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.
By managing our own forest here in Vermont since 2013, we have witnessed the beautiful harmony of a healthy ecosystem. When Vermont Woods Studios outgrew the spare bedroom in Peggy’s home, our team searched for a permanent home. Above all, our goal was to find a space that would reflect the values of the company and offer a home to showcase the works of Vermont’s finest furniture craftsmen. After a long search, we found Stonehurst. As you can imagine, we love every minute we get to spend out in our forest!
I’m super excited today because our friend Jose Luis Alvarez is coming to visit Vermont this fall to collaborate with us on a project to help save the Monarch butterfly. Jose Luis is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch. Last month I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we’ve been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!
Believe it or not that’s why our small business was born. We’re not a furniture company that “went green”. Vermont Woods Studios was actually a product of my mid-life crisis/desire to make a difference in this world. Weird, right? For some people it’s all about fast cars, loud motorcycles, sex, drugs or rock & roll. For me it was about forest conservation. It’s a long story (which I did tell to Laura Dunn of the Huffington Post, in the remote case you may be interested) but the point is:
The World Is Losing It’s Forests
Many people may not see it as a big deal but if you somehow found your way to this quirky green blog, there’s a good chance you’ll be concerned about these statistics:
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%, yet they are home to over half the species of plants and animals in the world
We are losing the rainforest at the rate of 1.5 acres every second
Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be gone from this earth before you are
So We’re Trying to Help
Last year we celebrated our 10th year in business. Since 2005 we’ve planted about 7500 trees, many of them through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project. More importantly we’ve kept a similar number of rare rainforest trees out of the furniture market as we’ve used only sustainably harvested North American trees. Who is responsible for this progress? You… our customers, our readers and our partners. Your support enables us to throw our energy into environmental projects we think are important and for that we are immensely grateful.
Planting Trees in Mexico
Recently we’ve focused our support on a tree-planting project called the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP in Michoacan Mexico. This is a reforestation initiative that I discovered during my efforts to help save the Monarch Butterfly, which is native to Vermont but it over-winters in sunny Mexico. I wrote about it recently and will be visiting LCHPP’s project in Mexico next week. Stay tuned for a full report. Anyway…
Conservation Matters To Our Customers, Partners & Staff
Does it matter to you? Post your thoughts on our Facebook or contact me directly at peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com. I want to know what you think. Thanks for reading!
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People often ask me why on earth we located our new sustainable furniture store in the middle of Vermont’s woodlands. The truth is that I don’t see Vermont Woods Studios as a furniture store. Yes we have IMHO a beautiful showcase of the best quality handmade furniture Vermont has to offer. But our business was built first and foremost, out of my passion for wildlife & forest conservation. I wanted to show people where their furniture comes from. And I wanted to appeal to them to buy furniture and flooring that come from forests that are re-planted and professionally managed for wildlife & sustainability.
We located Stonehurst in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest…
so customers could enjoy the 100 acre woodland we’re on and experience the beauty of the forest
so we could raise awareness about forest conservation and the fact that much of the wood furniture and flooring in America is made from imported rainforest timber that’s being mowed down at the mind-boggling rate of over 1 acre/second
so we could persuade people to buy American made furniture and flooring– a healthier, more sustainable choice for both people & planet
so we could inspire people to change the world
For the first 7 years our Vermont Woods Studios was an online furniture store. Our staff worked out of a spare bedroom in my house. When customers wanted to visit us we would invite them to Ken’s tiny workshop in the back of the house. But as business grew and more people wanted to visit, we figured maybe it was safe to set up shop in a more suitable location. From the very beginning we knew it had to be in the woods.
Ken and I founded Vermont Woods Studios fine furniture store almost nine years ago. As a woodworker, Ken’s interest was in earning a living by promoting the tradition of high quality Vermont made wood furniture. For me, the project was about forest conservation and my desire to help protect forest habitat and wildlife for future generations*. Over the years it’s been a challenge managing this yin-yang pair of objectives but I think we’ve been able to maintain a pretty good balance.
Stonehurst Opens Up New Opportunities for Forest Conservation
This year we have a chance to bring a whole new dimension to our forest conservation mission through our newly acquired property at Stonehurst. The farmhouse we purchased and renovated into a Vermont made furniture gallery sits on 100 wooded acres in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest. In the past our environmental mission was largely fulfilled by donating to like-minded non-profits**, but now we can also also partner with them by providing forest habitat for various conservation projects.
Below are a few conservation activities we’re supporting for 2014:
Woodlands for Wildlife – Vermont Coverts educates landowners in sound forest management practices and the principles of stewardship for the enhancement of wildlife. Ken and I are attending their 3-day seminar on forest and wildlife management this spring to learn how to improve wildlife habitat and provide better conditions for native deer, turkeys, moose, bear, birds, bob cats, chipmunks, squirrels and other species that may be living at Stonehurst.
MonarchWatch – When Kendall and Riley were in elementary school we used to capture monarch caterpillars, watch their metamorphosis and tag the butterflies before waving them off on their epic migration to Mexico every fall. But for the past several years I haven’t seen even a single monarch. So this year we’ll support Chip Taylor at MonarchWatch by planting butterfly gardens (including milkweed) and encouraging others to do the same.
Vermont Center for Eco Studies– VCE is a group of Vermont’s foremost conservation scientists who inspire citizen volunteers across Vermont and around the world. We’ve been supporting them for years and are excited about being able to use Stonehurst as a place to gather data for their many programs including:
Vernal pool mapping
VT reptile and amphibian atlas
VT breeding bird survey
Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center – BEEC’s annual Salamander Soiree is this Saturday April 5th from 6-8:30pm in Brattleboro at the River Garden on Main Street. We’ll be there to help recruit crossing guards for this year’s annual amphibian migration.
If you’re in our neighborhood and share similar interests, please stop by Stonehurst, give us a call or connect with us on Facebook. Let us know what you’re working on and how we can help. As the southern most corner of Vermont, Vernon can play a significant role in our state’s conservation efforts. Let’s make it happen!
* We are losing the worlds forests at a rate of > 1 acre/second. A major factor in deforestation is widespread illegal logging for timber that’s used to make cheap furniture sold by IKEA, Home Depot and other big-box stores. Our goal at Vermont Woods Studios is to help raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuade people to buy sustainable furniture made from legally harvested wood.
** The non-profits we’ve supported include the World Wildlife Fund WWF, The Nature Conservancy TNC, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center BEEC, Vermont Center for Ecostudies VCE and others working to conserve forests and wildlife.
Vermont is the Green Mountain state and trust me, Vermonters are serious about forest conservation. If you live in New York or Boston or another metropolitan area you might be surprised though to learn that we have to fight hard every day to keep our forests clean, green and intact.
Dennis and I were at a meeting of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association last week and as always, forest conservation was high on the list of topics for discussion. Vermont furniture companies are working on creating a chain of custody for their furniture so customers will be able to trace it back from the furniture maker to the forest where it was sustainably harvested.
You may be thinking: “why do Vermonters think forest conservation is so important?” Well it’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy. Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters. It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.
We see how forests are being decimated in tropical countries like Brazil, the DR Congo and Indonesia and we’re determined to do what we can to conserve forests (both our temperate forests and rainforests) for future generations. Here is just a short list of Vermont organizations working on the mission of forest conservation:
Another forest conservation group– one near to my heart, is the Vermont Center for Eco Studies. Researchers there are working to conserve habitat for our state’s migrating songbirds. As such their conservation efforts span both our temperate Vermont forests and the rainforest of the Dominican Republic where our state bird the Bicknell’s Thrush winters.