We're big tree lovers here at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture. Yes, we rely on them as natural resources for your furniture but also– Vermonters just have a very personal connection to the forest. Stewardship and sustainability are a part of us.
I happened to catch a great show on PBS the other night called Return to the Forest Where We Live. It focused on our country's urban forests and the vital role they play in the economic health of our cities. Would you believe that about 2400 acres/day are being converted from rural to urban land use in America? Joni Mitchell said this decades ago: when you cut down trees to put up parking lots you end up with trouble.
Now we know that among other problems, deforestation increases the temperature of these formerly rural cities by anywhere from five to ten degrees. And that hot temperature really does have a negative impact. It lowers air quality because hot trees are less healthy and unable to scrub the air of CO2 and pollutants effectively.
Loss of trees in cities also causes flooding, erosion, runoff and water pollution.
Scientist can now quantify the economic benefits of trees in urban areas. City planners are seeing the hard financial facts about the role of green spaces in reducing air pollution, erosion, summer temperatures, storm water problems and smog. They are fighting for budgets to increase urban forests and trees and showing the enormous savings associated with the planting and management of trees. In fact, six million trees provide about $64 million worth of benefits every year. Where else are you going to get a better than 10:1 return on investment?
Trees can make a big difference to the quality of lives in urban areas. They modify the microclimate of our environments, they clean our air, they reduce flooding and rainfall runoff, they protect our soil from erosion. They just contribute to the quality of our environment, and the quality of our life in many, many ways.
So anyway, I just loved this Tree show on Louisiana PBS and I'm going to celebrate Earth Day by planting a tree. You can do so too. If it's not easy to plant one yourself, you can have The Nature Conservancy plant one for you. They'll do it for $1/tree as part of their Plant A Billion Trees Campaign.
Have you ever thought about where your wood furniture comes from? Over the past few decades, the organic food movement has made us ask questions about the origin of our food. Now the fundamental concerns voiced in that movement are being extrapolated to the furniture and flooring industries. People want to know where their furniture comes from and what they're finding out is often more disturbing than the facts that were uncovered regarding the origins of our food.
For facts about the origin of your furniture, check out Vermont Woods Studios' latest article on American Wood Furniture and Global Forest Conservation at Ezine.
2010 is the Year of the Tiger. Did you know there are only about 3200 tigers left in the wild? This tiger subspecies, the Siberian Tiger– the world's largest cat is literally on the brink of extinction with only about 400 individuals remaining in their natural habitat. I can't stand the idea of letting these magnificient creatures disappear forever on our watch. Can you?
If not, here's something you need to know and it has to do with where you and your friends, family and neighbors buy your furniture.
Siberian tigers live mainly in Russian forests which are now under assault by global timber conglomerates. Tiger habitat is being systematically decimated to provide illegal timber that's used to make cheap furniture which is marketed mainly in the USA. In fact, up to 90% of the furniture you see for sale in our country is made of illegally harvested wood that is clear cut from ecologically sensitive habitats like this.
You can help save the tiger by avoiding the purchase of imported wood furniture. Buy American made furniture instead. There are still many companies in the USA that specialize in furniture made from sustainably harvested wood that grows and is replanted right here in the USA. America has some of the world's best quality hardwoods and our forest conservation laws are working to keep it that way. One of our Vermont foresters told me the other day that in VT, our forests are growing at a rate that is faster than the harvest rate– certainly an important part of the definition of sustainability.
One of our founding missions at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture is rainforest conservation. We are trying to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from. Did you know that up to 90% of the furniture in America is made from illegally harvested wood that is plundered from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests? Furniture buyers can help correct this situation by avoiding the purchase of imported furniture and flooring. The wood for most American made furniture is sourced in sustainably managed forests in the USA.
Here's an example of why this issue is so important. News agencies, Mongabay and the BBC are reporting again about virgin primary rainforest in Madagascar being illegally pillaged by Chinese logging companies. Irreparable damage to the fragile rainforest ecosystem is taking place. The very unique species that live there are being pushed further towards extinction. This is not really news– it's happening continuously in nearly all of the worlds rainforests.
This photo shows the deforestation in Madagascar. With its rivers running blood red from soil erosion and staining the surrounding Indian Ocean, astronauts have remarked that it looks as if Madagascar is bleeding to death.
The Madagascan destruction is to satisfy China's demand for rare rosewood which they use to make beds that sell for upwards of $1 million each. In the process, we see a free-for-all of illegal hunting of some of the country's most endangered and charismatic species (including the lemur which is found nowhere else on earth) according to Conservation International.
We're asking our customers and readers to avoid the purchase of exotic woods and to spread this message to their friends and colleagues. There are conservation laws on the books but corruption runs rampant in these rainforest countries. Only a decrease in demand for the lumber will help to preserve these lands and the species that have evolved there for millions of years. Please spread the word… Thanks!
Just a quick note to ask you to check out Dr. Glen Barry's initiative, Ecological Internet. EI provides the most successful free Internet based environment portals and international Earth advocacy network ever, regularly achieving environmental conservation victories around the world. Glen focuses on rainforest conservation like we do at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture.
Your tax-deductible donation to EI will support one of the leanest most effective environmental advocacy efforts in existence.
We just renewed our annual membership with the World Wildlife Fund, one of my all time favorite charities. Our obvious link with WWF (panda.org) now, is through our mutual efforts in forest conservation, but I've been a WWF fan since log before Vermont Woods Studios was born. They've been one of the most effective major global players in conservation efforts supporting oceans, rivers, forests, endangered species and more for generations.
If you're looking for a special gift for someone who loves nature, check out World Wildlife Fund's gift and adoption programs. They make shopping easy, especially for the person who has everything.
Ecuador's largest and most spectacular waterfall, San Rafael Falls in Yasuni Park is to be destroyed by the Chinese-funded Coca-Codo Sinclair Hydroelectric Project.
As environmentalists with a mission in forest conservation, we're asking customers to take a minute and sign a petition to help save the park and the falls.
We are heading off to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica tomorrow to support the work of Kevin Peterson and the Eco Preservation Society. Many thanks to Rayna Levin of EPS for doing such a stellar job of helping us with our arrangements for travel and volunteering.
We'll be making Vermont Woods Studios furniture for a school in an eco-community called Portasol in Portalon. We're excited to be able to help with this important conservation project and to learn about the many other projects Eco Preservation Society is doing to help save the rainforest.
Hopefully we'll have Internet access and be able to blog and tweet as we go. Will keep you posted!
As wood furniture makers, we know that in order to keep our craft alive, we've got to be active participants in sustainable forestry. We support non-profit groups like The Vermont Center for EcoStudios that work in conserving Vermont's forests and wildlife. We're also concerned with rainforest conservation which is a major part of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios.
Soon we'll be working with the Eco Preservation Society, a non-profit dedicated to wildlife conservation and reforestation in Costa Rica and elsewhere around the globe.
We're excited about this partnership and will write more in the following days. Eco Preservation Society shares our passion for conservation, education and reforestation. We admire the work they're doing and are looking forward to visiting and volunteering at one of their research and reforestation projects in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
These are Costa Rican squirrel monkeys or mono titi. They are highly endangered due to habitat destruction and the Eco Preservation Society is trying to save the species. We'll be volunteering on the project and will write about it when we're down there. Stay tuned!
Thanks in part to a number of Vermont Woods Studios readers who sent emails and letters, a Vermont state legislative committee unanimously rejected a proposal to open up state-owned lands to ATVs. Currently, all state lands in Vermont — nearly 350,000 acres — are closed to the destructive vehicles, a fact that was somehow overlooked by the Agency of Natural Resources that decided to approve an ATV expansion. It was not overlooked by the public, which commented 4-to-1 to keep the ban in place. Nearly 2,000 comments were sent in on the plan.
Unfortunately, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas says his administration will overrule the committee's decision and give ATVs access to state parks, forests and wetlands regardless of the public's wishes.
So we still have more feedback to give. Whether you live in Vermont or not, please contact Governor Jim Douglas and respectfully ask him to keep ATV's out of state forests. It takes only 60 seconds to send a message to the Governor. Thanks!