People often ask me why on earth we located our new sustainable furniture store in the middle of Vermont’s woodlands. The truth is that I don’t see Vermont Woods Studios as a furniture store. Yes we have IMHO a beautiful showcase of the best quality handmade furniture Vermont has to offer. But our business was built first and foremost, out of my passion for wildlife & forest conservation. I wanted to show people where their furniture comes from. And I wanted to appeal to them to buy furniture and flooring that come from forests that are re-planted and professionally managed for wildlife & sustainability.
We located Stonehurst in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest…
so customers could enjoy the 100 acre woodland we’re on and experience the beauty of the forest
so we could raise awareness about forest conservation and the fact that much of the wood furniture and flooring in America is made from imported rainforest timber that’s being mowed down at the mind-boggling rate of over 1 acre/second
so we could persuade people to buy American made furniture and flooring– a healthier, more sustainable choice for both people & planet
so we could inspire people to change the world
For the first 7 years our Vermont Woods Studios was an online furniture store. Our staff worked out of a spare bedroom in my house. When customers wanted to visit us we would invite them to Ken’s tiny workshop in the back of the house. But as business grew and more people wanted to visit, we figured maybe it was safe to set up shop in a more suitable location. From the very beginning we knew it had to be in the woods.
Ken and I founded Vermont Woods Studios fine furniture store almost nine years ago. As a woodworker, Ken’s interest was in earning a living by promoting the tradition of high quality Vermont made wood furniture. For me, the project was about forest conservation and my desire to help protect forest habitat and wildlife for future generations*. Over the years it’s been a challenge managing this yin-yang pair of objectives but I think we’ve been able to maintain a pretty good balance.
Stonehurst Opens Up New Opportunities for Forest Conservation
This year we have a chance to bring a whole new dimension to our forest conservation mission through our newly acquired property at Stonehurst. The farmhouse we purchased and renovated into a Vermont made furniture gallery sits on 100 wooded acres in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest. In the past our environmental mission was largely fulfilled by donating to like-minded non-profits**, but now we can also also partner with them by providing forest habitat for various conservation projects.
Below are a few conservation activities we’re supporting for 2014:
Woodlands for Wildlife – Vermont Coverts educates landowners in sound forest management practices and the principles of stewardship for the enhancement of wildlife. Ken and I are attending their 3-day seminar on forest and wildlife management this spring to learn how to improve wildlife habitat and provide better conditions for native deer, turkeys, moose, bear, birds, bob cats, chipmunks, squirrels and other species that may be living at Stonehurst.
MonarchWatch – When Kendall and Riley were in elementary school we used to capture monarch caterpillars, watch their metamorphosis and tag the butterflies before waving them off on their epic migration to Mexico every fall. But for the past several years I haven’t seen even a single monarch. So this year we’ll support Chip Taylor at MonarchWatch by planting butterfly gardens (including milkweed) and encouraging others to do the same.
Vermont Center for Eco Studies– VCE is a group of Vermont’s foremost conservation scientists who inspire citizen volunteers across Vermont and around the world. We’ve been supporting them for years and are excited about being able to use Stonehurst as a place to gather data for their many programs including:
Vernal pool mapping
VT reptile and amphibian atlas
VT breeding bird survey
Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center – BEEC’s annual Salamander Soiree is this Saturday April 5th from 6-8:30pm in Brattleboro at the River Garden on Main Street. We’ll be there to help recruit crossing guards for this year’s annual amphibian migration.
If you’re in our neighborhood and share similar interests, please stop by Stonehurst, give us a call or connect with us on Facebook. Let us know what you’re working on and how we can help. As the southern most corner of Vermont, Vernon can play a significant role in our state’s conservation efforts. Let’s make it happen!
* We are losing the worlds forests at a rate of > 1 acre/second. A major factor in deforestation is widespread illegal logging for timber that’s used to make cheap furniture sold by IKEA, Home Depot and other big-box stores. Our goal at Vermont Woods Studios is to help raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuade people to buy sustainable furniture made from legally harvested wood.
** The non-profits we’ve supported include the World Wildlife Fund WWF, The Nature Conservancy TNC, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center BEEC, Vermont Center for Ecostudies VCE and others working to conserve forests and wildlife.
Vermont’s been cold this year. We’ve had a winter like I haven’t seen since I was a kid (when every winter was like this). So Ken and I decided to cash in some FF miles and head south for a week. We like to visit rainforest countries because it gives us a chance to understand the realities and trends behind Vermont Woods Studios’ mission— forest conservation. Central America provides the closest rainforest and we’ve traveled to Costa Rica and Panama before. But after much research we decided to try Nicaragua this time.
When I told my mother and sister we were going to Nicaragua, they hesitated and politely said “be careful”. Ken’s friends said “bring a machete” and “watch out for the Sandinistas”. Douglas and Dennis encouraged us to update our wills before leaving.
Well, I’m here to tell you Nicaragua has changed! No longer a war-torn country, it is now evolving to join it’s Central American neighbors as a warm and welcoming respite for it’s neighbors to the North. Lush rainforests, white sandy beaches, and majestic mountains make up Nicaragua’s landscape. And friendly people reach out to help you find them along with unique, affordable places to stay, play and eat.
We chose Nicaragua because of it’s government’s commitment to the sustainable development of tourism (rather than the depletion of rainforest resources). But recently news has broken of President Daniel Ortega’s $40 Billion deal with Hong Kong to build a canal across Nicaragua (that would compete with the Panama canal). NPR aired a discussion of the catastrophic environmental and cultural devastation that could result.
Hopefully the deal is abandoned in lieu of the economic benefits of eco-tourism. Interested in helping to tip the balance? Learn more about affordable, sustainable Nicaraguan travel at the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Trip website.
Vermont is the Green Mountain state and trust me, Vermonters are serious about forest conservation. If you live in New York or Boston or another metropolitan area you might be surprised though to learn that we have to fight hard every day to keep our forests clean, green and intact.
Dennis and I were at a meeting of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association last week and as always, forest conservation was high on the list of topics for discussion. Vermont furniture companies are working on creating a chain of custody for their furniture so customers will be able to trace it back from the furniture maker to the forest where it was sustainably harvested.
You may be thinking: “why do Vermonters think forest conservation is so important?” Well it’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy. Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters. It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.
We see how forests are being decimated in tropical countries like Brazil, the DR Congo and Indonesia and we’re determined to do what we can to conserve forests (both our temperate forests and rainforests) for future generations. Here is just a short list of Vermont organizations working on the mission of forest conservation:
Another forest conservation group– one near to my heart, is the Vermont Center for Eco Studies. Researchers there are working to conserve habitat for our state’s migrating songbirds. As such their conservation efforts span both our temperate Vermont forests and the rainforest of the Dominican Republic where our state bird the Bicknell’s Thrush winters.
Our sustainable furniture company was founded in 2005 on a mission of forest conservation. I had been studying rainforest conservation for years and wanted to see if I could do something to help change this startling statistic:
Every second of every minute of every day…
We lose over 1 acre of rainforest. Permanently.
Several years prior to starting Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture I had formed a non-profit corporation with the same mission (rainforest conservation) but I was never really able to get the funding I needed to lift it off the ground. So our wood furniture company was built as a for-profit corporation to help accomplish the same goals.
It’s not always easy to explain why a Vermont based fine furniture company is so committed to rainforest conservation. When I saw this info-graphic, Forests and the Green Economy (courtesy of The Nature Conservancy) I thought it might help. Here are a few rainforest facts that might surprise you:
More than half of the planet’s species live in the rainforest even though the rainforest only occupies about 2% of the earth’s surface
Many of our favorite iconic species are critically endangered due to deforestation, including all species of big cats and all species of big apes
An estimated 137 species of plants and animals are driven into extinction every day due to deforestation
Rainforest deforestation contributes as much to global warming as the sum of all the cars, trains and planes in the world
Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface; now they cover <6%
If deforestation continues at this rate, the rainforests could be gone in < 40 years and once they’re gone, they are gone forever. Rainforests do not regenerate the way our Northern temperate forests do
The Nature Conservancy summarizes this and other compelling facts about the rainforest in their info-graphic. Along with the World Wildlife Fund they are among the world’s best hopes for saving the rainforest. Check out their info-graphic and learn about ways you can help everyday through your choices of food, paper, furniture, flooring and other forest products.
At Vermont Woods Studios we donate $1 for every sale to the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project and run occasional benefits to support non-profits that work to save the rainforest and it’s inhabitants. Learn more about our work in the Mission section of our blog and website.