Our friends at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and REVERB have teamed up with rock stars the likes of Maroon 5, Guster, Mick Jagger, Willie Nelson, Sting, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews, Deborah Harry and dozens of other musicians to bring attention to a subject that’s at the core of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios:
I started Vermont Woods Studios in 2005 to promote sustainable wooden furniture. I’d been studying the impacts of illegal logging of the earth’s tropical rainforests and wondered “why isn’t anybody doing anything about this”? With the destruction being driven by demand for cheap wood furniture, I realized there was something we could do to help… even from way up here in Vermont. Thus our Vermont made furniture store was born, with the mission of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuading people to buy eco friendly furniture made from sustainably harvested wood.
FSC Certification Problems
That purpose is still at the heart of our mission, although the definition of “eco friendly wood furniture” has changed. Ten years ago the prevailing thought was that the hallmark of sustainably harvested wood furniture was a formal certification by the FSC, Forest Stewardship Council.
FSC is an international not for-profit group that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests. It has been considered the “gold standard” for green certification and labeling of forest products since 1993. Unfortunately, as pure as FSC’s intentions may be, the job of monitoring the entire planet’s forests has proved impossible. With so much at stake and land areas too big to monitor, organized crime has taken over the global timber industry. FSC certification is now systematically forged to the point where you cannot tell whether “certified” furniture is made from legal wood.
Illegal Wood: Not Just About Climate Change & Loss of Biodiversity
A recent article by Alexander Zaitchik titled, Blood on Your Ottoman: Your Furniture’s Link to a Murderous Logging Epidemic chronicles the September 2014 murder of Edwin Chota and 3 other indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest. The article highlights the fact that organized crime has upped the ante for illegal timber. Murder is now fair game in their book and it’s happening more than you’d like to know.
“The first thing people can do is to revisit the assumption that buying “certified” wood products absolves them of responsibility for destroying the world’s remaining primary rainforests. If you’re buying Peruvian mahogany, or Brazilian rosewood, or Indonesian teak, there’s no way to determine whether or not it came from a legal, carefully managed tract, or whether a villager was killed for trying to keep that tree standing”.
Eco Friendly Wood Furniture = American Made Wood Furniture
Our message to conscious consumers shopping for eco friendly furniture, flooring, paper or other forest products is simple: buy American made. In the United States logging is regulated and enforced. There are more trees now than there were 100 years ago. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, “North American forest growth has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the ’50s”.
I don’t usually promote other companies or products unless they’re based in Vermont and related to our environmental mission at Vermont Woods Studios. But although Treeson is operated in Costa Rica, the company caught my eye because their founding principles are so similar to ours.
Cleaning Up Ocean Plastic Pollution
Owner Carlton Solle took his family on a trip to Costa Rica 5 years ago. Like me, he was alarmed at the plastic pollution littering that country’s beautiful waters and coastlines. And like me, he learned that less than 20 percent of the 50 billion plastic water bottles sold in the United States are actually recycled (the remaining 40 billion end up in landfills, waterways and oceans, or in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).
Our response to plastic pollution at Vermont Woods Studios was to partner with POLYWOOD in promoting and selling outdoor patio furniture made from recycled plastic bottles. Carlton’s response was to create Treeson spring water which is packaged in an eco-friendly, biodegradable, collapsible water bottle that comes with a pre-paid USPS postage sticker. The empty bottle goes in the Mail box instead of the trash.
Replanting the Rainforest
For every bottle of spring water sold, Treeson plants a tree. They are working closely with our friend Kevin Peterson at the Eco Preservation Society to replant the rainforest in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (this is the area we visited a few years ago and did volunteer work building furniture at a local school). So far over 38,000 trees have been planted.
Incidentally, Kevin is one of the people who influenced us at Vermont Woods Studios to plant a tree for every furniture sale.
Life Cycle of a Treeson Bottle: Cradle to Grave
Treeson water bottles are made from plant-based materials and filled with filtered spring water sourced close to each retail territory. Empty bottles are easily flattened and returned for free (by peeling off the label to reveal a return label) via the United States Postal Service. The used bottles are then recycled to produce clean energy (with a machine that converts the plant-based material into biogas) that is used to produce new bottles.
Support Treeson’s Kickstarter Campaign
You can help Treeson get their fledgling company off the ground by supporting their campaign at Kickstarter.com. There you’ll find information and frequently asked questions about their mission, business plans and processes.
We wish them well. Can companies like Treeson and Vermont Woods Studios really change the world? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook.
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.
Please help us welcome our newest staff member, Neville Kerr to the Vermont Woods Studios family. Neville answered our call for a webmaster/developer/programmer/jack of all tech trades last December. We didn’t know he would also be bringing additional skills we hadn’t even asked for (like cooking and travel advice) but we’re glad he did.
Neville comes to us from Down Under. His background includes ecommerce consulting, extensive service in the Royal Australian Air Force and many interesting experiences in between. One of his passions appears to be travel. And oddly enough rainforest countries have been high on his list of destinations. How interesting since Vermont Woods Studios was founded on a mission of rainforest conservation.
The photo above was taken in Jaco, Costa Rica, a place Ken and I and the boys passed through two years ago on a trip to Manuel Antonio, while volunteering for the Eco Preservation Society. I discovered yesterday that Neville and his wife Carol also visited another of my favorite rainforest countries in their travels, Belize.
I don’t remember mentioning anything about the rainforest in our ad for a web developer so maybe it’s just good karma that brought this world traveler and his talents to our doorstep in tiny Vernon, Vermont. At any rate, we’re grateful for his help and looking forward to the many improvements he has in mind for our fine furniture website. Follow Neville’s work on our Facebook and let us know how you like our website improvements as they evolve over the next couple months.