Earth Day 2016 is just a week away on Friday, April 22.
As perhaps the world’s largest community of environmental supporters, Earth Day Network started Earth Day in 1970 and has made great progress in addressing sustainability & climate change. But there is much left to do in protecting our planet for future generations (of people, flora and fauna) and you can help. What can you do?
Ken and I started this Vermont furniture store 10 years ago with the belief that businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place. In developing a company that sells handcrafted wooden furniture we wanted to raise awareness about forest conservation and persuade customers to purchase furniture made from sustainably harvested, North American wood. A decade later, we’re not naive enough to think we’ve changed the world but perhaps we’ve changed a tiny part of it and that feels good. Here are some highlights of what our team accomplished this year in support of our local community and our environmental mission:
Plant a Billion Trees Project
Monarch Habitat Restoration Project
Vernon’s Giving Tree
Connecticut River Clean-up
Meals on Wheels
Vermont Food Bank Thanksgiving Project
River Arts Gallery Auction
Wags to Riches Auction
Environmental Education at Vernon Elementary School
Providing Toys & Food for Kids in the Amazon Rainforest
As we close out 2015, I extend my thanks to the customers, staff members, furniture makers, family, friends, neighbors and business partners whose support made the accomplishments of this small Vermont furniture store possible. Here’s to your health and happiness in 2016!
I have a confession to make. I did not start Vermont Woods Studios because I had a deep, abiding love of handmade furniture. Mind you, I HAVE developed a sort of reverence for it over these past 10 years, but that wasn’t the driving force for me.
It was my passion for the rainforest that got this sustainable furniture company started.
I think it may have been Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey who initially drew me into environmental conservation in the 60s. Or maybe it was Mom, who had us kids outdoors all the time and kept a stack of National Geographic magazines handy for the rare moments we were in the house.
Anyway, for some reason, when I lost my job in 2005 I decided to quit the corporate world and get back to my youthful aspirations of doing something “green”. I had become convinced that our generation’s most important conservation priority was to preserve the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. I wanted to focus the rest of my working life helping people understand the tragedy of this loss and the fact that they could do something about it.
Ken had just finished building a woodworking shop on the back of our house. I thought maybe we could marry his woodworking background with my love of the rainforest to create a new kind of green business. After several attempts and stumbles we came up with Vermont Woods Studios: a website where Vermont furniture makers could market and sell furniture made from sustainably harvested wood.
The company would be a vehicle to help us persuade people to stop buying furniture and flooring made with illegally harvested rainforest wood. The plan was pretty detailed, even including a Manifesto.
Not That Easy Being Green
But soon reality hit and although I was always guided by conservation, I quickly learned that small businesses don’t have a lot of time or money for environmental projects. We did what we could… making support of environmental non-profits (like the World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Alliance, Vermont Center for EcoStudies and many others in our own community) a cornerstone of our business. We also work with The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project to plant a tree for every furniture order we take. And a number of times we’ve traveled to the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama where we did some volunteering.
In retrospect I can say that we have made progress on our mission.
We have to figure out how to spotlight the difference consumers can make by choosing sustainably harvested wood flooring and furniture as opposed to that made from illegally harvested rainforest woods (think: Lumber Liquidators and Ikea).
A Trip to The Amazon
So I’m taking a trip to the Amazon rainforest.
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the opportunity. Next post I’ll share how this trip came about and what I hope to accomplish. I am so grateful to our customers, employees and other allies who have supported our business throughout these 10 years, thus making such an endeavor possible.
Picture this: It’s past 10pm and Peggy is outside in her rainboots, a bright yellow raincoat, and some reflective gear. She has a bucket on her arm, a flashlight in one hand, and a big spotted salamander in her other hand. It’s cold and raining and way past her bedtime but dozens of these local amphibians need her help! Yep, It’s salamander migration season! For the past 15 years Peggy has been helping these Spot-tacular salamanders make it across busy roads towards the vernal pools they use for breeding. With the help of great organizations like BEEC, we’ve saved hundreds of salamanders from being run over by cars (and depending on the amount of traffic, this can result in huge dents in the salamander population)!
Our forests are so much more than just trees. When Peggy started Vermont Woods Studios in 2005, she was inspired to help save disappearing animal habitats by promoting sustainable forestry. Did you know that almost every species of large primate & big cat are endangered? While these salamanders aren’t endangered (at least not yet), we want to make sure it stays that way! These salamanders have been following the same migration patterns for hundreds of years, way before roads and cars and all of the man-made things that put them in danger. On nights where we might have missed them crossing, there is evidence left on the roads of the threat to the survival of these crawly creatures that cars pose.
The least we can do is help these slow movers make it to where they’re headed.
After the salamanders have crossed and made it to the vernal pools, we visit them to see how many egg clusters we can find. This helps us keep track of the success of the salamanders each year and assures us that our efforts are making a difference!
All in all, we take care and keep track of the success of the salamander migration because we care about our environment– even the smallest parts! If you’re interested in learning more about helping salamanders, check out the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center website.
Earth Day Gives us the Opportunity to Reflect on our Environmental Impact
Each & Every one of us at Vermont Woods Studios works here for a reason; we are passionate about Vermont furniture and we are passionate about keeping our forests thriving. We love the outdoors, and we love the environment. Earth day is very special to us, and this year we’ve decided to each make a pledge towards making our everyday lives more eco-friendly. It’s easy to forget about the impact of even the smallest choices we make sometimes, and we’re excited to be more environmentally conscious this year.
This Earth Day, I pledge to….
Peggy: I pledge to buy more organic and bird friendly coffee for the office.
Douglas: I pledge to stop using plastic water bottles. My daughter and I use 20+ a week when working out– we’re both going to start using large glass mason jars instead!
Dennis: I pledge to maintain the bird houses I just built and put up around my house.
Liz: My pledge is to create a compost bin and start composting at my cabin, as I’ve been wanting to for a long time!
Sean: My pledge is to buy less clothes this year and to donate all of my old or unwanted clothes to charity!
Michelle: I pledge to eat more food from my own garden this year.
Loryn: I pledge to drive less since I will be buying a bike soon!
Kelsey: I pledge to grow monarch-friendly plants outside of my apartment.
Nina: My pledge is to collect rainwater and use that to water my garden, rather than wasting water from the faucet!
So what’s your Earth Day pledge? Remember that even a small change in your lifestyle can make a huge difference in our planet! We’d love to hear what you’re eco-change is going to be this year. Let us know on Facebook or send us a Tweet!