Rainforest Conservation | Sustainable Furniture and Flooring

The Vermont Furniture – Rainforest Connection

Last post, I shared the mission behind our sustainable furniture company.  It’s rainforest conservation and here are a few reasons why that’s important to me:

  • Although the earth’s rainforests cover less than 2% of it’s total surface area, they are home to 50 % of the Earth’s plants and animals
  • We are losing the rainforest at a rate of 1 acre every second!
  • About 100 rainforest species are going extinct every day
  • What nature has crafted over hundreds of millions of years is being destroyed with no thought as to the consequences
  • Much rainforest destruction is a result of clear cutting huge areas of land by organized crime
  • The timber is used to supply cheap furniture and flooring to companies like IKEA and Lumber Liquidators
  • The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, storing 1/5 of the world’s fresh water and producing 20% of the planet’s oxygen

Vermont Woods Studios is my attempt to raise awareness about the plight of the rainforest and to offer sustainable, Vermont made furniture as an alternative to illegal imports.  At VWS we share our passion with customers and support non-profits dedicated to rainforest conservation.  We also plant a tree for every furniture order we take work (through the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project).

Sustainable, Vermont made furniture as an alternative to illegal imports
Vermont Woods Studios is my attempt to raise awareness about the plight of the rainforest and to offer sustainable, Vermont made furniture (like this Cherry Moon dining table) as an alternative to illegal imports. We plant a tree for every furniture order we take work.

The Amazon is Disappearing:  How Can We Help?

I’ve always wanted to visit the Amazon rainforest to understand what’s happening there and find a way for Vermont Woods Studios to help.  But it’s a big place.  At 2.72 million square miles, the Amazon Basin is roughly the size of the United States (minus Alaska).  So where to start?

Serendipity Happens

A strange coincidence happened.  Riley (my son) took some time off from college this year to backpack through South America.  He called recently to say he’d be doing rainforest conservation work for a woman named Rosamaria Ruiz in the Bolivian Amazon.  For some reason that name rang a bell.  I pulled up Google and sure enough, Rosamaria is someone I read about in National Geographic 15 years ago (the article was written by Steve Kemper).  She’s an award-winning environmental activist who led a National Geographic team through her homeland and brought about the creation of a protected national park called Madidi.  Something else she had a hand in creating:  Vermont Woods Studios!  Her story and others like it planted the seed for our sustainable furniture company.

 

madidi-travel
Madidi Travel and founder, Rosamaria Ruiz safeguard a protected area in the Bolivian Amazon with the greatest biodiversity in the world: the Madidi National Park. Riley is currently volunteering there and Kendall and I will join him next week. 

 

Into The Amazon

So next week, Kendall (my other son) and I will be heading down to the Serere Reserve, an area of the Amazon rainforest conserved through the efforts of Rosamaria Ruiz.  We’ll meet up with Riley where he’s volunteering in the Madidi National Park*.  And we’ll ask Rosamaria and her team at Madidi-Travel what we can do at Vermont Woods Studios to support their efforts.  I’ll keep you posted.  If you’re interested to know more, check out these websites:

* Fun Fact:  The continental United States and Canada are home to about 700 species of birds.  Madidi National Park (with 1/10 of 1% as much area) contains an estimated 1,000 bird species

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/27/revenge-of-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.

A Passion for The Rainforest

I have a confession to make.  I did not start Vermont Woods Studios because I had a deep, abiding love of handmade furniture.  Mind you, I HAVE developed a sort of reverence for it over these past 10 years, but that wasn’t the driving force for me.

It was my passion for the rainforest that got this sustainable furniture company started. 

I think it may have been Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey who initially drew me into environmental conservation in the 60s.  Or maybe it was Mom, who had us kids outdoors all the time and kept a stack of National Geographic magazines handy for the rare moments we were in the house.

Anyway, for some reason, when I lost my job in 2005 I decided to quit the corporate world and get back to my youthful aspirations of doing something “green”.  I had become convinced that our generation’s most important conservation priority was to preserve the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. I wanted to focus the rest of my working life helping people understand the tragedy of this loss and the fact that they could do something about it.

Ken had just finished building a woodworking shop on the back of our house.  I thought maybe we could marry his woodworking background with my love of the rainforest to create a new kind of green business.  After several attempts and stumbles we came up with Vermont Woods Studios: a website where Vermont furniture makers could market and sell furniture made from sustainably harvested wood.

The company would be a vehicle to help us persuade people to stop buying furniture and flooring made with illegally harvested rainforest wood.  The plan was pretty detailed, even including a Manifesto.

 

Sustainable furniture and flooring
Global rainforest destruction is happening now at a rate of  1 acre per second. 60 seconds per minute. 60 minutes per hour, 24/7/365. It’s the greatest extinction in the history of the earth. Once the rainforest is gone, it’s gone forever.  Interested in conserving the rainforest and preserving the iconic species who’ve lived there for millions of years? Learn how your choices for furniture, flooring and other forest products can help.

Not That Easy Being Green

But soon reality hit and although I was always guided by conservation, I quickly learned that small businesses don’t have a lot of time or money for environmental projects.  We did what we could… making support of environmental non-profits (like the World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Alliance, Vermont Center for EcoStudies and many others in our own community) a cornerstone of our business.  We also work with The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project to plant a tree for every furniture order we take.  And a number of times we’ve traveled to the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama where we did some volunteering.

In retrospect I can say that we have made progress on our mission.

But I feel like we’ve fallen short in getting the word out that how we build and furnish our homes has a huge impact on the future of our planet. 

We have to figure out how to spotlight the difference consumers can make by choosing sustainably harvested wood flooring and furniture as opposed to that made from illegally harvested rainforest woods (think: Lumber Liquidators and Ikea).

A Trip to The Amazon

So I’m taking a trip to the Amazon rainforest. 

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the opportunity.  Next post I’ll share how this trip came about and what I hope to accomplish.  I am so grateful to our customers, employees and other allies who have supported our business throughout these 10 years, thus making such an endeavor possible.

Thank You!

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.

Picture 4 I can't believe this.  Amazon.com sells dozens of books about how to avoid and protect yourself from plagiarism, but at the same time they're ripping off content from my Vermont Woods Studios furniture website and claiming it as their own.  Check out this site.  It's an Amazon site selling cheap imported furniture and claiming it's Vermont made. The URL and the title contain the words "Vermont Furniture".  The site automatically and systematically copies content from this blog, my twitter account and from other Vermont furniture makers' websites.

Do you find this surprising?  I've tried contacting Amazon and asking them to take the site down, but they don't acknowledge my emails.  My next correspondance is going to be to the Vermont Attorney General.  I realize it's not Amazon.com per se that's copying my content.  But the site owner is displaying Amazon's logo, linking to an Amazon account and sending the user to Amazon.com.  Amazon has to take some responsibility — and probably shut this guy's account down.

I'm sure they wouldn't just pick on small Vermont furniture makers.  Seems to me like it must be part of a far bigger black hat marketing scheme linked to Amazon.  You may want to check and make sure they haven't hijacked the content on your website.  Let me know what you think.  Have any ideas for how to deal with these parasites?  Please send them my way.  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.

The Nature Conservancy is one of our favorite charities here at Vermont Woods Studios.  TNC has been working to protect Earth’s most important natural places — for us and future generations— for nearly 60 years.  They are one of the leading conservation organizations in the world and their reputation for great science and smart partnerships is renowned.

Plant A Billion Trees is one of TNCs ongoing projects that dovetails with our mission of forest preservation at Vermont Woods Studios.  The goal is to save one of the world’s most endangered rainforests,  The Brazilian Atlantic Forest:

“Animal and plant life of every imaginable kind live under the lush, green canopy of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. High in the treetops, golden lion tamarins forage for food while woolly spider monkeys gather fruit and nuts. Blue-winged macaws, red-tailed parrots and countless other birds call out while elusive jaguars prowl the forest floor.”

Rainforest-conservation
The strategy is to plant a tree for every dollar raised:  one dollar, one tree, one planet.  You’ll start to see fundraising buttons on our site as we get this project up and running over the next few months.  Our goal is to raise $2000 for the initiative.  You can make a lasting difference now and for future generations.  All it takes is a dollar.  Thanks for your help!

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.

Well, there’s plenty of blame to go around for industries like timber, soy, beef, fertilizer, pesticide and so on.  Those industries need to get going and get on The Green Train too!  And as the highest value-added industry, The Furniture Industry Needs to Step up and Change the Way it Sources Product.  Here’s why:


  1. Much of the clear-cutting of the rainforest is done to produce timber for furniture and flooring. Incredibly, up to 90% of today’s imported furniture-grade wood is illegally harvested, from the rainforest. Look around your house. If you have mahogany or teak furniture that is not certified as sustainably harvested by a third party non-profit such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) it’s a good bet that furniture came from clear-cutting the rainforest.
  2. China has taken over about a third of the world trade in furniture over just the last 8 years, making it the leading importer of timber from tropical rainforests. Logging practices that supply the timber are typically illegal and labor conditions are deplorable. Again, chances are if you’ve purchased furniture in the last 10 years, it was made in China of illegal wood that may have come from as far away as the Amazon in South America. Peter Goodman and Peter Finn of the Washington Post did an informative article on the shocking state of corruption and illegal logging in China and elsewhere.  Read it, then get on board The Green Train!

Vermont Woods Studios Sustainable Furniture

 

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.