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At Vermont Woods Studios, we believe that businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place–not only on Earth day, but everyday. We realize that the planet is precious, and that both businesses and consumers have the power to protect it. The five companies we are highlighting in this blog are ones we believe do their best to protect our planet, both socially and environmentally. From organic and eco-friendly materials, to trade cycles that benefit indigenous populations, we are happy to support the unique missions of these Earth friendly companies:

1. Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch describes their products as “linens with a mission.” Their 300-thread-count sheets & cable knit throws are made exclusively from Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton, and made in fair-trade farms and factories in India. They ensure that the factory conditions are safe, and workers are paid a living wage. Boll & Branch uses only low impact, fiber reactive dyes that do not contain any known toxins or heavy metals. Their linens are beautiful, luxurious, and most importantly, eco-friendly!

2. Yellow Leaf Hammocks: Every Yellow Leaf Hammock is 100% handwoven by “hill-tribe artisans” in rural northern Thailand. The opportunity to weave hammocks and earn a good living wage is transformative for the weavers and their families, many of whom previously worked in back breaking slash and burn agriculture. Instead of going to school, many children would end up working in the fields alongside their parents, stuck in a cycle of poverty. Yellow Leaf Hammocks empowers these people through job creation– giving them the tools they need to escape poverty and join the middle class.

3. Badger: Badger is a small, family-owned company nestled on the banks of the Ashuelot River in rural Gilsum, New Hampshire. They blend organic plant extracts, oils, butters and beeswax to make eco-friendly healing balms, lip balms, mineral sunscreens, and other personal care products. Everything they make is healthy, and promoting environmental responsibility is one of their core principals. Plus, they use only USDA Certified Organic ingredients in their products!

4. Deans Beans: Deans Beans encourages you to look in your kitchen and ask yourself, “where do your beans come from?” They believe in a progressive trade system where social and environmental consciousness plays an integral part in every step of the cycle (from production and distribution, from the farmer to the consumer). They believe in building a better future through business and hope that other coffee companies follow their lead. They only purchase their beans from small farm cooperatives, largely made up of indigenous people working hard to maintain their culture and lifestyle. Dean, the company’s founder, has a long history of activism for indigenous rights, and it’s one of the reasons he started the company in the first place.  They believe that the quality of their coffee includes the quality of respect for the environment and for their southern partners in the coffee world.

5. Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is a Burlington, Vermont based maker of environmentally friendly laundry detergent, trash bags, and diapers. They took their name from an Iroquiois law that says, “in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” To make good on that pledge, Seventh Generation sells a line of products that includes biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning products, chlorine-free tampons and paper towels and natural lotion baby wipes. They even have an employee bonus program that awards workers who figure out ways to make their products even more sustainable!

We hope that these companies have inspired you to take a look around your home and think about the products you bring into it. Where are they coming from? Who makes them? What are the consequences? Who am I supporting? These are all important things to consider when buying consciously and ethically. We invite you to join us in promoting some of your own favorite Earth friendly companies! You can leave a link and what you love about them in the comments section, or write to us on Facebook or on Twitter.

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.

How do you know if
Our mission at Vermont Woods Studios is to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from.  Is Forest to Table furniture as important to you as Farm to Plate food?  Let us know why or why not on our Facebook.

Where Does Your Furniture Come From?

I started Vermont Woods Studios in 2005 to promote sustainable wooden furniture.  I’d been studying the impacts of illegal logging of the earth’s tropical rainforests and wondered “why isn’t anybody doing anything about this”?  With the destruction being driven by demand for cheap wood furniture, I realized there was something we could do to help… even from way up here in Vermont.  Thus our Vermont made furniture store was born, with the mission of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuading people to buy eco friendly furniture made from sustainably harvested wood.

FSC Certification Problems

That purpose is still at the heart of our mission, although the definition of “eco friendly wood furniture” has changed.  Ten years ago the prevailing thought was that the hallmark of sustainably harvested wood furniture was a formal certification by the FSC, Forest Stewardship Council.

FSC is an international not for-profit group that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.  It has been considered the “gold standard” for green certification and labeling of forest products since 1993.  Unfortunately, as pure as FSC’s intentions may be, the job of monitoring the entire planet’s forests has proved impossible.  With so much at stake and land areas too big to monitor, organized crime has taken over the global timber industry.  FSC certification is now systematically forged to the point where you cannot tell whether “certified” furniture is made from legal wood.

Illegal Wood:  Not Just About Climate Change & Loss of Biodiversity

A recent article by Alexander Zaitchik titled, Blood on Your Ottoman: Your Furniture’s Link to a Murderous Logging Epidemic chronicles the September 2014 murder of Edwin Chota and 3 other indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest.  The article highlights the fact that organized crime has upped the ante for illegal timber.  Murder is now fair game in their book and it’s happening more than you’d like to know.

“The first thing people can do is to revisit the assumption that buying “certified” wood products absolves them of responsibility for destroying the world’s remaining primary rainforests. If you’re buying Peruvian mahogany, or Brazilian rosewood, or Indonesian teak, there’s no way to determine whether or not it came from a legal, carefully managed tract, or whether a villager was killed for trying to keep that tree standing”.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture = American Made Wood Furniture

Our message to conscious consumers shopping for eco friendly furniture, flooring, paper or other forest products is simple: buy American made.  In the United States logging is regulated and enforced.  There are more trees now than there were 100 years ago. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, “North American forest growth has exceeded harvest since the 1940s.  The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the ’50s”.

Learn more about American made eco friendly wood furniture on our website and find out which companies say they’re “American made” versus those that truly are.

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.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture | Handmade in VT, USA
This Woodland Table and Modern Mission Dining Chairs are made from solid cherry wood, that was sustainably harvested in North America.

We started Vermont Woods Studios out of a passion for forest conservation.  It was this one astounding statistic that really lit a fire under me:

Every second an acre of rainforest is lost forever

Along with trees, some of my favorite iconic wildlife species that live in the rainforest are being lost.  For example, all the great cats (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetas, etc) are critically endangered as are all the great apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc).  Our planet is actually losing over 100 species/day.  The cause is habitat destruction.  Rainforest trees are being clearcut for timber to make cheap furniture and flooring.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is

So to me, eco friendly wood furniture is first and foremost, furniture that’s made from sustainably harvested wood.  More specifically, North American wood (recycled or newly milled) that’s been obtained through legitimate local partners, thus minimizing transport distances and helping regional economies (and greatly reducing fuel usage and carbon emissions).

Other aspects of eco friendly furniture relate to how a tree is transformed into, say… a table or a bed.  Vermont furniture makers use both traditional and modern methods to maximize the yield from each tree and minimize (or eliminate) wood waste. All wood processing by-products are put to some type of use here in Vermont. For example: sawdust is used by local farmers for animal bedding and wood chips are used for heating.

Non-toxic furniture finishes are also characteristic of eco friendly furniture.

Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is NOT

Unlike many large American furniture companies, we do not consider imported wood furniture eco friendly.  The global timber trade has been infiltrated by organized crime to the point where illegal wood (often clear cut from the rainforest) is pervasive throughout the imported wood furniture and flooring industry.  Much of it is accompanied by counterfeit documents labeling it as green certified by the Forest Stewardship Council FSC (here are a couple articles reporting on this: Liquidating the Forests and Corruption Stains the Global Timber Trade).

National Geographic recently reported on a UN study showing that the global environmental crime industry (with illegal logging being the primary component) has now surpassed the global drug trade in terms of estimated annual revenue.  “We have regulations, but we need to inform consumers,” said Indonesian official Budi Susanti, “if buyers won’t buy the products that aren’t sustainable, there won’t be demand.”

How to Know the Difference

A google search for “eco friendly wood furniture” turns up all sorts of  questionable results from big, multinational companies that pledge to use green certified wood.  Of course your best bet would be to find something made locally from local wood.  But if that’s not possible or practical for you, any furniture that’s truly 100% Made in America is likely to be an environmentally friendly choice.

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.

Vermont Woods Studios encourages sustainable shopping.
Spending more time outdoors encourages reflection on your eco footprint! This is me enjoying nature in Poultney, VT.

My Opinion

Sustainability matters, it really does. Our planet is going through some major changes that I’m sure many of us have noticed– from entire species of animals being wiped out, to our rainforests being clear-cut, to the majorly devastating natural disasters occurring throughout the world. Big things are happening, and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but it has come time for us as people to take responsibility for our contribution to global climate change and its consequences. We have to start acting responsibly and be very conscious in our efforts to reduce our individual impact on the world!

 

It won’t be easy, but as a leading nation, it is up to Americans to set a positive example to the rest of the world! Can you envision a green future for the USA? A place where we manage our forests responsibly, care for our animals, & support sustainable business rather than greedy CEOs who allow child labor and unsafe factory conditions? A place where we take a second to think about what we are supporting when we make a purchase? A place where sustainable shopping is the norm? I can!

 

The tragedy that occurred in Bangladesh was extremely eye opening for me– especially when it comes to the companies who refused to agree to safer factory standards. It makes sense… these giant corporations are profiting majorly off of practices that are extremely harmful to the environment and the people who work for them. It’s unacceptable. I like to think that “every dollar you spend is a vote” (LN Smith), and my question is, who (and what) are you voting for?

 

I vote for companies with strict environmental standards, companies who believe that our future (and the future of our children, grandchildren, and beyond) is in our hands. I vote for companies who take responsibility and make positive efforts to decrease their environmental impact. I vote for companies who pay their workers fairly and don’t expose them to dangerous conditions. I vote for a green future, a happier, healthier future!

 

I challenge you to take a look around your home and think about where your products are coming from. Were they made in a factory overseas or by an American craftsman? Were they made from sustainably managed forests or were they made from wood harvested from the rainforest? Does the company you “voted” for have safe, ethical standards of pay and work conditions for their employees?

 

Just think about it. Literally envision your favorite items in your home being made, and the hands that created them. That’s the first step– just become aware that as consumers, we have the power to change the world. Every dollar is a vote!

 

 

 

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 view at Stonehurst
The view behind Stonehurst

The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.

Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.  

The stone wall behind stonehurst, headquarters for Vermont Woods Studios
Stone Wall on back side of Stonehurst

Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”

Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.  

           Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy,  “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”

The Vermont Woods Studios team
The whole team gathered for our first group photo at Stonehurst

           When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well.  Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”

           The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!


PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us :)


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.