Earth Day 2016 is just a week away on Friday, April 22.
As perhaps the world’s largest community of environmental supporters, Earth Day Network started Earth Day in 1970 and has made great progress in addressing sustainability & climate change. But there is much left to do in protecting our planet for future generations (of people, flora and fauna) and you can help. What can you do?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
What are your thoughts? Leave us a note in the comments section, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter!
Providing solutions to rain forest deforestation is a central part of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios. We’re inspired to do our part in making illegal logging and mass deforestation a thing of the past, so needless to say, we’re more than excited about this new tool that provides practically real time information on tree loss. Our furniture is never made from rain forest lumber, but we are looking forward to a day when other furniture (and various wood product companies) will join us in the mission for a more sustainable world.
According to BBC News, “Despite greater awareness around of the world of the impacts of deforestation, the scale of forest loss since 2000 has been significant – data from Google and the University of Maryland says the world lost 230 million hectares of trees between 2000 and 2012.”
Staggering Statistics: “Forest campaigners say this is the equivalent of 50 football fields of trees being cut down, every minute of every day over the past 12 years.”
As noted in the BBC article, one of the major problems regarding deforestation is the lack of accurate information. To take on this challenge of obtaining accurate and reliable information, ” the US based World Resources Institute (WRI) has led the development of GFW, using half a billion high resolution images from Nasa’s Landsat programme.”
This program will make it harder for illegal loggers to continue clearcutting without accountability or consequences, as this new technology is “a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests,” said Dr Andrew Steer from WRI…From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.“
Tracking widespread illegal logging across the globe might seem like an impossible task, but “the technology is said to be easy to use and will incorporate information showing protected areas, logging, mining and palm oil concessions and daily forest fire alerts from Nasa.”
The tool will involve a global support system of concerned groups, citizens, and politicians. So “when tree losses are detected, alerts can be sent out to a network of partners and citizens around the world who can take action.”
So what does this mean for the wood industry, and the consumers who support it?
According to Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, “As we strive to increase the visibility of where the ingredients for our products come from, the launch of Global Forest Watch – a fantastic, innovative tool – will provide the information we urgently need to make the right decisions.”