Customers often come to us because they're shopping for eco-friendly, sustainable furniture. At Vermont Woods Studios, our mission is founded on environmental and social responsibility so we find ourselves discussing FSC certification and other aspects of sustainable furniture almost every day. Here are some of the basics on FSC:
What is FSC?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent,
non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible
management of the world's forests. It is widely regarded as one of the
most important initiatives to promote responsible forest management
worldwide. It places a special emphasis on rainforest conservation.
L to R photo credits: Reststart Forestry, Allard Lumber, Wayne Fawbush, Ellen Kahler, Copeland Furniture, via the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
by environmental groups in 1993 FSC manages an international standard
for well-managed forests and a process for tracking and certifying wood
furniture, flooring and other products derived from those forests. FSC
addresses numerous aspects of sustainable forestry, including ecological
issues, old-growth forests, plantations, restoration, biodiversity,
native habitat, indigenous people's rights, and sound management for
The FSC label provides certification of the
chain of links between the forest where a product originates and the
consumer. For example with wood furniture, each of the following
businesses involved in transforming a tree into a piece of furniture
would have to be FSC certified in order for that furniture piece to be
FSC certified. It's called the "chain of custody":
- Certified forest owner- Must employ a professional forester and
develop a forest management plan which meets stringent ecological and
- Certified logger and sawyer
- Certified lumber wholesaler
- Certified lumber retailer
- Certified furniture maker
- Certified furniture retailer
Benefits of FSC Certification
In my opinion, FSC provides the most rigorous certification process
available. It's widely considered the gold standard in sustainable
forestry and has moved the world forward in many areas of rainforest
Copeland's Harbor Island Furniture collection is handmade here in VT with FSC certified maple wood from local Vermont trees.
Challenges for FSC As you might expect FSC
certification involves extensive rule-making and auditing that can be
quite expensive (and controversial) to implement. It can add up to 50% to the price of the
end product although the hope is that this cost will decrease as FSC
certification becomes more mainstream. Still many small manufacturers
are unable to assume this cost and are thus not FSC certified.
challenge for FSC is the rampant counterfeiting of FSC documentation
accompanying raw lumber that is being illegally clear cut from the
Amazon and other endangered areas of rainforest. Also FSC has been
criticized for being too lenient,
particularly with their policy allowing limited old growth logging.
Should You Buy Only FSC Certified Furniture?
Authentic FSC certified furniture is a responsible choice for the
eco-conscious homeowner. However there are many genuinely responsible,
green, eco-friendly furniture makers who are not FSC certified due to
the red tape and expense involved. Conversely there is a large market of fake, FSC
labeled furniture that comes to us through layers of corruption
In Vermont, many of us who were certified by FSC for years have been moving away from it lately. Not because we don't support the ideal, but because we have so many other systems in place that effectively ensure our furniture is authentically green and sustainable. At Vermont Woods Studios not all of our furniture is FSC certified, but it is all made from sustainably harvested wood from local and regional forests.
If FSC certification is important to you, check out Copeland's Harbor Island Furniture collection. It's handmade here in VT with FSC certified maple from local Vermont trees. And let us know on our Facebook or in the comments section below how you feel about FSC certification.
By Guest Blogger: Erik Braunitzer
Furniture makers like Vermont Woods Studios Furniture are doing their part to improve their carbon footprint. Extensive documentation on their website or even a quick phone conversation with Rebecca or Shannon puts families at ease knowing the company is serious about their environmental, health and safety mission.
But simply seeing furniture in a store with a green stamp of certification label isn't always helpful when you're not familiar with the background of the stamp. So it’s important that we realize just how green furniture is made, along with the environmentally friendly materials that are used.
Furniture companies using wood and recycled materials generally have the smallest carbon footprint. Other materials would include concrete, plastic, aluminum, brick, glass, fiberglass and more. Now it’s been said that there isn’t one individual item or sustainable material, but a handful that share sustainable characteristics, including recyclables.
Furniture can also include the following:
· Paint Strippers
· Particle Board
Many of these substances are classified as volatile chemicals. Furniture made with these volatile chemicals can result in offgassing, which is evaporation at normal atmospheric pressure. Offgassing can be reduced or eliminated altogether by using stains, finishes or paints that are non toxic such as those made by Vermont Natural Coatings and AFM Safecoat.
Transportation is another part of the carbon footprint for furniture, as wood and other materials have to be extracted from the environment, shipped to distributors, transported to furniture makers, then sent off to the retail store and customers. The sustainability of a particular piece of furniture is dependent upon a couple of factors including:
· Durability– The longer the piece of furniture, the more sustainable it becomes.
· How it’s useful– Multifunctional furniture saves money and yields greater sustainability.
Learning where to buy this type of furniture can be quite a daunting task, as it’s not always portrayed clearly exactly what materials are used, and the percentage of each. In order to fully lead a responsible lifestyle, we should understand just how to look for green furniture. Here are a few tips:
Look for Sustainably Harvested Wood – Translates to the sustainability of ecosystems and natural forests.
Avoid Tropical Woods Like Mahogany and Teak - these woods are often illegally clearcut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests.
Ensure FSC Certification – for tropical woods, if no substitution can be made
Reclaimed Wood Furniture (RWF) – More or less, RWF is a recycled piece of furniture.
Non-Toxic Finishes – Keep your air clean and help protect your children from health issues.
Buy locally – Locally purchased items are always more sustainable as transportation costs are cut.
Clearly, Furniture making using sustainable materials is very important to the health of the overall environment. Similarly, it reduces waste and influences the vintage market. By following a few simple rules and clearly understanding how green furniture is made, you can make a difference in improving your carbon footprint. Next time you’re in the market for a table or chair, be sure to inquire about sustainable practices before purchasing.
Courtesy of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, New York Luxury Rentals.
2011 has been declared by the UN as the International Year of the Forest in an effort to raise awareness and strengthen the sustainable forest management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.
At Vermont Woods Studios Furniture our mission is rooted (no pun intended) in forest conservation so we're happy to see this campaign take shape. Did you know that every second an area of rainforest the size of a football field is lost due to deforestation?
According to the World Bank, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. They also estimate that forests provide habitats to about two-thirds of all species on earth, and that deforestation of tropical rainforests could account for biodiversity loss of as many as 100 species a day.
We'd like to see the UN and governments do something to stop or slow deforestation but we think it will actually have to be green commerce that takes the lead on this. Consumers have the power to decrease deforestation by purchasing forest products that are sustainably harvested. Visit the Forest Stewardship Council FSC and Rainforest Relief websites to learn more about how to buy sustainable forest products, like the handmade wood furniture offered by Vermont Woods Studios.
In September, 2006, I was very fortunate to be able to join with Gerry Cooklin , Susan Inglis and a small group of visionary leaders in the furniture industry to talk about the unique status the furniture industry has as the main consumer of the forest’s most precious species. That was the birth of a non-profit now called the Sustainable Furniture Council, FSC. We are now over 100 members strong, all working to educate consumers and promote sustainable practices in our industry. Vermont Woods Studios is proud to be a founding member of this world-changing group.
Well, first we are careful to ensure that all of Vermont Woods Studios fine furniture is made from sustainably harvested wood. For the most part, we source our wood locally from people we know personally and who adhere to strict environmental laws, policies and guidelines. When a customer requests a tropical wood like mahogany or teak, we ensure it is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC is considered the international “Gold Standard” for responsible forestry management and we achieved FSC certification for Vermont Woods Studios in Feb, 2007. We are very careful to use only FSC certified rainforest woods when we us them at all.