these items go once we are ‘done’ with them?
Well, let’s start off by saying it is the classic tale of the fast fashion industry: mass-produced items that are cheaply made and built to break, but this time it’s about furniture.
Why Fast Furniture is a Problem
Although furniture gives off the perception that it is made to last, most furniture today is made with cheap material, like particleboard, that isn’t durable and is incredibly toxic with chemical resin and plastic coating.
For instance, let’s look at a standard office cubicle. Alone that cubical represents anywhere from 300 to 700 pounds of waste, with the majority of it being complex products – meaning it is non-recyclable – due to the fact it is made up of different materials like metal, wood, particleboard, and plastic.
So if that is just one cubicle, what about all the furniture we have in our homes? How can we support a more sustainable system for furniture?
First things first, we can educate ourselves about the negative effects the fast furniture industry has on the environment. This way, we feel empowered to make more mindful purchasing decisions.
Sustainably managing forests is nothing new in Vermont. According to the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, 75% of the landmass in our state is forest land. Over 2,000 businesses in the state rely on those forests to generate ~$1.5B in annual revenue.
“Vermont’s forest products industry generates an annual economic output of $1.5 billion and supports 10,000 jobs in forestry, logging, processing, specialty woodworking, construction, and wood heating. In addition, Vermont’s forest recreation economy (skiing, etc) generates another $1.9 billion in economic output, and supports 10,000 additional jobs.” – VSJF
Despite all the economic activity dependent on our forests, they’re still growing in size and density.
Over the past few years, we’ve been learning more about how connected trees are to one another. I’m a big fan of ‘The Daily’ podcast from the New York Times and was super excited to see this topic covered during one of their Sunday Reads. ‘The Social Life of Forests’ inspired me to write about Dr. Suzanne Simard for Women’s History Month.
We believe that practices are genuinely sustainable when they meet the needs of people, protect the planet, and create economic impact. As leaders in our industry, our goal is to highlight the innovative (and traditional) best practices that make it possible for wood furniture making to sustain itself for generations to come. Read part one of our triple bottom line sustainability series on people here.
Illegal logging and widespread deforestation has already begun to affect our climate and ecosystem. Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface now cover a mere 6%. The last remaining rainforests could be gone in less than 40 years. Rainforest deforestation is destroying or severely threatening nearly half of the world’s species of plants and animals over the next 25 years.