Vermont Furniture Industry Creates Thousands of Green Jobs

Ethan Allen store, Ann Arbor, MI
Ethan Allen store, Ann Arbor, MI

Vermont has a reputation for being one of the greenest states in the Union–and not just because it’s 80 percent covered by forests. Vermonters are big on green technology, green transportation and green living. It should come as no surprise that they’re making a name for themselves in the green furniture industry.

According to the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association, the lumber and furniture industry supports over 1,000 businesses and nearly 12,000 workers (not including over 2,000 independent craftsmen working in garages or barns). Furniture is the state’s largest supporting industry in terms of both payroll and numbers.

While craftsmen do make use of the abundance of lumber surrounding them, most of this is owned by private individuals, or by government forest services. That’s where green technology like recycling wood products and reclaiming old structures comes into play.

Craftsman Raphael Groten received a commission to turn an old barn into an armoire. Realizing there was a market for green technology and recycled materials, he started Barnoire Furniture and Cabinetry.

Even big players like Ethan Allen, a $600 million dollar company based in Vermont, are dedicated to using green technology when crafting their products. Michael Lash, the company’s CEO, claims all their wood products are sustainably sourced. They also use green technology in non-wood furniture components, such as:

  • springs made of recycled steel.
  • water-based glues and adhesives.
  • soy-based fibers in pillows.
  • plush foam that won’t off-gas toxic fumes because it isn’t made with formaldehyde or chlorofluorocarbons.

Five of Ethan Allen’s main collections are made right there in Vermont, in two plants that use green technology and employ over 300 people.

The rest of the country is slowly catching on to Vermont’s furniture expertise, but the primary market is still New England.

By John Courtney

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