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.
We love wildlife here at Vermont Woods Studios. Forest conservation
is, afterall, a large part of our mission. So, if you're anything like us, we have an
exciting event for you to attend this weekend. Saturday, September 15, is the third annual Vermont Wildlife Festival. This day-long event, put together by the Southern
Vermont Natural History Museum, is designed to "showcase the many ways
that we enjoy the outdoors in Vermont."
The day (10am-4pm) is packed full of events by over twenty different organizations. During the Vermont Wildlife Festival you will see live animals (including
raptors and a wolf), have the opportunity to go on a guided hike, a scavenger
hunt, interactive demonstrations, wilderness survival information, and much more. Not quite sold yet? What
if I told you that this event is FREE?
Still not 100% sold? Have I mentioned that this event will
be taking place right near the Hogback Mountain Scenic Overlook? It is a
panoramic 100-mile breath-taking view. It is a must-see, and a perfect photo opportunity,
for both Vermonters and tourists alike.
Heather Barrett is a Marketing Assistant at Vermont Woods Studios, an online furniture gallery which showcases Vermont's finest wood furniture. Follow our blog to learn about Vermont fine furniture, Vermont happenings, our mission, and our team.
What's the most organic, eco-friendly raw material for furniture? I guess there are different opinions on this but you have to admit that wood is naturally green. It's sustainable, biodegradable and renewable.
According to NHLA the hardwood inventory in the USA has grown by 98% during the past 5 decades. I'd say that's pretty sustainable.
Here's another cool fact NHLA cites: Wood represents 47 percent of all raw materials used in the United States but the energy used to produce wood products (including furniture) accounts for just 4 percent of the energy used to make all manufactured materials. Wow! It makes sense though when you consider all the hard-core industrial processing that's required to make a piece of metal or plastic furniture, right?
I just have to throw in one last random but amazing reason why wood is the greenest raw material for furniture-making: the EPA estimates that each year our American forests remove the greenhouse gases emitted by 139,000,000 cars! You gotta love wood.