Vermont Woods Studios was born out of our passion for rainforest conservation. I remember when we were getting started back in 2005 we came up with a manifesto that explained the connection between wood furniture, rainforest conservation and global warming (in retrospect it looks a little too emotional, but at least I can say that it was spoken from the heart). Anyway, seven years later our passion for conservation has turned into a growing sustainable furniture business where each sale is used to help reforest the planet through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project.
I realize most people see topics like rainforest conservation as boring but the truth is that our favorite iconic species like tigers, lions, pandas and gorillas all make their homes in the forest and all are critically endangered. With rainforest destruction proceeding at the rate of 1 acre/second (every minute of every hour of every day) there’s not much time left for these species unless we take action.
We use this blog occasionally to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and how that affects your favorite creatures of the forest. Buy imported furniture and there’s a good chance it’s made from rare woods that have been clear-cut from the rainforest. Buy American made furniture and it’s probably made from American wood that’s been harvested sustainably. There are other things you can do to help save tigers and the rainforest. When buying coffee, nuts, rubber, paper or any type of forest product, check to see if it’s been produced sustainably.
Here’s an example of how you can make a difference. It’s a project by the World Wildlife Fund where consumers are boycotting Paseo and Livy toilet paper which are made by clear-cutting ancient, old growth trees in primary rainforests of Sumatra. The boycott is working and as a result WWF is able to help conserve Sumatra’s rare tigers and orangutans. Check out WWF’s website and see what you can do to lend a hand with this important project.
And if you love tigers as much as we do, learn more about how homeowners can help Save the Tiger on our website.
Why? Well although we love the warmth and integrity of real wood, it's is increasingly being seen as inappropriate for outdoor, all weather furniture. The main issue from an environmental standpoint is durability and longevity. Eco conscious customers are looking for furniture (both indoor and outdoor) that's built to last a lifetime… stuff that's not going to end up in a landfill. So for all you wood lovers (myself included), here are the:
Three Best Features Of Faux Wood All Weather Outdoor Furniture
Faux wood, Polywood furniture is maintenance free. No more scaping, sanding or painting. It's made to rest and relax in, rather than create work at the end of the season
Faux wood, Polywood eliminates the need for winter storage. You can leave your polywood furniture outside all winter. So you save storage space, you save wear and tear on your back (remember wood and polywood furniture are heavy). And you save the time it takes to haul that heavy furniture around every Spring and Fall
Now I know how hard it can be for wood lovers to come to terms with buying "fake wood". I never would have considered it myself if I hadn't seen the statistics our environmental conservation partners are citing about the rate we're losing the world's precious rainforests. But as I started to look into Polywood and try out their "faux wood" furniture I became hooked. It looks fabulous, it's very comfortable and it's maintenance-free. It's the clear environmental and design/style choice for all weather outdoor furniture.
At Vermont Woods Studios, as wood furniture makers, our mission is built upon forest conservation. We're especially committed to preservation of the rainforests– the places where teak and mahogany outdoor furniture originate. In concert with rainforest protection groups worlwide, such as Rainforest Relief, we'll continue to work showcasing better alternatives to outdoor furniture made of tropical woods as part of our rainforest conservation efforts.
Yesterday I received a gift from my old pal, Sally Blakely. It was a tiger that she had symbolically adopted in my name from the World Wildlife Fund WWF. Thanks Sally, you couldn't have picked a more appreciated gift!
If anyone else out there loves tigers, I'm here to tell you that they're not going to be around for long unless we join WWF and other Tiger Conservation projects. It's urgent.
My adopted tiger from Sally
Check out this 2 minute WWF video. You can help save the tiger just by knowing these facts:
in 2009, people in North America consumed about 80 mllion tons of paper
The fastest growing brands of toilet paper in the United States today, Paseo, APP and Livi have a direct link to rainforest destruction
Over the past 25 years, Paseo, APP and Livi have clear-cut 5 million acres of Sumatran forest wood
Much of that land was once tiger, orangutan and elephant habitat
Since 1985 more than half of Sumatra’s natural forests—some 30 million acres (an area the size of Virginia!)—have been lost
Sumatra is the only place on earth where elephants, tigers and orangutans coexist
Indonesia (including Sumatra) is ranked 3rd in the world in terms of total carbon emission due to the slash and burn destruction of its rainforests
Do you see a world with wild tigers, orangutans and elephants in our future? Do you care? Here is your chance to change the world. It's not hard. Don't buy Paseo, APP or Livi products. Ask your grocer not to buy them. Ask your friends, schools and hotels not to buy them. Buy recycled or FSC certified paper products instead. Post this on your facebook.
Rainforest conservation is one of the main missions of our business at Vermont Woods Studios. We extend our gratitude to Leonardo DiCaprio who has been an outspoken champion of the tiger and WWF's Save Tigers Now campaign. The goal of Save Tigers Now is to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger but that can't happen unless we change our buying habits. Tiger numbers have declined 97% in the past 100 years. There may be as few as 3,200 wild tigers left in existence, the lowest number ever recorded.
Today the World Wildlife Fund reports that after losing nearly 70 per cent of its forest habitat and half its population in one generation, the Sumatran elephant is heading for imminent extinction due to deforestation and habitat loss.
These elephants are not alone. According to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 3-5 species become extinct every hour of every day. That’s up to 45,000 species every year!
What we’re doing at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture is trying to raise awareness about the how your choices as a consumer directly affect the extinction of endangered species like the Sumatran elephant. If you can avoid buying imported forest products, especially wood furniture and flooring (if it’s not clearly labelled Made in America–pretty much any furniture you’ll find at Home Depot, Walmart, Bob’s, Lowe’s or other big box stores is imported) you’ll be doing your part to lessen global deforestation and destruction of the habitat these elephants live in.
What else are we doing?
We support a number of projects to save endangered species. Here’s one I was pretty excited about last week: when I was on the Vernon Selectboard a few years back, our town partnered with the Vermont Division of Fish and Wildlife DFW to protect habitat and save the critically endangered spotted turtle from extinction. Last week we were able to celebrate our work. It’s 6 or 7 years later, but finally through a long process, the turtle habitat is being cared for and hopefully we’ll start to see their population come back.
Here's how they describe their work: "VCE biologists scale high peaks, paddle remote ponds, slog through wetlands, visit ordinary backyards, and traverse the Americas to study birds, insects, mammals, amphibians and other wildlife." How cool would that be?
One of my favorite VCE project areas is bird conservation. In fact, we named a line of our furniture after Roz Renfrew a champion VCE ecologist. Roz has dedicated her life to conserving tropical habitat for Vermont migratory birds in places like Hispaniola and Bolivia. Through her work we've come to understand the importance of buying shade grown coffee.
It turns out that the reason we started Vermont Woods Studios (to promote rainforest conservation) is also the reason to buy "bird friendly coffee". Whereas coffee used to be grown under the canopy of the rainforest (thus providing great habitat for birds) it's now more profitable to cut the rainforest down and grow coffee in the sun. Besides requiring tons of pesticides and fertilizers which destroy life in nearby streams, rivers and coastline this un-natural practice eliminates critical habitat for birds.
So… I've been able to make the switch at home, no problem but now I've got to get Douglas to find Bird Friendly coffee for our Kuerig dispenser at work. I've looked everywhere and can't find it. Any ideas? I'd welcome your suggestions below or on our Facebook. Thanks!