What do you love best about Vermont? Our maple syrup? Organic cheese? Skiing or snowboarding? Mountain climbing? Our farm to plate restaurants? Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape. That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.
Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which allocated $1Million to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.” A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands. We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.
Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center. From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.
Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent. I know the grant is highly competitive. It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals for a total request of over $12 million. They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.
But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders. We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.
Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted. Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!
A couple weeks ago I attempted to work through a definition of "fine wood furniture" at the request of one of our customers. I couldn't find any type of universally (or even generally) agreed-upon definition, so I thought I'd try to make one up. But as I waded into it, I realized how difficult even that is.
There's just so much ground to cover in "fine wood furniture" such as style, type of wood used, craftsmanship, type of joinery used, finishing products and techniques, the use of hand tools versus precision machinery, the use of veneers versus solid wood, and of course durability and longevity.
So I've been opining my way through each area– well just to generate some discussion really, because I think that would be more valuable than an attempted definition of "fine wood furniture".
Today I wanted to talk about where "fine wood furniture" comes from and how it makes it's way to your bedroom or kitchen. Would you believe that most of the so called "fine wood furniture" that's sold in America today is made in China or VietNam from wood that was logged unsustainably (and often illegally) from the rainforests of South America, Africa, Siberia and Asia? I know it sounds like extremist rhetoric, but it's really not. Kendall just published a page on sustainable furniture today, reminding us about the environmental damage that comes from rainforest destruction.
So my point is, if you're going to define fine wood furniture, you probably do need to address where it comes from. Furniture from small companies like Vermont Woods Studios that use American-grown, sustainably-harvested wood and local craftspeople is different than furniture that's made overseas with illegal wood by people paid 25 cents/hour. It feels different. It has better "karma". It makes you feel proud to own it. You find yourself telling people all about where you got it and how long it took to make and how the joinery is designed, right?
Another note– most American fine wood furniture comes with a lifetime guarantee– an important indication of sustainability.
Next post, I'd like to share some sustainable practices I've been impressed with at Copeland Furniture and Clearlake Furniture, both Vermont companies. After looking at the green practices Vermont furniture makers have been famous for over many generations, you may find youself agreeing with me that Vermont is the Fine Furniture Capital of America.
Thanks to Clearlake Furniture for the photo of their Rocking Chair
I attended a Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association (VWMA) meeting last Friday that was held at Copeland Furniture in Bradford, VT. I'm always amazed when getting together with all these talented artisans and furniture makers. They're creative not only about their furniture designs, but also about the other aspects that are required to keep their businesses sustainable these days.
Tim Copeland was showing us the piles of wood shavings that are generated from milling and sanding his lumber. He's setting up a system to convert the shavings and sawdust into wood pellets to use for heating. Tim said he'll be able to heat his entire facility with the wood pellets and in addition, he'll have a new revenue stream generated by the surplus pellets.
Just one of the many sustainable practices that Vermont's furniture makers have been working through for generations.
We’re trying to come up with a percentage of Vermont Woods Studios‘ profits that we can promise to donate to the Rainforest Alliance, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and other non-profits working to save the rainforest. Last year, being only our second year in business, we had no profits (uh hum…we’re still investing in this business) but we still managed to donate over $1500. This year, we hope it will be much more (and based on profits!). We’re asking for your help in making that happen.
The whereas section of a document provides the reasons for its existence. So here are the facts that compelled the birth of Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture Store. It’s all about helping to: save the Rainforest and fight global warming. And we need to act quickly.
- 54 of the world’s 193 countries have lost 90 percent or more of their forest cover. Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface now cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.
- 1.5 acres of rainforest are lost every second (that equates to 50 million acres a year: an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined)
- Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next 25 years due to rainforest deforestation.
- We are losing approximately 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year.
- As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.
- Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for its timber value and then are followed by farming and ranching operations
- There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazonian Rainforest five centuries ago. Today there are less than 200,000.
- In Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900′s. With them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest species. As their homelands continue to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.
- In Indonesia, the current aggressive rate of logging could eradicate native forests within only 10 years. Unlike our temperate forests in Vermont for example, rainforests do not regenerate after they are destroyed. Once gone, they are gone forever and along with them the wonderful diversity of plants and wildlife that inhabit them.
If you’ve managed to read this far, I KNOW this stuff bothers you as much as me. Time to get on The Green Train! Keep reading for more info and ways to help.
For years I’ve been asking myself: so what are you doing about global warming? And the fact that every species of big cat (lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetas, leopards…) and every species of sea turtle and every species of great apes, and so on, is endangered?
These are issues I can’t just turn away from. Don’t you hate it when people just ignore this stuff and act like there’s nothing they can do about it. We CAN do something about it and we must. This is the reason for the manifesto and the foundation of Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture. I'll draft the manifesto up right here on my blog. How else will I find time to do it? Chime in with your comments and suggestions. We’re going to come up with something brilliant that changes the way people think about their furniture!
Think about this. We’re out there ravenously gobbling up cheap, curbside furniture (stuff that will be on the curb in 5 years) at big box stores, all the while not knowing that our consumer habits are leading to the destruction of the rainforest, extinction of the most biologically diverse pristine places on the planet, and exacerbation of global warming. If people knew that their furniture choices had these consequences, would they instead begin to purchase things that were made from sustainably and legally harvested wood. Things that would last for many generations rather than many months? I think so.
So that's our mission…to show people how powerful they are as consumers…especially through the purchase of sustainable furniture, but also by adopting a green attitude toward all their purchases.