Buying new hardwood flooring? Tips for buying sustainably harvested wood.
Buying new hardwood flooring?  Ask if it’s made from legal sustainably harvested wood.  Watch tonight’s Global News documentary to see why.

As a sustainable wood furniture company, we don’t usually have much to say about hardwood flooring.  But recent news & events in this area are so compelling I thought our readers would be interested to hear a few details.

Hardwood Flooring, Lumber Liquidators and the Forest
A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals that Lumber Liquidators (America’s largest retailer of hardwood flooring) is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of the Lacey Act – a law banning the illegal harvest and trade of wood and timber products.

Hardwood Flooring and the Future of the Forest

Every year about 7.5 billion square feet of flooring is purchased in the USA (Freedonia).  If it takes roughly 1 acre of forest to produce 500 sq ft of flooring (UN Report by TimberGreen) then by my calculations it would take about 15 million acres to produce 7.5 billion sq ft of flooring (the amount sold annually in the USA).  By comparison, the state of Vermont is 5.9 million acres so each year an area of forest about 2.5 times the size of Vermont is logged to supply the American wood flooring industry.  Granted, my calculation is mushy and imprecise but even so, it begs the question: where is all that hardwood flooring come from?

Where Does Your Hardwood Flooring Come From?

We always encourage people to buy American made wood furniture because we know that environmental, health, safety and quality standards are high here in The States.  The same is true for American made wood flooring, but that integrity built into American made wood products makes them more expensive than imports.  So, not surprisingly about half of the hardwood flooring in America is imported (USITC Publication 4032).

The Siberian Tiger's Fate Rests with Lumber Liquidators?
The Siberian Tiger’s Fate Rests with you, the consumer and global timber companies like Lumber Liquidators.

The Trouble with Imported Wood

The imported wood products industry is now controlled to a large extent by organized crime.  A recent report Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers reveals that “demand for hardwood flooring and furniture in the United States, European Union, Japan, and China is fueling corruption and making the world’s last temperate hardwood forests into a major epicenter for illegal logging… Organized criminal groups send out logging brigades to steal valuable hardwoods from protected areas” thus decimating the last remaining habitats for iconic species like the Siberian tiger (in fact all species of big cats are now critically endangered as are all species of big apes, such as gorillas, chimps and orangutans).

Consumers Will Ultimately Decide the Fate of the Forest

As consumers we need to ask ourselves whether we want to buy the cheapest wood products we can without regard to the legality or sustainability of their origins.  Think about it. How could it be that hardwood flooring from the rainforest of South America or the Russian Far East is half the price of local hardwood flooring?

There is a high price being paid for these bargains– we just don’t see it.  Check out this video to see what the real price is, in terms of irreparable environmental damage. I’m betting, it’s a price you’re not willing to pay.

What You Can Do To Help

Maybe you’re not in the market for hardwood furniture or flooring but you still want to help protect the forest and it’s inhabitants.  Join the folks at Sierra Club in signing this petition to enforce the Lacey Act which seeks to eliminate trafficking in illegal wood products and penalize those who import illegally harvested wood products and wildlife.  Sign it today!

References

  1. EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency), Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Furniture & Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers
  2. Timber, a book by Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister
  3. TV Documentary, “Liquidating the Forests
  4. Global Tiger Day, Organized Crime and Timber (the New Heroin)
  5. IKEA Cuts Down 600 Year Old Trees, Suspended From FSC
  6. American Wood Furniture Is Linked To Global Forest Conservation
  7. Where Does Your Furniture Come From?
  8. Is Your Wood Furniture Brought to You by Organized Crime?
  9. Organized Crime Is Getting Rich By Cutting Down The Rainforest

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.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture | Handmade in VT, USA
This Woodland Table and Modern Mission Dining Chairs are made from solid cherry wood, that was sustainably harvested in North America.

We started Vermont Woods Studios out of a passion for forest conservation.  It was this one astounding statistic that really lit a fire under me:

Every second an acre of rainforest is lost forever

Along with trees, some of my favorite iconic wildlife species that live in the rainforest are being lost.  For example, all the great cats (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetas, etc) are critically endangered as are all the great apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc).  Our planet is actually losing over 100 species/day.  The cause is habitat destruction.  Rainforest trees are being clearcut for timber to make cheap furniture and flooring.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is

So to me, eco friendly wood furniture is first and foremost, furniture that’s made from sustainably harvested wood.  More specifically, North American wood (recycled or newly milled) that’s been obtained through legitimate local partners, thus minimizing transport distances and helping regional economies (and greatly reducing fuel usage and carbon emissions).

Other aspects of eco friendly furniture relate to how a tree is transformed into, say… a table or a bed.  Vermont furniture makers use both traditional and modern methods to maximize the yield from each tree and minimize (or eliminate) wood waste. All wood processing by-products are put to some type of use here in Vermont. For example: sawdust is used by local farmers for animal bedding and wood chips are used for heating.

Non-toxic furniture finishes are also characteristic of eco friendly furniture.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is NOT

Unlike many large American furniture companies, we do not consider imported wood furniture eco friendly.  The global timber trade has been infiltrated by organized crime to the point where illegal wood (often clear cut from the rainforest) is pervasive throughout the imported wood furniture and flooring industry.  Much of it is accompanied by counterfeit documents labeling it as green certified by the Forest Stewardship Council FSC (here are a couple articles reporting on this: Liquidating the Forests and Corruption Stains the Global Timber Trade).

National Geographic recently reported on a UN study showing that the global environmental crime industry (with illegal logging being the primary component) has now surpassed the global drug trade in terms of estimated annual revenue.  “We have regulations, but we need to inform consumers,” said Indonesian official Budi Susanti, “if buyers won’t buy the products that aren’t sustainable, there won’t be demand.”

How to Know the Difference

A google search for “eco friendly wood furniture” turns up all sorts of  questionable results from big, multinational companies that pledge to use green certified wood.  Of course your best bet would be to find something made locally from local wood.  But if that’s not possible or practical for you, any furniture that’s truly 100% Made in America is likely to be an environmentally friendly choice.

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.

#MonarchsVT
Whenever we post about our work with Monarchs, we’ll be using the hashtag #MonarchsVT!  (For twitter, FB, etc) Please post your photos, stories, and butterfly inspiration using the same hashtag to raise awareness for this cause!

Monarch Butterflies are incredible. These delicate creatures weigh less than a gram, but travel thousands of miles every year in an extraordinary, multi-generational migration journey. They’re beautiful, well known for their bright orange and black wings, and they are a staple of American childhood. Many school children learn about metamorphosis through watching Monarchs grow from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. They are one of the most popular butterflies in the world…so why are they dying? 

Despite how loved they are, Monarchs are in trouble, and the evidence is everywhere. A few years ago, we’d have these wonderful butterflies all around our gardens and backyards, but this year we’ve only spotted one. Monarch populations have plummeted more than 90% in the last 20 years, and that’s sad news. (Read more about Monarchs and the reason for their disappearance here.)

IMG_0348
Milkweed: The Elixr of Life for Monarch Butterflies

But we still have hope. 

This is where social media comes in. If you’ve been keeping up with us, you’ve probably noticed an influx of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Pinterest about our passion for Monarchs. While it’s all good fun to share photos and stories, it’s even more important to raise awareness about this pressing issue.

You can help save the monarchs by getting active and sharing your work on social media! Picking milkweed & planting the seeds or sending them to organizations like Monarch Watch is a great first step. Contacting your local legislators, getting involved with local environmental groups that work to save Monarchs, and writing to your local papers is even better!

We’re on a mission to bring Monarchs back to Vermont, and we hope that you will join us! Use the hashtag #MonarchsVT to share your activity with us, and the world! We’ll always follow you back & re-share. If you need help finding milkweed or seeds, send me an email at kelsey.eaton@vermontwoodsstudios.com and I’ll gladly help you out.

Just get out there and make your voice heard! Together, we can bring back Monarchs. Sign petitions, write to the companies who are responsible for their disappearance, write to your local government, get active! The Monarchs need us now more than ever.

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.

Hike for the Homeless

 

 

Hike for the Homeless to Benefit the Morningside Shelter!

Looking for an excuse to be outside this weekend enjoying Vermont’s beautiful Autumn weather? This Saturday, October 4 (rain date is Sunday) you can do just that while supporting a great cause! Our friends over at the Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro are hosting the 4th annual Hike for the Homeless on Mt. Wantastiquet in Hinsdale, NH. Registration starts at 9:30 am and 12 noon.

This Hike is held to raise money that will help to house the homeless in Brattleboro and surrounding communities during the coming winter. You can either hike to the summit of Mt. Wantastiquet or take a stroll along the Connecticut River Trail at the base of the mountain. Participants are encouraged to raise funds and walk as a team or individually. The suggested minimum for individuals is $50 and teams is $250. The foliage right now is spectacular, so whatever route you choose to take, you’ll be in for some outstanding views.

Morningside Shelter offers extended stay housing for up to 29 individuals and families.  They also work with other organizations to provide services such as job placement, medical treatment, counseling, budget and nutrition management, education, childcare service, transition back into housing as tenants and more. The Morningside Shelter has been helping the homeless for over 30 years and is committed to serving the Brattleboro area.

As a furniture company, we believe that everyone deserves a place to stay and a bed to sleep in. We love the work that Morningside is doing and support the strides that they are making for the homeless community in the Brattleboro area.

Follow them on Facebook to read more about how you can help or visit their website to make a donation now.

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 Butterfly on Milkweed
A Monarch butterfly on milkweed.  Photo by Elizabeth Howard, founder of Journey North.

The Mind-Boggling, Magical Journey of a Monarch

Monarch butterflies migrate from Vermont (and other northern regions) 2500 miles south to Mexico every year at this time.  In the spring and summer they return- that’s an annual journey of 5000 miles! The butterflies migrate to the exact same tree each and every year.  In order to make the trip without literally falling apart, they reproduce 4 times en-route so it’s actually the 4th generation that returns to Mexico every winter.

The Monarch Population is in Free Fall

Last month I wrote about monarchs and the 90% drop in their population over the last few years.  “In human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio” according to Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.  The free fall is largely due to recent decimation of the butterfly’s habitat and food source, milkweed.

Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies | Vernon, Vermont
I recruited (somewhat skeptical) staff members at Vermont Woods Studios to help collect milkweed seeds.  We gathered over 1000 seedpods and separated the seeds from their fuzzy parachutes.

A Milkweed SeedBank is Born in Vermont

After researching the Monarch’s plight, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something to help.  So last weekend I spent much of my time wandering through an empty lot on Rt 142 in Vernon, collecting milkweed seeds.  I recruited Dennis, Kelsey and Nina to help me.  Realtor, David Berrie of Berrie Real Estate in Newfane, VT owns the lot and he was kind enough to allow us to “take all the milkweed you want!”  I think that ended up being about 1000 seedpods.  The Nature Institute estimates there are an average of 226 seeds in each milkweed pod so we probably harvested around a quarter of a million seeds.  We’ll keep them on hand for awhile in case anyone in the area would like to plant some.  Otherwise we’ll donate the seeds to Monarch Watch, an organization that maintains a free milkweed seed bank.

Milkweed Seed Bank at Stonehurst
Even Pepper pitched in as we worked well into the night hours separating seeds.

Sowing the Seeds:  A Trial Run

Sowing Milkweed Seeds at Malhana Farm
Annette and Fia helped me with a trial run at Malhana Farm.  It was a beautiful Fall day for planting milkweed!

Annette volunteered to sow milkweed seeds in a couple of her pastures at Malhana farm and I did the same in the meadows at Stonehurst.  Now we wait until the spring to see what comes up.

I hope you’ll think the monarch’s mind-boggling, magical phenomenon is worth conserving!  Please spread the word and join scientists, conservationists, teachers, road crews and nature lovers in planting milkweed in backyards, gardens, fields and highway medians. Need seeds?  Let me know on Facebook, or email me (Peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com).

To learn more, visit the Journey North website, founded by Elizabeth Howard of Norwich, VT or any of these organizations that are working hard to keep the Monarch alive:

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.