Buying new hardwood flooring? Tips for buying sustainably harvested wood.
Buying new hardwood flooring?  Ask if it’s made from legal sustainably harvested wood.  Watch tonight’s Global News documentary to see why.

As a sustainable wood furniture company, we don’t usually have much to say about hardwood flooring.  But recent news & events in this area are so compelling I thought our readers would be interested to hear a few details.

Hardwood Flooring, Lumber Liquidators and the Forest
A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals that Lumber Liquidators (America’s largest retailer of hardwood flooring) is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of the Lacey Act – a law banning the illegal harvest and trade of wood and timber products.

Hardwood Flooring and the Future of the Forest

Every year about 7.5 billion square feet of flooring is purchased in the USA (Freedonia).  If it takes roughly 1 acre of forest to produce 500 sq ft of flooring (UN Report by TimberGreen) then by my calculations it would take about 15 million acres to produce 7.5 billion sq ft of flooring (the amount sold annually in the USA).  By comparison, the state of Vermont is 5.9 million acres so each year an area of forest about 2.5 times the size of Vermont is logged to supply the American wood flooring industry.  Granted, my calculation is mushy and imprecise but even so, it begs the question: where is all that hardwood flooring come from?

Where Does Your Hardwood Flooring Come From?

We always encourage people to buy American made wood furniture because we know that environmental, health, safety and quality standards are high here in The States.  The same is true for American made wood flooring, but that integrity built into American made wood products makes them more expensive than imports.  So, not surprisingly about half of the hardwood flooring in America is imported (USITC Publication 4032).

The Siberian Tiger's Fate Rests with Lumber Liquidators?
The Siberian Tiger’s Fate Rests with you, the consumer and global timber companies like Lumber Liquidators.

The Trouble with Imported Wood

The imported wood products industry is now controlled to a large extent by organized crime.  A recent report Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers reveals that “demand for hardwood flooring and furniture in the United States, European Union, Japan, and China is fueling corruption and making the world’s last temperate hardwood forests into a major epicenter for illegal logging… Organized criminal groups send out logging brigades to steal valuable hardwoods from protected areas” thus decimating the last remaining habitats for iconic species like the Siberian tiger (in fact all species of big cats are now critically endangered as are all species of big apes, such as gorillas, chimps and orangutans).

Consumers Will Ultimately Decide the Fate of the Forest

As consumers we need to ask ourselves whether we want to buy the cheapest wood products we can without regard to the legality or sustainability of their origins.  Think about it. How could it be that hardwood flooring from the rainforest of South America or the Russian Far East is half the price of local hardwood flooring?

There is a high price being paid for these bargains– we just don’t see it.  Check out this video to see what the real price is, in terms of irreparable environmental damage. I’m betting, it’s a price you’re not willing to pay.

What You Can Do To Help

Maybe you’re not in the market for hardwood furniture or flooring but you still want to help protect the forest and it’s inhabitants.  Join the folks at Sierra Club in signing this petition to enforce the Lacey Act which seeks to eliminate trafficking in illegal wood products and penalize those who import illegally harvested wood products and wildlife.  Sign it today!

References

  1. EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency), Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Furniture & Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers
  2. Timber, a book by Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister
  3. TV Documentary, “Liquidating the Forests
  4. Global Tiger Day, Organized Crime and Timber (the New Heroin)
  5. IKEA Cuts Down 600 Year Old Trees, Suspended From FSC
  6. American Wood Furniture Is Linked To Global Forest Conservation
  7. Where Does Your Furniture Come From?
  8. Is Your Wood Furniture Brought to You by Organized Crime?
  9. Organized Crime Is Getting Rich By Cutting Down The Rainforest

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

OrangutanEyes

The 19th of August is International Orangutan Day, a day put aside to recognize the extreme dangers facing the palm oil industry’s most recognized victim. Once widespread throughout the forests of Asia, Orangutans are now found on just two islands, Sumatra and Borneo (Indonesia). On the brink of extinction,  there are now only about 6,600 of them left in the wild. Orangutan’s are beautiful, intelligent creatures that share 97% of human DNA. They are complex, curious, and they need our help. We cannot let Orangutan’s become the first great ape species to go extinct in the wild, as experts suggest may happen if action is not taken now.

Why Orangutans are Endangered:

Habitat Loss-   The loss of Orangutan habitat has been devastating, as Sumatra has lost more than HALF of it’s forests in the last 25 years.  “The orangutans’ forest home is being felled and turned into oil palm plantations on a massive scale, logging continues even within national parks, and road networks divide the remaining forests into isolated fragments. Human-orangutan conflict is now frequent in farmlands, as orangutans raid crops in search of enough food for survival. The expansion of farmlands and the building of new roads opens up the forest, making it easier for hunters and poachers to capture orangutans and other protected wildlife.”  (1)  This factor is one of the driving forces behind our mission, as we work to provide a source for beautiful wood furniture that does not contribute to mass deforestation. 

Illegal Trade- While Orangutan’s have been protected by law since 1931, the illegal trade of Orangutans has continued to decimate populations. They are often captured for use as an exotic pet or for entertainment purposes, as commonly seen in the circus.

What We Can Do To Help:

  •  Avoid Palm Oil- Palm oil is causing mass deforestation of Orangutan habitats, leaving them with no place to live and raise their babies. As they search far distances for a new home, they have to look further and further apart often times ending up in palm oil fields. When this occurs they are unknowingly tresspassing, and palm oil farmers are legally able to kill them right on spot to protect their crops. Orangutans are left with little to no food or resources, and when deforestation from fires occur there are many slow moving Orangutans that are burned alive in the process. By Boycotting palm oil, you are doing a small part to keep these majestic creatures safe.
  • Boycott circuses that use Orangutans as entertainment, and write to your local government to keep these circuses from your community.
  • Write to your local legislators and The President.  Ask them not to explore palm oil as a biofuel option.
  • Write your favorite companies that use palm oil and ask them to use sustainable sources  for their ingredients
  • Support companies who do not use palm oil in their products or support the palm oil industry
  • Adopt a Orangutan (Virtually!)
  • Sign Petitions that promote Orangutan safety

As passionate environmental advocates, we are happy to help spread awareness about Orangutan’s today. If you’d like to learn more about World Orangutan Day, check out the #OrangutanDay hashtag on Twitter or Facebook!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Treeson Spring Water

Treeson Eco Friendly Spring Water | Change the World
You can help Treeson get their fledgling spring water company off the ground by supporting their campaign at Kickstarter.com.

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.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Sustainable Tourism in Nicaragua
A typical view of the Nicaraguan Pacific coast.  We took this photo at the Aqua Wellness eco lodge near Playa Gigante.  It was recently featured in Interior Design for excellence in sustainability and local sourcing of building materials and foods.

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.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

The view at Stonehurst
The view behind Stonehurst

The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.

Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.  

The stone wall behind stonehurst, headquarters for Vermont Woods Studios
Stone Wall on back side of Stonehurst

Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”

Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.  

           Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy,  “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”

The Vermont Woods Studios team
The whole team gathered for our first group photo at Stonehurst

           When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well.  Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”

           The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!


PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us :)


This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.