I’m super excited today because our friend Jose Luis Alvarez is coming to visit Vermont this fall to collaborate with us on a project to help save the Monarch butterfly. Jose Luis is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch. Last month I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we’ve been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!
Believe it or not that’s why our small business was born. We’re not a furniture company that “went green”. Vermont Woods Studios was actually a product of my mid-life crisis/desire to make a difference in this world. Weird, right? For some people it’s all about fast cars, loud motorcycles, sex, drugs or rock & roll. For me it was about forest conservation. It’s a long story (which I did tell to Laura Dunn of the Huffington Post, in the remote case you may be interested) but the point is:
The World Is Losing It’s Forests
Many people may not see it as a big deal but if you somehow found your way to this quirky green blog, there’s a good chance you’ll be concerned about these statistics:
More than half of the world’s 193 countries have already lost 90% or more of their forest cover
Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface now cover a mere 6%, yet they are home to over half the species of plants and animals in the world
We are losing the rainforest at the rate of 1.5 acres every second
Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be gone from this earth before you are
So We’re Trying to Help
Last year we celebrated our 10th year in business. Since 2005 we’ve planted about 7500 trees, many of them through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project. More importantly we’ve kept a similar number of rare rainforest trees out of the furniture market as we’ve used only sustainably harvested North American trees. Who is responsible for this progress? You… our customers, our readers and our partners. Your support enables us to throw our energy into environmental projects we think are important and for that we are immensely grateful.
Planting Trees in Mexico
Recently we’ve focused our support on a tree-planting project called the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP in Michoacan Mexico. This is a reforestation initiative that I discovered during my efforts to help save the Monarch Butterfly, which is native to Vermont but it over-winters in sunny Mexico. I wrote about it recently and will be visiting LCHPP’s project in Mexico next week. Stay tuned for a full report. Anyway…
Conservation Matters To Our Customers, Partners & Staff
Does it matter to you? Post your thoughts on our Facebook or contact me directly at peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com. I want to know what you think. Thanks for reading!
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.