Earth Hour 2014 | WWF

This Saturday March 29th from 8:30-9:30pm is Earth Hour, the largest environmental movement in history. Be a part of it by turning your lights off to symbolize your support for Mother Nature.

What is Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is the largest environmental movement in history and it’s sponsored annually by the World Wide Fund WWF.  It’s purpose is to bring people from around the world together for 1 hour in solidarity and support of Mother Nature.  The event has grown to include over 7000 cities and towns worldwide that participate by turning their lights off from 8:30-9:30pm (local time) as a symbol of their commitment to the planet.

Why Do We Care?

I started Vermont Woods Studios in 2005 as my personal attempt to be part of the solution to environmental care, especially in the area of forest and wildlife conservation.  Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to find a small cadre of brilliant professionals, willing to work long hours in an effort to get this sustainable furniture company up and running.  Today I can say we’re making great strides and much of that is attributed to our commitment to a mission that we believe in.  Earth hour symbolizes that mission.

How Can You Participate?

It’s easy and fun to be a part of Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th at 8:30pm.   Check out WWF’s Earth Hour website for things to do while the lights are out.  Candlelight dinners, star-gazing, nighttime bike rides, moonlit picnics and more.

Curious about what others in your city are doing for Earth Hour?  Here’s a map showing various celebrations across America and a list of cities, buildings and businesses that are participating.  Around New England you’ll find dozens of activities including dramatic displays in New York City’s Times Square and the Empire State Building and dimming of the lights in locations all around Boston.  If you add your name to the movement this Saturday, share photos with us at Vermont Woods Studios (Twitter and Facebook #earthhour).  Together we can make a difference!

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.

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.

International Day of Forests is held anually on March 21st as a way to raise awareness for sustainable forest management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of our planet and for current and future generations.

Why Raising Awareness about our Forests is Important

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.

They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. They protect watersheds, which supply fresh water to rivers.

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.” (UN)

Participating in International Day of Forests

Forests are a vital part of our local and international ecosystem. At Vermont Woods Studios, we’re proud to make our commitment to sustainable forestry the driving force behind our mission. We hope that by promoting sustainable wood products, our audience will become more aware of where their wood furniture comes from & choose not to support companies who practice unsustainable logging practices. We celebrate trees & forests each and every single day.

 For International Day of Forests, countries across the globe will celebrate trees and forests with a variety activities spanning from community level activities like film showings and tree plantings, to national and international campaigns through art, photography & social media. What are you doing to celebrate International Day of Forests? Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook!

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.

Sustainable Eco Friendly Furniture from Vermont
With yet another snowstorm on it’s way to Vermont, my mind is longing for Spring. How about you? Perhaps a few images of green grass and the birds and the bees (courtesy of Polyvore) will hurry things along?

In Vermont the seasons are still tied to production of wood furniture.  Winter provides the best opportunity for careful logging because frozen ground is less susceptible to damage.  And Spring begins a new cycle for forest stewardship planning– a process that ensures availability of wood for future generations.  At Vermont Woods Studios that process is led by Lynn Levine (our professional forester) who helps manage the 100 acre woodland that Stonehurst sits upon.  A woodland we’re using to help people understand where their furniture comes from:  trees that are sustainably harvested.

What is Sustainable, Eco Friendly Furniture?

Polywood all weather Adirondack chairs | Recycled plastic milk jugs
These eco friendly Polywood all weather Adirondack chairs are made of recycled plastic milk jugs.  Other marks of sustainability include green certifications, local responsibly harvested wood and use of non-toxic materials.

I just googled “sustainable eco friendly furniture” and came up with everything from IKEA (who was recently suspended from the Forest Stewardship Council FSC for illegally clear cutting 600 year old trees in Russia) to Pottery Barn (well known for  greenwashing campaigns like their eco chic collection). At Vermont Woods Studios  we’ve written a lot about sustainable furniture and how it’s defined.   Because we sell mainly wooden furniture we focus on responsible sourcing, green certification of wood, advantages of local and American made furniture, and the importance of recycled  and handmade furniture.  For examples of a wider variety of eco friendly furniture, check out the latest green furniture articles on Inhabitat.

Why Buy Sustainable Furniture?

“Every dollar you spend or don’t spend is a vote you cast for the world you want.” – L.N. Smith

A couple other reasons that come to mind include:

  • better health for your family (no exposure to the flammables, lead and toxic coatings that are often present in furniture)
  • less investment in furniture over the long run (sustainable furniture is built to last a lifetime so no replacements are necessary) and
  • support for local communities that produce sustainable furniture

Have some reasons of your own?  Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.

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.

Intact old-growth forest on land leased by IKEA/Swedwood in Russian
Intact old-growth forest on land leased by IKEA/Swedwood in Russian Karelia. Photo © Robert Svensson, Protect the Forest 2011.

 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.

 

Protestors with a sign in Swedish that reads: "Hello, our furniture is made of old-growth forests. At IKEA you get low prices at any cost." Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0530-hance-ikea-fsc-logging.html#eUSKYJMi98gOhYLu.99
Protestors with a sign in Swedish that reads: “Hello, our furniture is made of old-growth forests. At IKEA you get low prices at any cost.”

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.

logs.IKEASwedwood20.568
Destroyed old-growth forest with piles of timber on land leased by IKEA/Swedwood in Russian Karelia. Photo © Robert Svensson, Protect the Forest 2011. Retrieved from MongaBay.

 

 

 

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!

[Sources: Green Retail Decisions, Sustainable Brands, Triple Pundit]

 

 

|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.|

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.

Treeson Spring Water

Treeson Eco Friendly Spring Water | Change the World
You can help Treeson get their fledgling spring water company off the ground by supporting their campaign at Kickstarter.com.

I don’t usually promote other companies or products unless they’re based in Vermont and related to our environmental mission at Vermont Woods Studios.  But although Treeson is operated in Costa Rica, the company caught my eye because their founding principles are so similar to ours.

Cleaning Up Ocean Plastic Pollution

Owner Carlton Solle took his family on a trip to Costa Rica 5 years ago.  Like me, he was alarmed at the plastic pollution littering that country’s beautiful waters and coastlines.  And like me, he  learned that less than 20 percent of the 50 billion plastic water bottles sold in the United States are actually recycled (the remaining 40 billion end up in landfills, waterways and oceans, or in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Our response to plastic pollution at Vermont Woods Studios was to partner with Polywood in promoting and selling outdoor patio furniture made from recycled plastic bottles.  Carlton’s response was to create Treeson spring water which is packaged in an eco-friendly, biodegradable, collapsible water bottle that comes with a pre-paid USPS postage sticker.  The empty bottle goes in the Mail box instead of the trash.

Replanting the Rainforest

For every bottle of spring water sold, Treeson plants a tree. They are working closely with our friend Kevin Peterson at the Eco Preservation Society to replant the rainforest in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (this is the area we visited a few years ago and did volunteer work building furniture at a local school).  So far over 38,000 trees have been planted.

Incidentally, Kevin is one of the people who influenced us at Vermont Woods Studios to plant a tree for every furniture sale.

Life Cycle of a Treeson Bottle:  Cradle to Grave

Treeson water bottles are made from plant-based materials and filled with filtered spring water sourced close to each retail territory.  Empty bottles are easily flattened and returned for free (by peeling off the label to reveal a return label) via the United States Postal Service.  The used bottles are then recycled to produce clean energy (with a machine that converts the plant-based material into biogas) that is used to produce new bottles.

Support Treeson’s Kickstarter Campaign

You can help Treeson get their fledgling company off the ground by supporting their campaign at Kickstarter.com.   There you’ll find information and frequently asked questions about their mission, business plans and processes.

We wish them well.  Can companies like Treeson and Vermont Woods Studios really change the world?  Let us know your thoughts on Facebook.

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.

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.