If you’ve picked up wood and paper-based products without realizing they’re probably derived from a once living-breathing forest that was home to untold number of species – now torn down – here’s why you need to stop.
Forests make up for 30.6 percent of the world’s land and function as an indispensable part of the planet’s rich ecosystem. Regulating the Earth’s climate, they store nearly 300 billion tonnes of carbon in their living parts – roughly 40 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
Yet these precious resources are threatened on a daily basis. Between 2010 and 2015 there was an annual loss of 7.6 million ha of forest land. Each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear from Earth. Leading to the extinction of countless species, destroying the lives and livelihoods of forest communities and exacerbating global climate change.
Deforestation flashpoints across the world
The causes of deforestation vary from region to region. In the tropics, agribusiness clears forests to make space for things like cattle ranching, palm oil and soy plantations. Demand for wood products threaten forests around the world, whether it is for throw-away paper products or hardwood flooring.
More than a quarter of Indonesia’s forests have disappeared in the past 25 years, destroyed for products like paper products and palm oil.
The Brazilian government is gearing up to build a mega-dam that would create a reservoir the size of New York City, threatening the livelihoods of the Munduruku Indigenous People, and destroying precious ecosystems.
Earlier this year, fires ravaged areas of Tasmania, Australia’s island state. Caused by dry lightning strikes, the fires have destroyed tracts of ancient World Heritage-listed forests. Some of the trees were over a thousand years old.
The Congo Basin rainforest is the second largest rainforest in the world, after the Amazon, and is home to forest elephants, gorillas, bonobos, okapis, hundreds of bird species. The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is moving to lift a 14-year moratorium on new logging concessions in the country. The move could open up large parts of the second largest tropical rainforest in the world to a raft of threats from palm oil and rubber plantations to widespread industrial logging.
How You can Help:
With so many of the world’s forests already destroyed, we urgently need to protect what is left from being converted into disposable products that end up in our shopping baskets. Here are some Ecophiles tips for stopping deforestation.
Stand with Indigenous Peoples
Evidence shows that when Indigenous Peoples’ rights to traditional lands and self-determination are respected, forests – their homes for tens of thousands of years – stay standing. But too often, corporations and governments overlook or intentionally trample the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Be better informed to make better choices in your daily life. Find out where your food is coming from.
Greenpeace estimates that 90 per cent of the timber produced in the Amazon is of illegal origin, fueled by bribes, corruption, and intimidation. Though US was the first country to ban imports of illegally forested wood, illegal wood continues to go into products we use every day, from paper to pencils to the floors and furniture in our homes.
If you’re looking for new furniture or building materials, track down wood products that have the FSC seal, which indicates that they were sourced in a sustainable way.
Choose products with Responsible Palm Oil Sourcing
Palm oil is absolutely everywhere — from food like breakfast cereals to pet food and even shampoo and toothpaste. Yet palm oil plantations are the leading cause of deforestation and peatland destruction.
Use the Greenpeace Palm Oil Scorecard to find out whether the brands you buy are helping or hurting the planet.
Eat less Meat
According to the World Resources Institute, cattle enterprises are responsible for up to 80 percent (millions of acres) of Amazon deforestation. The livestock sector accounts for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, (almost equivalent to transportation sector emissions) and it is the most significant contributor to pollution of streams, rivers and coastal waters worldwide.
If we decide to eat less meals with meat or dairy each week, we can have a huge impact on the health of the planet-
- Commit to reducing your meat and dairy consumption by a few meals per week.
- Tell friends about your choice to find alternative proteins.
- Begin eliminating processed foods from your diet, which harm your health and the environment.
- Make fresh fruits and vegetables a bigger part of your diet.
- Grow your own food by starting a small garden or joining a local food cooperative.
- Use cloth instead of paper towels and napkins in your home.
- If you must use a paper product, always buy the recycled version.
- Make use of re-usable containers instead of your paper lunch bag and cardboard coffee cup.
- Reduce your usage of single-use, disposable items and compost food-soiled napkins and paper towels.
Plant a tree
To restore the green cover, work with local communities to plant trees in your neighborhoods. Here’s a handy guide to form a local Project Group to plant trees.
Support the Billion Tree Campaign that is working to encourage people, communities, organizations, industry, and governments to collectively plant at least one billion trees worldwide each year. Created by the United Nation’s Environment Programme – the campaign has successfully planted 12,585,293,312 trees during its first five years.
In 2011, 66.8 percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled. Every ton of paper that gets recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. 87 percent of us have access to curbside or drop-off recycling for paper, so there’s just no excuse to not recycle.
If you’ve ever wondered about recycling shredded paper or what to do with those stapled documents, here’s a handy guide to recycling paper.
Better yet, Go Paperless
- Choose paperless options for Bills and Sign up for e-statements.
- Stop Junk Mail and Catalogues.
- Opt out of Credit Card offers.
- Choose digital options for storing your documents, bills, med records, financial documents.
- Use electronic signature apps.
If we’re going to stop deforestation, we need governments to do their part. Norway has become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation. Pledging that the government’s public procurement policy will become deforestation-free by imposing regulations.
Companies can make an impact by introducing “zero deforestation” policies that clean up their supply chains. That means holding their suppliers accountable for producing commodities like timber, beef, soy, palm oil and paper in a way that does not fuel deforestation.
But corporations haven’t taken action on their own. The demand for change must come from the consumers. Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation, globally, by 2020. Learn more about how you can take action and support their campaigns across the world.