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.
At Vermont Woods Studios, we certainly have a passion and appreciation for high quality craftsmanship and woodworking, but, the truth is, Peggy founded this business out of a passion for forest conservation.
It was this one astounding statistic that really lit a fire under her in 2005:
Every second, an acre of rainforest is lost forever
Last Friday I traveled to Becancour, Quebec with our friend Jose Luis Alvarez for the 1st International Symposium on American Silk (aka milkweed). The symposium was put together by Francois Simard. He’s a textiles engineer who’s developing technologies to use milkweed fibers as a down substitute in winter jackets. Francois is trying to persuade farmers to plant milkweed as a commercial crop in the USA and Canada.
Join us in Montreal for a discussion on Monarchs, Milkweed and Where we go from here.
Our friend, Francois Simard of Encore 3, is hosting the first ever International Monarch Symposium on the Silk of America. Silk of America? Yes, that’s the new and improved name for milkweed! The symposium will focus on the topic of monarch butterfly habitat conservation in the USA and Canada.
It’s Easier to Shop For Eco-Friendly Furniture This Holiday Season Than You Might Think
The effects of climate change are real. You can see it in the flooded streets of Miami or the wildfires in the midwest and west coasts or the droughts across the entire country. It’s undeniable that weather is getting more extreme each year. But, we’re not climate experts. We’re here to let you know there’s a way to positively impact the environment and that’s by purchasing truly eco-friendly furniture.
Learn how you can help the environment and economy by purchasing American Made Furniture this Holiday Season.
It’s hard to believe that not just 40 years ago when you bought wood furniture, or any product for that matter, it was most likely made right here in America by a skilled craftsman. The crew at the workshop or factory was most likely paid a fair and livable wage and the price of the product reflected that. We took pride in American Made Furniture.
From barely noticeable caterpillar to one of nature’s most beautiful creatures.
Monarch Butterflies have long been a popular and famous insect. Their image is used everywhere from GMO free food labels to makeup ads. And, just a couple of months ago President Obama met with the Canadian Prime Minister and Mexican President to discuss how these three countries can save the monarch. With seven states including Vermont calling it their state insect, it’s a wonder how we’ve let the monarch butterfly population reach the endangered zone.
IKEA: A Trusted Sustainable Furniture Source? Not so quick.
While furniture giant IKEA has been leading campaigns for their use of sustainably sourced cotton, and promoting LED lighting & solar panels in their stores– they apparently made the mistake of not paying attention to where their wood comes from. Already criticized for their staggering wood usage (IKEA uses a whopping 1% of the entire earths forests for their furniture), they are now facing harsh criticism for cutting down old growth trees in Karelia, Russia.
Swedwood, IKEA’s forestry subsidiary, was given lease to log 700,000 acres of Russian forest as long as they avoided old growth trees and trees in specified protected areas. A recent audit done by the Forest Stewardship Council revealed “major deviations” from regulations, including cutting down 600+ year old trees.
Environmental organizations had been voicing their concern about IKEA’s logging practices in Karelia for years– PFS (Protect the Forest, Sweden) apparently handed Swedwood over 180,000 signatures and a joint statement with criticisms of their forestry practices and demands to transform their habits to protect the valuable old growth forests over a year ago.
IKEA’s infraction resulted in the Forest Stewardship Council temporarily stripping them of their certification. Despite the withdrawal of IKEA’s FSC certification for their illegal logging, insufficient dialogue, lack of environmental consideration and work environment issues– many believe that FSC is not addressing key issues.
According to Linda Ellegaard Nordstrom, “The report raises several deficiencies, but does not describe the main problem, which is that pioneer exploitation, with fragmenting and breaking into the last intact forest landscapes and tracts, does not fit to FSC’s principles and criteria. Thus we believe that the FSC label is still far from being a guarantee for sustainable forestry, Together with Russian environmental organizations we have suggested to IKEA that they, as an influential multinational corporation, should set a good example by announcing that they will no longer log or buy timber from intact old-growth forests, whether the forests are certified or not.”
An Ikea spokeswoman told The Sunday Times: “We see the suspension of the certificate as highly temporary. The deviations mainly cover issues related to facilities and equipment for our co-workers, forestry management as well as training of our forestry co-workers,” claiming that they have already corrected most of the violations.
While IKEA announced plans to stop operations in Karelia in 2014, it’s important for consumers to be critical of all businesses claiming to practice sustainability. IKEA is a leader in the furniture industry, using resources unimaginable to a small business like Vermont Woods Studios. We would love to see them take true accountability for their actions.
Responsible forest management is at the heart of our mission as the devastating loss of these old trees is irreversible, and we can only hope that more furniture companies will take note of the criticism that IKEA is facing and take steps towards sustainable forestry. It’s up to consumers to make informed decisions about where they buy the products that ends up in their homes. If certification can’t stop this type of thing from happening, then people must be more careful than ever in picking a company that they care about and trust.
What are your thoughts? Leave us a note in the comments section, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter!
Providing solutions to rain forest deforestation is a central part of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios. We’re inspired to do our part in making illegal logging and mass deforestation a thing of the past, so needless to say, we’re more than excited about this new tool that provides practically real time information on tree loss. Our furniture is never made from rain forest lumber, but we are looking forward to a day when other furniture (and various wood product companies) will join us in the mission for a more sustainable world.
According to BBC News, “Despite greater awareness around of the world of the impacts of deforestation, the scale of forest loss since 2000 has been significant – data from Google and the University of Maryland says the world lost 230 million hectares of trees between 2000 and 2012.”
Staggering Statistics: “Forest campaigners say this is the equivalent of 50 football fields of trees being cut down, every minute of every day over the past 12 years.”
As noted in the BBC article, one of the major problems regarding deforestation is the lack of accurate information. To take on this challenge of obtaining accurate and reliable information, ” the US based World Resources Institute (WRI) has led the development of GFW, using half a billion high resolution images from Nasa’s Landsat programme.”
This program will make it harder for illegal loggers to continue clearcutting without accountability or consequences, as this new technology is “a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests,” said Dr Andrew Steer from WRI…From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”
Tracking widespread illegal logging across the globe might seem like an impossible task, but “the technology is said to be easy to use and will incorporate information showing protected areas, logging, mining and palm oil concessions and daily forest fire alerts from Nasa.”
The tool will involve a global support system of concerned groups, citizens, and politicians. So “when tree losses are detected, alerts can be sent out to a network of partners and citizens around the world who can take action.”
So what does this mean for the wood industry, and the consumers who support it?
According to Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, “As we strive to increase the visibility of where the ingredients for our products come from, the launch of Global Forest Watch – a fantastic, innovative tool – will provide the information we urgently need to make the right decisions.”