After locating our fine furniture and home decor store on a 100 acre wood in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest (see my last post), I found myself in the familiar position of trying to do something I knew little about. How would we properly manage this woodland for wildlife and sustainability? My friends Kathleen Wanner (Executive Director of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association VWMA) and Lynn Levine (a professional forester) suggested that Ken and I attend the Vermont Coverts:Woodlands for Wildlife Cooperator Training. What a great idea!
The program was last weekend at the Woods of Wikahowi in Northfield, VT. Ken had to cancel at the last minute but I attended along with a dozen or so like-minded landowners from all across Vermont. Because 80% of Vermont’s forestland is owned privately, the Coverts organization concluded that the key to sustaining our state’s forests & wildlife is education of private landowners. They provide a free 3-day training course every Spring and every Fall, focusing on classroom and field studies in forest and wildlife management.
The course was taught by Vermont’s foremost experts in forestry & wildlife including:
Lisa Sausville, Executive Director, Vermont Coverts
Mary Sisock, UVM Extension Forester
Kim Royar, VT Department of Fish and Wildlife
Dan Singleton, Washington County Forester
Steve Hagenbuch, Audubon VT
Kathy Decker, VT Forest, Parks and Recreation
Rich Chalmers, VP VT Coverts
VT Coverts is so committed to their mission that they offer the course for free, including food and lodging! Dedicated Coverts members work hard to meet expenses through grants and fundraising programs. If you own woodlands in Vermont or know someone who does, please refer them to the Coverts program. It’s an unforgettable weekend with fascinating people and thought-provoking discussion. The graduates of the program hold the future of Vermont’s forests in their hands.
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!
Ken and I founded Vermont Woods Studios fine furniture store almost nine years ago. As a woodworker, Ken’s interest was in earning a living by promoting the tradition of high quality Vermont made wood furniture. For me, the project was about forest conservation and my desire to help protect forest habitat and wildlife for future generations*. Over the years it’s been a challenge managing this yin-yang pair of objectives but I think we’ve been able to maintain a pretty good balance.
Stonehurst Opens Up New Opportunities for Forest Conservation
This year we have a chance to bring a whole new dimension to our forest conservation mission through our newly acquired property at Stonehurst. The farmhouse we purchased and renovated into a Vermont made furniture gallery sits on 100 wooded acres in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest. In the past our environmental mission was largely fulfilled by donating to like-minded non-profits**, but now we can also also partner with them by providing forest habitat for various conservation projects.
Below are a few conservation activities we’re supporting for 2014:
Woodlands for Wildlife – Vermont Coverts educates landowners in sound forest management practices and the principles of stewardship for the enhancement of wildlife. Ken and I are attending their 3-day seminar on forest and wildlife management this spring to learn how to improve wildlife habitat and provide better conditions for native deer, turkeys, moose, bear, birds, bob cats, chipmunks, squirrels and other species that may be living at Stonehurst.
MonarchWatch – When Kendall and Riley were in elementary school we used to capture monarch caterpillars, watch their metamorphosis and tag the butterflies before waving them off on their epic migration to Mexico every fall. But for the past several years I haven’t seen even a single monarch. So this year we’ll support Chip Taylor at MonarchWatch by planting butterfly gardens (including milkweed) and encouraging others to do the same.
Vermont Center for Eco Studies– VCE is a group of Vermont’s foremost conservation scientists who inspire citizen volunteers across Vermont and around the world. We’ve been supporting them for years and are excited about being able to use Stonehurst as a place to gather data for their many programs including:
Vernal pool mapping
VT reptile and amphibian atlas
VT breeding bird survey
Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center – BEEC’s annual Salamander Soiree is this Saturday April 5th from 6-8:30pm in Brattleboro at the River Garden on Main Street. We’ll be there to help recruit crossing guards for this year’s annual amphibian migration.
If you’re in our neighborhood and share similar interests, please stop by Stonehurst, give us a call or connect with us on Facebook. Let us know what you’re working on and how we can help. As the southern most corner of Vermont, Vernon can play a significant role in our state’s conservation efforts. Let’s make it happen!
* We are losing the worlds forests at a rate of > 1 acre/second. A major factor in deforestation is widespread illegal logging for timber that’s used to make cheap furniture sold by IKEA, Home Depot and other big-box stores. Our goal at Vermont Woods Studios is to help raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuade people to buy sustainable furniture made from legally harvested wood.
** The non-profits we’ve supported include the World Wildlife Fund WWF, The Nature Conservancy TNC, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center BEEC, Vermont Center for Ecostudies VCE and others working to conserve forests and wildlife.
International Day of Forests is held anually on March 21st as a way to raise awareness for sustainable forest management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of our planet and for current and future generations.
Why Raising Awareness about our Forests is Important
“Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. They protect watersheds, which supply fresh water to rivers.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.” (UN)
Participating in International Day of Forests
Forests are a vital part of our local and international ecosystem. At Vermont Woods Studios, we’re proud to make our commitment to sustainable forestry the driving force behind our mission. We hope that by promoting sustainable wood products, our audience will become more aware of where their wood furniture comes from & choose not to support companies who practice unsustainable logging practices. We celebrate trees & forests each and every single day.
For International Day of Forests, countries across the globe will celebrate trees and forests with a variety activities spanning from community level activities like film showings and tree plantings, to national and international campaigns through art, photography & social media. What are you doing to celebrate International Day of Forests? Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook!
IKEA: A Trusted Sustainable Furniture Source? Not so quick.
While furniture giant IKEA has been leading campaigns for their use of sustainably sourced cotton, and promoting LED lighting & solar panels in their stores– they apparently made the mistake of not paying attention to where their wood comes from. Already criticized for their staggering wood usage (IKEA uses a whopping 1% of the entire earths forests for their furniture), they are now facing harsh criticism for cutting down old growth trees in Karelia, Russia.
Swedwood, IKEA’s forestry subsidiary, was given lease to log 700,000 acres of Russian forest as long as they avoided old growth trees and trees in specified protected areas. A recent audit done by the Forest Stewardship Council revealed “major deviations” from regulations, including cutting down 600+ year old trees.
Environmental organizations had been voicing their concern about IKEA’s logging practices in Karelia for years– PFS (Protect the Forest, Sweden) apparently handed Swedwood over 180,000 signatures and a joint statement with criticisms of their forestry practices and demands to transform their habits to protect the valuable old growth forests over a year ago.
IKEA’s infraction resulted in the Forest Stewardship Council temporarily stripping them of their certification. Despite the withdrawal of IKEA’s FSC certification for their illegal logging, insufficient dialogue, lack of environmental consideration and work environment issues– many believe that FSC is not addressing key issues.
According to Linda Ellegaard Nordstrom, “The report raises several deficiencies, but does not describe the main problem, which is that pioneer exploitation, with fragmenting and breaking into the last intact forest landscapes and tracts, does not fit to FSC’s principles and criteria. Thus we believe that the FSC label is still far from being a guarantee for sustainable forestry, Together with Russian environmental organizations we have suggested to IKEA that they, as an influential multinational corporation, should set a good example by announcing that they will no longer log or buy timber from intact old-growth forests, whether the forests are certified or not.”
An Ikea spokeswoman told The Sunday Times: “We see the suspension of the certificate as highly temporary. The deviations mainly cover issues related to facilities and equipment for our co-workers, forestry management as well as training of our forestry co-workers,” claiming that they have already corrected most of the violations.
While IKEA announced plans to stop operations in Karelia in 2014, it’s important for consumers to be critical of all businesses claiming to practice sustainability. IKEA is a leader in the furniture industry, using resources unimaginable to a small business like Vermont Woods Studios. We would love to see them take true accountability for their actions.
Responsible forest management is at the heart of our mission as the devastating loss of these old trees is irreversible, and we can only hope that more furniture companies will take note of the criticism that IKEA is facing and take steps towards sustainable forestry. It’s up to consumers to make informed decisions about where they buy the products that ends up in their homes. If certification can’t stop this type of thing from happening, then people must be more careful than ever in picking a company that they care about and trust.
What are your thoughts? Leave us a note in the comments section, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter!