Sustainable Furniture Brand and Reforestation Project: Meet Masaya & Co.
TL;DR This brand spotlight on Masaya & Co. explores the inspiring story behind the brand, takes an in-depth look at the brand's reforestation project and furniture-making process.
Nicaraguan-based furniture brand Masaya & Co. uniquely combines their deep knowledge about responsible forestry management with traditional artisan craft to create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind sustainable furniture. We’re proud to partner with Masaya & Co, adding the brand’s eco-friendly chairs, tables, shelves, and other furniture to our curation on Made Trade!
This spotlight on Masaya & Co. will dive into the inspiring story behind the brand, take an in-depth look at their “Seed to Seat” process, and cover the company’s extensive commitment to reforestation.
About Masaya & Co.
The roots of Masaya & Co. can be traced back to 2002 when co-founder Aram went to Nicaragua as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. It was during Aram’s time in the Peace Corps that he formed his first ideas of a social and environmentally conscious business. In 2008, Aram founded the reforestation project Maderas Sostenibles with his father, Michael Terry. Aram and Michael eventually established hundreds of acres of tree farms on deforested land. These forests restore wildlife, water, and soil and provide a natural source of carbon sequestration.
Four years later, Maderas Sostenibles opened a mill and carpentry shop to begin building sustainable furniture and selling it across Central America.
In 2014, Aram met Abril Zepeda, a Nicaraguan designer and artisan from Masaya. Abril grew up in Masaya, which is a Nicaraguan town with a rich history of artisan traditions and a popular central market where craftspeople come to sell their handmade, small-batch goods. Immersed in this unique culture, Abril was inspired from a young age to bring the talented craftsmanship she saw around her to the world.
Together, the now-married couple created the sustainable furniture brand, Masaya & Co, to bring this sustainably harvested, well-designed and expertly crafted furniture to North America.
Abril designs many of Masaya & Co’s furniture pieces, bringing the traditional crafts she was exposed to growing up in Masaya in combination with modern design elements to create unique, contemporary furniture. And as anyone can see from a look at Masaya’s collection, Abril enjoys incorporating vibrant colors and patterns in her exceptional designs.
Behind Masaya & Co’s “Seed to Seat” Process
At the core of Masaya & Co’s production is wood—one of the earth’s most incredible naturally renewable resources.
Why wood? Well, for starters, wood is endlessly renewable when managed sustainably. Plus, wood manufacturing is less energy-intensive than manufacturing materials like plastic and metal.
In order to sustainably grow the wood they use, Masaya & Co. builds up forests in cleared out areas and plants more trees than they harvest. This sustainable harvesting process is at the core of Masaya’s “Seed to Seat” business model. By replenishing these deforested areas and continuing to keep the forests thriving, Masaya & Co. is helping create a healthier ecosystem, cleaner air and water, and improving carbon sequestration in the area.
Not only does Masaya & Co.’s commitment to reforestation in Nicaragua benefit the environment, but it provides economic opportunity in the community as well. Often, Nicaraguans must choose between two options—using their forest land to extract timber, or selling their forests to be cleared out for agriculture and livestock. Masaya & Co.’s model enables Nicaraguans to choose the former option, giving communities opportunities for using their forests as a sustainable source of resources—and income. Providing this option for the community is crucial for the conservation of these forests.
Step 1: The Nursery
Masaya & Co has nurseries in Managua, Sapoa, and Chinandega, Nicaragua. During their dry season, Masaya & Co. germinates seedlings on these sites, where they are cultivated for three months before being planted in May or June, when the rain begins. Each nursery can produce anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 seedlings.
The company will also donate many seedlings to municipalities and local nonprofit organizations to plant in parks and other public areas.
Step 2: Planting and Reforestation
Masaya & Co. plants about 400 trees per acre on deforested land. The first few years require heavy maintenance—including hand cleaning and pruning to protect from pests and any competing vegetation—as the seedlings evolve into trees. By the second year, the seedlings can reach heights of up to 6 feet and by year four, some canopy is formed and the forest’s habitat begins to re-emerge with birds, insects and reptile species returning. By the seventh year, full canopy is established and small mammals can find a home in the forests. After 20 years, the forest is fully established with some trees reaching heights of 100 feet, and the habitats can be completely reformed.
Step 3: Milling
Once the trees are ready to be harvested, they are taken not too far away from the forest to Maderas Sostenibles’ facility in Managua. In this facility, the wood is graded, trimmed, and dried with solar kilns.
To ensure sustainable practices at the milling stage as well, Masaya & Co. sends all biomass, scraps, and wood waste to a facility with a biomass generator, where this waste can be transformed into a sustainable source of energy.
Step 4: Crafting the Furniture
Once the wood is harvested and milled, it is transformed into long-lasting artisanal furniture. Masaya & Co. works with architects and furniture designers who know the best use for certain types of woods, which ensures the best possible quality for their pieces.
Local artisans from Masaya, Managua, Nagarote, and La Paz Centro then bring these designs to life, handcrafting the brand’s wooden furniture at Masaya & Co.’s sawmill and carpentry shop. And to create Masaya & Co.’s one-of-a-kind woven lounge chairs, Masaya works with skilled weavers who weave these colorful patterns designed by co-founder Abril.
The combination of dense tropical hardwood, expert design, and skilled craftsmanship is furniture designed to last generations and generations to come.
Masaya & Co.’s Commitment to Sustainability and Reforestation
Masaya & Co., as a company with reforestation in its roots, is deeply committed to sustainability. The ecologically-minded company’s operations of replenishing hundreds of thousands of trees and reforesting thousands of acres of forests are in stark contrast to exploitive forestry practices seen around the world.
Many companies around the world profit off of clear-cutting land for profit (often for agriculture or raising livestock) without replenishing those trees. Masaya & Co., with reforestation built into its business model, is working to reverse some of these effects.
Masaya & Co. replants 100 trees for every single product made to ensure that they are always planting more trees than they harvest. To date, they’ve planted nearly a million trees!
The impact is incredible—and so are the designs and craftsmanship of their furniture. Here are a few of our favorite pieces from Masaya & Co’s handmade, sustainable collection: