She is a CEO who brakes for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels and spent her vacation building furniture for a rural school in Costa Rica. She believes in the future and in the people who will build it. A former distance-learning professor at Tulane University with a master’s in environmental health & safety, she turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a growing, local business. She delivers rainforest statistics at breakneck speed, but knows how to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a newly finished piece of heirloom furniture.
Last week I visited Michoacan, Mexico, the winter home to Vermont’s big, beautiful orange and black Monarch butterfly. As a wood furniture company we at Vermont Woods Studios wanted to support a reforestation project that would help protect the endangered butterfly’s habitat. I did quite a bit of research, trying to understand who was leading area environmental efforts and then I traveled to Mexico to see if we could help them.
We have conversations with customers every day about the color of real cherry wood furniture. It’s no wonder! When I just googled “real cherry wood” well over 50 shades of cherry came up. Quite a variation, isn’t it?
First of all, half of these images are NOT of cherry wood. When the big American furniture companies started off-shoring their furniture 30-40 years ago they found it cheaper to use rainforest woods than cherry (rather than ship cherry wood from North America to third world factories and then export it back to North America as furniture). So they stained these cheaper woods and gave them various trade names containing “cherry”. For example Makore, an increasingly rare African wood being illegally logged in Sierra Leone and Gabon has been sold under the trade name Cherry Mahogany, though Makore is not closely related to either cherry or mahogany. Worse yet, it is listed as an endangered species due to illegal logging and exploitation by organized crime which has taken root in the global timber industry.
Many times customers come to Vermont Woods Studios looking to buy real cherry wood furniture that matches existing cherry pieces in their homes. After discussions and emailing pictures back and forth they are shocked to find that their “cherry” furniture from Bassett, Broyhill, Ethan Allen, Thomasville, Drexel, Lane or other big “American” companies is not cherry at all but rubberwood, poplar or some kind of engineered hardwood.
At Vermont Woods Studios, our cherry furniture is indeed made out of real, solid North American Black Cherry wood. The color starts out as a light pink and slowly ripens to a rich reddish brown over time, as it’s exposed to light. Nina’s photo of the rocker below shows the range of natural cherry colors after the wood’s been exposed to light.
Are you interested to learn more? Find tons of information and photos of American made, real cherry wood furniture on our website & send us your questions on Facebook or in the comments section below.
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!
At 7am on Sunday morning I’ll be boarding a flight to Morelia, Mexico. Woohoo! The trip evolved out of my obsession with forest conservation and the Monarch Butterfly. If you’re a frequent flyer on this blog, you’ve probably noticed we love environmental projects like this.
The other day, Megan (our ace Marketing Maven) suggested I try to boil down some of my previous blogs and summarize why a Vermont furniture store would want to help save the Monarch Butterfly. So here goes… the Top 4 reasons are:
The Environment Is Important To Us
It’s not just me. At Vermont Woods Studios we are a community of nature lovers, idealists, world travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. Most of us grew up in rural places and have had much interaction with butterflies, birds and other critters throughout our lives. Monarchs are such a big, beautiful butterfly! They were everywhere in Vermont. It used to be practically a right of passage for kids to collect them and watch their metamorphosis every August. Now they are extremely rare and we worry about that.
The Environment Is Important To Our Customers
Our customers have many options as to where they buy their furniture. Often times they tell us that when it comes to the final decision, with all else being equal, they are looking for an environmentally responsible company. We are trying to live up to that.
We Want to Change the World
Getting a paycheck is not enough for all the hard work that goes into making this Vermont furniture store a success. We want to feel like our efforts matter. Like there’s a purpose behind our work.
Changing the world is a little hard to get our arms around though. But we can change a little part of it: like restoring habitat for the Monarchs. And that’s totally possible because in Vermont, Monarch habitat is primarily one plant, milkweed. It’s easy… we collect milkweed seeds in the Fall and plant them in the Spring. This year we’re hoping to have a sizable plot of milkweed habitat in the backyard here at Stonehurst.
We Believe Business Has a Responsibility to Make the World a Better Place
With our business behind us (founded on the mission of forest conservation) we don’t have to stop at planting milkweed in Vermont. We can extend our conservation efforts. We know that Monarchs don’t spend their winters here– they migrate to Mexico and roost in evergreen (oyamel) trees in the mountains of Michoacan. Those oyamel trees are being illegally logged and the Monarch’s habitat is disappearing.
What difference does it make if we restore their habitat here in Vermont? The species will still go extinct if they lose their winter habitat. So that brings me back to my trip to Mexico. I’ll be working with Jose Luis Alvarez of the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program to help conserve existing forest habitat and replant what’s been destroyed. You can find details here in last week’s blog. By the way, there’s still time to join me on this adventure!
I’d love to hear what you think about butterflies, business and changing the world. Please comment on Facebook or in the section below. Thanks for reading.