In 1989, Marc Dreyfors and Jamey Gerlaugh were students at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, then called the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. They learned about the importance of linking biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Outside of class, they discussed how to expand economic opportunity in the developing world, often talking with classmates who had lived and worked there. They concluded that, although the United States has many environmental issues, very challenging problems exist in these places.
The idea for Forests of the World developed as an outgrowth of all these discussions and of the friends' commitment to the concepts of environmental sustainability, fair trade, and economic advancement through self-employment and business development.
Jamey and Marc received their masters degrees in environmental management
in 1990 and 1992. By 1993, the two friends had begun the company “Forests of the World” and were importing rain forest seeds, crafts, and body care products from Costa Rica.
The business had a strong educational focus from the beginning. Marc and Jamey designed hands-on curricula, science experiments, and kits around themes of rain forest ecology and plant physiology. Early clients like Carolina Biological Supply and Delta Education brought these kits to teachers, parents, and children.
Jamey Gerlaugh left in the mid 1990s to found and direct a new non-profit, focusing on economic development in rural eastern North Carolina. The Roanoke River Partners (http://www.roanokeriverpartners.org/) works to create camping platforms and a canoe trail system in the largest bottomland hardwood forest in eastern North America. Jamey is still on the board of The Forest Foundation, but spends most of his time working on hydroelectic power projects.
There are other changes here, too: The Forest Foundation, a nonprofit created by Forests of the World, is taking over much of our educational mission. The Foundation is dedicated to helping artisans develop green business management, world class design, and international markets for their products, all through fair trade and sustainable business models.
Since 1992, we have expanded to work in over 15 countries and with more than 40 artisan groups, and we now offer a wide variety of beautiful, high-quality products. We have been able to made donations to support many worthy organizations (a list is on the “About Us” page) and we are active in the environmental education and fair trade movements.
Both Forests of the World and The Forest Foundation remain committed to educating consumers in the United States about the artisans, their crafts and the areas of extremely high biodiversity where the artists live.