March 13th, 2014 by Kelsey Eaton
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.
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.
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.
|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.|
January 21st, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh
If you’re under 50 you probably don’t know who Marlin Perkins was. When I was a kid, my whole family would sit in front of the TV on Sunday nights and watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom*. Marlin Perkins was the host— kind of a 1960s version of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.
Marlin was always venturing into exotic places like the African savannah or the Amazon rainforest, filming wild animals in their natural habitats. Orangutans, gorillas, kangaroos, pythons, lions, tigers, bears… the whole shebang. He would be holding a chimp and talking about conservation and… oh how I wanted to be him! Cuddling up with a tiger cub, rescuing a couple orphaned bear cubs — what could be better?
Although I didn’t end up majoring in zoology or doing research for Jane Goodall, my passion for wildlife conservation has stayed with me. Like most people I went for a “more practical career” and decided to pursue my passion as a hobby. I visited zoos and natural history museums whenever I could. I studied wildlife news in National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and other green publications. I poured my support into wildlife conservation non-profits.
But the real fun didn’t start along until Kendall and Riley came along. How convenient? It seems little boys love wildlife! We camped out in local beaver ponds and vernal pools getting to know the resident turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes and such. We made trips to the rainforest, adopted snakes and started a non-profit called Kids Saving the Planet. Our adventures in Vermont’s forests and in the Central American rainforests eventually led to the creation of Vermont Woods Studios Sustainable Furniture. More about that in my next post.
* and the Wonderful World of Disney and Ed Sullivan Show, of course
The Vermont Furniture 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, a 200 year old farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.
January 1st, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh
People ask me why on earth I would put a fine furniture store in the middle of nowhere, aka rural Vermont. Finding people who are looking to buy American made sustainable wooden furniture is hard enough. After all, customers typically have to wait 6-12+ weeks to have their furniture custom handcrafted and specialty shipped to their homes. Plus… compared to imported furniture, American made furniture is more expensive. With such a small number of people fitting our customer profile (willing to wait for their furniture to be handcrafted of sustainably harvested wood by Vermonters earning a living wage), wouldn’t it be smarter to have our store on main street in a big city with maximum exposure and traffic?
I’m sure that’s true for most fine furniture stores but at Vermont Woods Studios we’re on a mission to raise awareness about where your fine furniture comes from. Wood furniture comes from the forest and we believe the people involved in all aspects of furnishing your home have an opportunity to show you how choosing sustainable furniture makes a difference: in forest conservation, global warming, clean air, wildlife preservation and in the way you feel when you’re sharing a meal at your table.
See this barred owl who visited us at Stonehurst today? He’s able to be here because (under the direction of professional forester Lynn Levine) we’re managing 100 acres of forest for wildlife habitat. We believe businesses have as much obligation as governments to conserve our planet’s resources and protect endangered species. We believe our customers support that philosophy and want to see it in action. As we venture into the new year we extend our thanks to them and pledge our continued efforts in the area of forest and wildlife conservation.
Come visit our sustainable furniture showroom at Stonehurst. See first-hand how your choice of furniture can make the world a better place.
January 4th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Ever wonder where your wooden furniture comes from? Seven years ago I founded Vermont Woods Studios because I didn’t like the answer to that question. And the answer is: if you didn’t purchase American made furniture, yours may well have originated in a beautiful tropical rainforest that was being plundered by illegal logging activities.
I spent the first few years at Vermont Woods Studios trying to raise awareness about rainforest devastation and how it’s driven by the wood furniture and flooring industries. Did you know that the rainforest is disappearing at the rate of >1 acre per second? It sounds unbelievable and sensationalist, doesn’t it? I mean that’s over 4000 football fields every hour of every 24 hour day, 365 days/year. But it’s true and that fact is why we continue to work so hard to offer sustainable, locally made furniture at this Vermont furniture store.
Consumers of wood furniture, flooring and other forest products are the key to saving the rainforest. If you’re taking the trouble to learn about sustainable wooden furniture and how you as a consumer can be part of the global solution, we want to help. I’ll be writing a series of blogs over the next few months to provide some background information regarding the past, present and future of the rainforest and how we consumers can do our part to save it. Have any rainforest references or stories you’d like to share? Use the comment section below or join the conversation on our Facebook.
October 9th, 2012 by Loryn Dion
Interior design is not a new concept. For decades, people have been making a living by creating works of art with furniture and accessories as their palette and empty rooms as their canvas. It is probably not a surprise that fashioning the perfect design for the inside of your home is crucial to how you feel and react in your environment. Interior design is all about aesthetics. It’s about taking items that are visually appealing and combining them with your personality to create something unique and personal to you.
With consumers becoming more conscious about their impacts on our environment, it is no shock that people are starting to ask for green, eco-friendly furniture and building materials for their homes. Interior designers are capitalizing on this trend by offering environmentally friendly alternatives when creating a design for a client’s home. Now this begs the question, what exactly does sustainable interior design mean?
Basically, the difference between interior design and sustainable interior design is the difference between beauty and beliefs and how much they mean to you. Sustainable (or green) interior design can probably be broken down into 4 major components:
Air quality is very important to interior design. The biggest decision a designer has to make is choosing pieces that are free of chemicals that can make people sick or pollute our environment. This usually means watching out for volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that can be found in paints, primers, glues, ink and cleaning products. Luckily, you can now buy furniture that uses glues and finishes that contain little or no VOC’s.
The area of energy saving interior design techniques is very broad. It can mean anything from choosing light bulbs that use less energy (like LED) to choosing products that are produced in America to reduce the energy it takes to ship them.
We’ve all heard some form of “The Three R’s”. Now-a-days it feels like there are many “r” words related to conservation. When it comes to green interior design, it is important to remember to recycle, re-purpose and reuse. Choose materials that have been recycled, like furniture made from recycled plastic. Remember that there are many products that are made by re-purposing old materials, like Reclaimed Barnwood Furniture. And always keep in mind things that can be used again before you toss them out.
When you purchase items without checking where they are sourced from, you risk supporting imported goods, rather than supporting the local American worker. Always research where your furniture and building materials come from and support American jobs and our local economy by buying American-made.
Creating a sustainable interior design concept doesn’t mean that you have to be 100% green, but you can make smart choices that will benefit the environment in the long run. You also don’t have to overhaul your entire home to start a green interior design. Make small changes around your home, like opting for new cleaning products or donating that department store furniture piece and trade it in for one made in America that has little to no VOC’s. These little changes will someday make a big difference.
If you are an interior designer, check out the discounts we can offer on our Vermont-made fine furniture.
September 4th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
At Vermont Woods Studios we all have a special place in our hearts for animals. From our own cats, dogs, snakes and other pets, to the familiar faces of chipmunks, squirrels and birds that share our backyards to the exotic and elusive endangered species we read about or catch a glimpse of in Vermont's forests.
So today on National Wildlife Day we'll be thinking about our furry, slimy, feathered and scaley friends and remembering that part of our mission is to conserve forest habitat for them. In fact, one of the statistics that urged me to form Vermont Woods Studios is that half of the world's animal species live in the rainforest which is disappearing at an alarming rate– we're losing over 100 rainforest species every day. It's something we're trying to help change by raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.
Here at home in Vermont
we support Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS), a non-profit located in
Quechee. VINS aims to "motivate individuals and communities to care for
the environment though education, research and aviation wildlife
rehabilitation." VINS invites guests of all ages to visit and learn about
the most recent environmental science information. More than 40,000 people
through out New England go to VINS for environmental
While visiting VINS, guests will see some of New
England's most interesting avian wildlife. Humans head to the doctors when we are sick, wild animals seek
professional care at VINS. The Nature
Center at VINS has licensed
wildlife rehabilitators who heal wildlife and raise the orphaned. The ultimate goal is to return the wildlife
back to their natural homes; however, if they do not feel that an animal can
safely be returned, the animal will stay with VINS.
Because VINS is a non-profit they rely on the help of the
general public to keep their facilities running. They have created an "adopt a
raptor" program as a fun way for people to help fund their rehabilitation
program. Vermont Woods Studios has participated in this program by adopting a Gray
Phase Eastern Screech Owl, whom we have named Woody. Woody's age is unknown; however, it arrived
at VINS in May of 2004 because of a right shoulder injury caused by a collision
with a vehicle. In the VINS education
programs, they teach visitors that they do not name the owls to stress the fact
that they are not pets, they are wild animals. We have decided that because we
have only symbolically adopted Woody, that it is okay to have named it (we
don't know Woody's sex). By adoption Woody, we helped provide food and
The Adopt a Raptor Program is a fun way to support VINS and
the raptors they care for. It is also a
great, feel good gift for an animal lover like us!
June 8th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
I started Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture almost 7 years ago as part of a mission to help with rainforest conservation. We promote American made furniture that's built with local, sustainably harvested wood as an alternative to imported furniture made with illegal tropical timber, clear cut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests.
But a couple years ago when we were searching for an eco-friendly line of outdoor furniture, I began to learn that furniture is such a HUGE commodity it's manufacture affects ocean conservation as well as forest conservation. Often when rainforests are clear-cut for timber, they are converted into plantations that require massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The whole process results in soil erosion, run-off, ocean pollution and coral bleaching.
This knowledge is what led us to begin carrying our Polywood outdoor furniture collection which is made from recycled plastic beverage containers, rather than rainforest woods like teak or mahogany. I know this is a convoluted pathyway, but that's what reminded me of today's designation as World Oceans Day.
There's no denying it– we are destroying the oceans and we need to take action to restore them. 90% of the big fish are gone and many of the fish caught today never even have the chance to reproduce. The average size of the remaining big fish has been cut in half in the last 50 years (the average weight of a swordfish caught today is 90 lbs., down from 266 lbs. in 1960).
The Green Prophet has some great suggestions if you're wondering what you can do to help restore the oceans. In addition to avoiding the purchase of furniture made from tropical woods (like teak, mahogany, ipe and eucalyptus) you can also help by eating only sustainably harvested fish and learning more about ocean conservation.
OK, thanks for reading all this. Now time to head out to the beach for a swim!
May 22nd, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Our friends at the World Wildlife Fund have just published their bi-annual Living Planet Report. It's a landmark study of our planet in terms of the health of our forests, rivers and oceans.
The results aren't pretty. Here are some of the facts they highlighted about our environment:
These are just a few of the statistics noted in the 80 page report. But the good news is that it's not too late to save wildlife species and reverse unsustainable trends.
Green commerce plays a fundamental role in this as do you and I. The choices we make about our purchases will determine our planet's future.
Learn more about what Vermont Woods Studios is doing to promote forest conservation and preservation of endangered species like the Sumatran tiger. Join us in our green mission!
January 26th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Today the World Wildlife Fund reports that after losing nearly 70 per cent of its forest habitat and half its population in one generation, the Sumatran elephant is heading for imminent extinction due to deforestation and habitat loss.
These elephants are not alone. According to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 3-5 species become extinct every hour of every day. That’s up to 45,000 species every year!
What we’re doing at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture is trying to raise awareness about the how your choices as a consumer directly affect the extinction of endangered species like the Sumatran elephant. If you can avoid buying imported forest products, especially wood furniture and flooring (if it’s not clearly labelled Made in America–pretty much any furniture you’ll find at Home Depot, Walmart, Bob’s, Lowe’s or other big box stores is imported) you’ll be doing your part to lessen global deforestation and destruction of the habitat these elephants live in.
What else are we doing?
We support a number of projects to save endangered species. Here’s one I was pretty excited about last week: when I was on the Vernon Selectboard a few years back, our town partnered with the Vermont Division of Fish and Wildlife DFW to protect habitat and save the critically endangered spotted turtle from extinction. Last week we were able to celebrate our work. It’s 6 or 7 years later, but finally through a long process, the turtle habitat is being cared for and hopefully we’ll start to see their population come back.
How about you? Tell us what you’re doing in the comments below or on our Vermont Furniture Facebook.
January 17th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
I do love my work here at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture but if I could pick a dream job for just a month or a year, I think it might be working as a biologist for The Vermont Center for Ecostudies VCE.
Here's how they describe their work: "VCE biologists scale high peaks, paddle remote ponds, slog through wetlands, visit ordinary backyards, and traverse the Americas to study birds, insects, mammals, amphibians and other wildlife." How cool would that be?
One of my favorite VCE project areas is bird conservation. In fact, we named a line of our furniture after Roz Renfrew a champion VCE ecologist. Roz has dedicated her life to conserving tropical habitat for Vermont migratory birds in places like Hispaniola and Bolivia. Through her work we've come to understand the importance of buying shade grown coffee.
It turns out that the reason we started Vermont Woods Studios (to promote rainforest conservation) is also the reason to buy "bird friendly coffee". Whereas coffee used to be grown under the canopy of the rainforest (thus providing great habitat for birds) it's now more profitable to cut the rainforest down and grow coffee in the sun. Besides requiring tons of pesticides and fertilizers which destroy life in nearby streams, rivers and coastline this un-natural practice eliminates critical habitat for birds.
So… I've been able to make the switch at home, no problem but now I've got to get Douglas to find Bird Friendly coffee for our Kuerig dispenser at work. I've looked everywhere and can't find it. Any ideas? I'd welcome your suggestions below or on our Facebook. Thanks!