El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve
This is the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve I’ll be visiting next week.  It’s a World Heritage Site that provides over-wintering for almost the entire gene pool of the monarch butterfly.  It is under assault by illegal loggers.  Photo courtesy of El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve.

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.

Monarchs roosting in oyamel trees in Michoacan, Mexico
It’s all about the forest conservation.  These oyamel trees at El Rosario are part of the last remaining habitat for Monarchs to over-winter in. We want to help protect them and reforest adjacent areas that have been destroyed.

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

A Vermont Furniture Store's Green Team
Margaret Mead said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

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.

Planting milkweed in Vernon, Vermont | Restoring Monarch butterfly habitat
Milkweed.  We’ve been restoring Monarch habitat in Vermont.  But what difference will that make if the butterflies lose their over-wintering habitat in Mexico?

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!

Monarchs

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.

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 Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico.  2016 tours are still available through Spirit of Butterflies Tours in coordination with Forests for Monarchs founder Jose Luis Alvarez.  Photo courtesy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez.

One of Earth’s Greatest Natural Wonders

Right now at this very moment, one of earth’s most amazing natural wonders is taking place in Mexico.  Nearly 100 million monarch butterflies from all over the USA and Canada have migrated south to the mountains of Central Mexico where they are over-wintering prior to their return flight this Spring.  We’ve described the Monarch migration in previous blogs– it’s the most complex migration pattern of any known species on earth.

A Monarch butterfly we reared in Vermont
A Monarch butterfly we reared at Stonehurst, here in Vermont.  She could well be one of those in the photo above after making a 3000 mile migration from VT to Mexico last Fall.

Monarch Butterflies Are on the Brink of Extinction

Over the past 20 years the monarch population has declined by 90 percent.  During the winter of 1996-1997, scientists estimated there were a billion monarchs over-wintering in Mexico.  An estimate from last year found only about 35 million, a number so low that several environmental organizations are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify monarch butterflies as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Reforestation of Monarch Habitat by LCHPP
Reforestation of the Monarch Habitat  in Michoacan, Mexico is being led by Jose Luis Alvarez of the La Cruz Habitat Protection program LCHPP (aka Forests for Monarchs).  I’m heading to Mexico in late February to work with Jose Luis.  You should join us!

You Can Help Save Them

Love nature?  Here are a couple ways you can help save the amazing Monarch butterfly from extinction:

Help Restore Monarch Habitat in the USA and Canada

Monarchs need milkweed and nectar plants to survive and thrive during the summer months they spend in the US and Southern Canada.  We’ve written many blogs about how to plant milkweed and we even have milkweed seeds we’ll be happy to send you if you’d like to get involved.

Help Restore Monarch Habitat in Mexico

At Vermont Woods Studios we’ve allied with the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP in an effort to Plant a Million Trees every year in the Monarch’s overwintering area in Michoacan, Mexico.  I’ll be writing more about LCHPP, a leading organization in the race to save the Monarch, but for a glimpse of their work check out this video.

Join us on the Spirit of Butterflies tour Feb-March 2016
Join us on the Spirit of Butterflies tour Feb-March 2016. Photo courtesy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez.

Spirit of Butterflies Tour

For the adventurous nature lover, here’s another way to help save the Monarchs.  Contact Maraleen Manos-Jones who works with LCHPP and sign up for the trip of a lifetime: a tour of the Monarch butterflies over-wintering forest habitat in Michoacan, Mexico.  Leading the tour will be Jose Luis Alvarez, co-founder of LCHPP and renowned expert on Monarchs and reforestation of their habitat. I’m taking the tour at the end of February… why don’t you join me?  I’ll provide details in my next blog but in the meantime, you can check out what other travelers have said about visiting monarch over-wintering sites on TripAdvisor.

I took this photo 15 years ago when we were rearing wild monarchs in Vermont.
I took the photo of Kendall 15 years ago when we were rearing wild monarchs in Vermont.  Now there are none to be found.  Check out the link to National Geographic’s film about the monarch story.

Why Does A Furniture Company Care?

Vermont Woods Studios was founded on a mission of forest conservation.  From the beginning we set out not only to provide our customers with the best value & quality for Vermont made wood furniture but also to conserve the forests that provide wood for furniture.  That mission of forest conservation coupled with my history of studying Monarchs with Kendall and Riley when they were little, made this project with LCHPP and Spirit of Butterflies a perfect fit.  I hope you’ll join us as we work to help bring this iconic species back and conserve them for future generations.

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.

2015 Accomplishments

Ken and I started this Vermont furniture store 10 years ago with the belief that businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place.  In developing a company that sells handcrafted wooden furniture we wanted to raise awareness about forest conservation and persuade customers to purchase furniture made from sustainably harvested, North American wood.  A decade later, we’re not naive enough to think we’ve changed the world but perhaps we’ve changed a tiny part of it and that feels good.  Here are some highlights of what our team accomplished this year in support of our local community and our environmental mission:

Plant a Billion Trees Project

 Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: conservation
Vermont Woods Studios was founded on the mission of forest conservation and since the beginning, we’ve partnered with The Nature Conservancy to plant a tree for each order we take.  This year it was well over 1000 trees.

Monarch Habitat Restoration Project

Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: habitat restoration
Nina, Peggy and other team members planted native milkweed seeds for a project that’s restoring habitat for monarch butterflies in Southeastern Vermont.

Vernon’s Giving Tree

Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: giving back
Megan and other team members worked with officials from the Town of Vernon to provide Christmas gifts to local families in need.

Connecticut River Clean-up

Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: river clean up
Ken, Sean and a bunch more team members participated in the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s (CRWC) yearly “Source to Sea” trash cleanup of the Connecticut River.  Afterwards we cooled off at Nesbitt’s Portside Tavern :)

Meals on Wheels

Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: meals on wheels
Kelsey helped Riley deliver Meals on Wheels, an activity this Vermont furniture store has done every Friday since the company was created.

Vermont Food Bank Thanksgiving Project

vermont-food-bank
We helped the Vermont Food Bank distribute food during the annual “Pack to Give Back” event in Brattleboro this Thanksgiving.

Salamander Conservation

salamander-conservation
Vermont Woods Studios supported BEEC (Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center) at their annual Salamander Soiree, an event that raises awareness about amphibian migration. Some team members also went out at night and helped salamanders cross the roads on their journey to local vernal pools.

River Arts Gallery Auction

river-gallery-fundraiser
We donated a handmade wooden bed to the annual River Gallery Arts fundraiser in Brattleboro.

Wags to Riches Auction

wags-riches
Vermont Woods Studios donated a 3-Day weekend stay at Stratton Mountain Resort and a beautiful POLYWOOD Adirondack chair to the annual Wags to Riches fundraiser for the Windham County Humane Society.

 Environmental Education at Vernon Elementary School

sponsored BEEC’s Aquatic Field Trip, where Vernon Elementary School students got the opportunity to explore a pond ecosystem and observe a variety of aquatic organisms
We sponsored an Aquatic Field Trip, where local students got the opportunity to explore a pond ecosystem.

Rainforest Conservation

Rainforest conservation at the Serere Reserve in Bolivia's Amazon rainforest
Peggy, Riley and Kendall made a trip to the Amazon rainforest in Bolivia this year to lend support to a reforestation project at the Serere Reserve in Bolivia.

Providing Toys & Food for Kids in the Amazon Rainforest

Vermont Furniture Store environmental mission: rainforest conservation
We donated over $200 to bring Christmas gifts and food to children in the Amazon through Marco’s Holiday Giving Project.  Thanks to Riley for setting this up!

As we close out 2015, I extend my thanks to the customers, staff members, furniture makers, family, friends, neighbors and business partners whose support made the accomplishments of this small Vermont furniture store possible. Here’s to your health and happiness in 2016!

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.

Giving Tree
Nina was busy wrapping her presents!

Here at Vermont Woods Studios we are committed to staying active within the community around us. That is why each year we volunteer and donate as much as possible to organizations local to the Vernon, VT area.

This year, the Vernon Town Clerk’s Office, along with the Vernon Free Library and Vernon Girl Scout Troop #40907 joined forces to organize a “Giving Tree”. The “Giving Tree” was a way for people in the Vernon community to donate gifts and items to those in need. Over 30 individuals in this small Vermont community were identified as in need of assistance this Holiday season.

For each person, an ornament was hung on a tree in the Town Clerk’s Office. On the back of each ornament, a person’s age, gender and items they were most in need of were listed. We mostly saw requests for outdoor winter clothes along with toys, crafts and books for the children. Ages ranged from infants to adults.

Giving Tree
One of the many gifts we wrapped, ready to go!

Our team selected five ornaments from the tree and pledged to get every item listed.  We soon learned the project was so popular that the Town Clerk’s office quickly ran out of ornaments but learned of more families in need and created a second batch of ornaments. So we headed back and picked up two more.

Giving Tree
IT guru, Tristan helped with wrapping presents, too!

Members of the Vermont Woods Studios team donated clothing, toys and books as well as went out shopping to purchase new items. Soon our lunch table was overflowing with gifts. Next came an afternoon spent wrapping and organizing the gifts.

On a bone-chilling Monday (one of few this year) we headed back to the Town Hall where the Town Clerk and local Sheriff’s department helped us unload the gifts. From here we’ll let Santa do the rest!

Giving Tree
Megan (far right) stands in front of The Giving Tree alongside Nancy Gassett and Aina Linquist of the Town Clerk’s office, and Deputy Upton from the Windham County Sheriff’s Office

We were happy to help those in need this holiday season and supply them with New England winter essentials and toys to play with. We were even more happy to hear that the community really came together in a big way to help their fellow neighbors and friends in need.

It’s just another reason why we love the community we’re in and we’re happy to share these moments with all of you!

Giving Tree
A few more wrapped presents ready for The Giving Tree

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.

Merry Christmas from Vermont to the Amazon!
This is the forest we look out on every day from our offices and showroom at Vermont Woods Studios.

A Mission of Forest Conservation

I founded Vermont Woods Studios 10 years ago on a mission of forest conservation.  I was looking for a way to raise awareness about where wood products like furniture and flooring come from.  What many people don’t realize is that when you buy these wood products from big companies like Lumber Liquidators or IKEA, there’s a good chance they’re made from trees that have been illegally clear-cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. The idea with Vermont Woods Studios is to provide beautiful, sustainable, American made furniture as an alternative to imported furniture of suspicious origin.

The Vermont – Amazon Connection

Earlier this year, my sons Kendall & Riley and I made a trip to the Amazon rainforest to support the forest conservation efforts of Rosamaria Ruiz at the Serere Reserve in Bolivia.  While there, Riley became friends with Marco Antonio Gonzales Silva, a remarkable young conservationist working on social and environmental projects in the Bolivian Amazon.

Holiday Donation
Marco’s in the middle (red shirt) with Riley and a group of volunteers in Peru.  Help them raise $2500 to fund this year’s Holiday Giving Project which gives children in the Amazon a sandwich, a toy and a hot chocolate for Christmas.

Marco’s Holiday Giving Project

Marco grew up as a “street kid” in Peru, shining shoes for a living.  His dream is to help kids in the Peruvian Amazon, especially those living on the streets and working every day just to feed themselves.  So for the past three years, Marco has been sponsoring a project to bring holiday cheer to these children.  He uses his own money and also fundraises to buy gifts and food for the kids.  Each child receives a toy, a sandwich, and some hot chocolate for Christmas. The cost is about $5 per child.  Marco told Riley that most of these children have never had a toy before and do not yet understand the concept of a toy.

In his first year, Marco was able to donate to 500 kids by himself! With the help of some friends, he was able to up that number to 900 in his second year.  Now in his third year, Marco took to Facebook to ask for help and we’re trying to help make it his biggest year yet!

donation
Children receiving their toys and hot cocoa. In the middle you see just a portion of the children eagerly waiting.

Every Furniture Sale = a $50 Donation

We’re sending Marco a $50 donation for every furniture sale made at Vermont Woods Studios this weekend (Friday, Saturday & Sunday).  The money will be donated through a GoFundMe page set up for Marco by Riley.  The campaign runs until Dec. 14th, 2015 and Riley’s goal is to raise $2,500.  He is promising to match the largest donation (up to $200).  If you’d like to support the cause or learn more about it, please click here for details and a secure donation site.  Even a $5 donation will make a big difference in the lives of these children.  Thanks!

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.