By Dennis Shanoff
Making its debut in 2002 and then biannually since 2005 is the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. This competition challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar powered, energy efficient homes that are cost effective, functional, and attractive. The winning team will have successfully blended affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The fifth event will take place Sept. 23–Oct. 2, 2011 at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. and is open to the public, free of charge.
Customers and fans of Vermont Woods Studios are aware of our environmental and social mission and our community of eco friendly furniture makers that are dedicated not only to beauty and quality in our craft, but also to the preservation of our natural environment. So you can imagine our excitement to be a part of the project and support the Vermont Solar Decathlon team by contributing a bed!
You see Vermont’s own Middlebury College is participating in the Solar Decathlon so when one of the schools team members reached out to us for a furniture donation we were thrilled to to no end to be part of such an important “Green Mission” event. This is such a great way to raise awareness about solar energy and sustainable lifestyles. Middlebury SD team member Casey Peterson had contacted us during the team’s research for interior furnishings. Part of the team’s mission is trying to source as much of the building materials and furnishings from Vermont as possible (including harvesting timber from the Middlebury College grounds). And according to Casey what really resonated with the Middlebury design team was not only the quality of work at Vermont Woods Studios but the sustainable production processes used by our workshops. The team chose our Cherry Moon Dovetail Platform Bed to be the centerpiece of the Master Bedroom and we couldn’t agree more with their choice.
The Middlebury team is now putting the finishing touches to the home and at some point will have to disassemble it and transport it down to the National Malls West Potomac Park in Washington DC. During the event, thousands of people will be guided through the 20 homes on display, and the houses will be judged on categories like energy use and home entertainment. And while no team really loses in this competition you know who we are rooting for!
Are you wondering what happens to these Solar Decathlon houses after the competition? Since the first event in 2002, 72 houses have competed in the Solar Decathlon. These houses are now located throughout the United States and around the world and continue to serve numerous education, conservation and community-oriented functions.
There is a wealth of information about this great event and its history at the US Department of Energy website. And if you are rooting for or would like to learn more about the Middlebury team they have put together a great site that chronicles their project and gives insight to the team and their mission. Go Team Middlebury!
I guess I should say expansion plans, hopes and dreams. Well at any rate, we are once again very excited to be out-growing our space at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture and we're looking at options for the future. We love our landlord here in Vernon and we've already rented a second suite from him. But we're also starting to think that purchasing a property might be smart.
Here's Ken, waiting for me to climb onto his bike as we cruise around Vermont looking at potential places. We asked our favorite real estate agent, Suzanne King of Masiello Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate for help and she's been kind enough to show us dozens and dozens of properties, including these:
I feel horrible asking Suzanne to trek around all over tarnation with us, but as we grow our needs keep changing, so the properties we looked at 3-6 months ago are no longer adequate. We keep needing more room! Lately we've been looking at an old, historic property in Marlboro, Vermont where the Skyline Restaurant used to be. The building is dilapidated but it's on a property with a stunning view and it's right in the middle of Vermont's Green Mountain Forest. It's an interesting possibility as we work to raise awareness about forest conservation and our green mission.
Have any other ideas we should check out for our next move? Let me know and I'll keep you posted on our progress as we move forward.
2010 is the Year of the Tiger. Did you know there are only about 3200 tigers left in the wild? This tiger subspecies, the Siberian Tiger– the world's largest cat is literally on the brink of extinction with only about 400 individuals remaining in their natural habitat. I can't stand the idea of letting these magnificient creatures disappear forever on our watch. Can you?
If not, here's something you need to know and it has to do with where you and your friends, family and neighbors buy your furniture.
Siberian tigers live mainly in Russian forests which are now under assault by global timber conglomerates. Tiger habitat is being systematically decimated to provide illegal timber that's used to make cheap furniture which is marketed mainly in the USA. In fact, up to 90% of the furniture you see for sale in our country is made of illegally harvested wood that is clear cut from ecologically sensitive habitats like this.
You can help save the tiger by avoiding the purchase of imported wood furniture. Buy American made furniture instead. There are still many companies in the USA that specialize in furniture made from sustainably harvested wood that grows and is replanted right here in the USA. America has some of the world's best quality hardwoods and our forest conservation laws are working to keep it that way. One of our Vermont foresters told me the other day that in VT, our forests are growing at a rate that is faster than the harvest rate– certainly an important part of the definition of sustainability.
Mike Rainville, president of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association (VWMA) and owner of Maple Landmark Woodcraft shared this website and I thought you might be interested in it. ObeyMotherNature.com was created to help educate and serve as a resource to consumers interested in using environmentally friendly products.
Did you know that North American hardwoods are one of the most environmentally sound
materials available today? The site explains how American hardwoods like cherry, maple, oak and walnut are harvested sustainably, usually by selecting each tree individually such that the character of the forest is preserved. I was surprised to learn that over the past 50 years the volume of hardwood in American forests has
nearly doubled. Wow, how's that for sustainable forestry? It's just the opposite of what's happening in the rainforests of South America and Southeast Asia which are being clearcut at a rate of one football field per second, with no reforestation occurring.
Another cool fact is that wood products have a low carbon impact and what is called a low level of
embodied energy compared to other building materials. The
amount of energy necessary for producing wood products is low compared
to other building products made from other materials like steel,
aluminum, glass and brick.
All interesting stuff to know but at Vermont Woods Studios we realize our furniture has to be more than just a sustainable or intellectual or emotional choice. We're obsessed with making it the most beautiful and affordable choice as well.
Isn't that a cool name for a blog? Rebecca is our new graphic designer at Vermont Woods Studios, but we've also discovered that she's a very engaging writer. Such a multi-talented person she is!
She's so fascinated by the behind the scenes world of custom furniture making that she's decided to blog about it and share the scoop with you.
Why Get in the Milkcrate? Well, it's an old Vermont saying that means get onboard, we're ready to go! Rebecca was thinking of that every time she heard us pick up the phone and talk to customers about going green in their homes.
Are you interested in sustainable forestry and preservation of endangered species that live in the forest? Why don't you Get in the Milkcrate and ride with us to a greener planet?
If you haven't been able to watch Ken Burn's new film on America's National Parks, it's not too late. This is a six episode series and every nature lover will want to enjoy the spectacular scenery, interesting history and urgent call to action that Burns presents. At Vermont Woods Studios being a wood furniture maker, we're particularly interested in the issues of sustainable forestry in the national parks.
One of our favorite national parks mentioned in this film series is Sequoia National Forest. Sequoias are the largest trees ever to inhabit the earth, growing to heights of 300 feet and diameters of 30 feet! Their ages commonly range from 2,000 to 3,000 years. Some were 1000 years old during the time of Christ!
Although once widespread, giant sequoias now occur only in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central California. If you have literally 2 minutes to spare, you can take action to protect the Giant Sequoias and other ancient forest in America. Visit Save America's Forests, click on Instant Letter and in 2 minutes or less you can send a letter to your representatives in Congress asking them to stop destructive forms of logging, such as clearcutting, and to protect ecologically important forest areas such as Ancient forests and roadless forests.
Then pat yourself on the back for doing an awesome job in protecting the environment and fighting global warming!