The White Mountains of New Hampshire are dramatic and beautiful. Driving into the North Country, they suddenly rise from the rolling pastoral hills of northern New England.
Approaching the sheer granite faces of Franconia Notch, you wouldn’t be the first person to draw comparisons to Yosemite’s magnificent half dome. Yes, they exist on different scales, but they’re both arresting.
So it was no surprise that awe and appreciation for New Hampshire’s natural beauty were the first sentiments expressed by a visiting delegation from South and Central America.
Environmental Engagement and the Economy
It was mid-July, and the group was the second international delegation in four months to tour DCI’s flagship sustainable furniture manufacturing plant.
Earlier this year, in March, we hosted another delegation of activists, scientists, and students from Russia to explore sustainable forestry.
This month, we welcomed delegates who were in New Hampshire to meet with and learn from sustainability organizations whose work strengthens environmental laws and educates and engages NH residents.
The visitors represented a variety of countries including Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Chile, and Bolivia. They were touring the United States as part of a program called Environmental Engagement and the Economy: A Regional Project for the Western Hemisphere.
The initiative was organized by the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program with programmatic assistance from the Institute of International Education.
At the local level, we liaised directly with the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, a regional arm of the International Visitor Leadership Program.
In describing the agenda for our meeting, the programmatic brief said:
“Conversations will focus on why [DCI] feels the need to balance their economic interests with environmental ones, as well as how it impacts their bottom line.”
The allotted time for the visit was short, just a little over an hour. So within minutes of their arrival, all the delegates were sitting around a long conference table, armed with coffee, name placards, and an extensive live translation setup.
Exploring DCI’s Commitment to Sustainability
DCI VP Amos Kober welcomed the delegates and launched into a brief summary of DCI’s work to craft sustainable furniture.
Chain of Custody
First, Amos outlined DCI’s commitment to sustainable manufacturing. He explained that DCI boasts chain of custody, because we own our own sawmill. That means that we control the entire production process, from standing timber selection to final furniture installation.
There are no middle men. This qualifies us for the coveted FSC chain of custody certification. FSC is the gold standard for sustainable wood.
DCI’s forestry expert, Steve Walker, then described our sustainable forestry practices and the process behind choosing and cutting timber for our furniture. We work with federal, state, and local foresters to perform extensive forestry surveys.
Through a mixture of small patch cuts and selective logging, we minimize our impact on wildlife and the ecosystem. At the same time, this approach maximizes the creation of habitat for threatened species and supports healthy forest growth.
Amos described how our factory is zero waste. We use every part of the tree. Nothing goes to waste. We burn waste wood in our boilers to power our energy-intensive kilns and heat our factory. That means we use no fossil fuels in our factory.
Amos outlined other ways that we use the wood that doesn’t make it into our furniture.
- We use bark for landscaping materials.
- We sell sawdust to local farms.
- We re-use rough wood cuts in pallets and other building materials.
- We build our internal furniture components with leftover hardwood rather than buying Poplar or other species.
Finally, Amos described our state-of-the-art nontoxic UV finishing process.
Then, CEO and DCI founder Henry Kober shared the history of the company, which he started in 1975. He grew it slowly and now it boasts approximately 200 employees with regional facilities in New Hampshire, Vermont, North Carolina, and San Diego, CA.
Exploring FSC In Other Countries
As with the delegates from Russia, the main part of our conversation revolved around FSC wood certification. One of the South American visitors described the situation in her country.
There, FSC is simply too expensive. Many of the landowners are indigenous tribes, and they can’t afford the high cost of FSC certification.
Yes, they’d love to certify their wood with FSC, but the cost of certification is prohibitive. As a result, their government established its own certification scheme.
After we discussed the nuances of FSC in our country and theirs, we moved on to a tour of the DCI manufacturing plant. The visitors were especially interested in seeing our nontoxic UV light cured finishing process in action.
Would you like to come tour our state of the art sustainable furniture manufacturing plant?
If you’re considering DCI furniture for your residence hall, we’d love to show you how we build the most sustainable furniture in the higher education marketplace.