Date: 28 October
Cost of taking action: NIL
From our guest author Halima Curran in Libya
Deforestation is impacting on us all – we can all help by choosing what we buy with care
Why should we bother about deforestation? Here’s why.
- Deforestation contributes to climate change. Trees absorb and store CO2 but removing them means all that stored CO2 is released back into the air. The less trees there are to absorb CO2, the more stays in our atmosphere, exacerbating the greenhouse effect and climate change
- 80% of the earth’s plants, birds and animals thrive in forests! We should preserve their habitats; they have a right to share this planet with us!
- Trees in mountainous regions help stop landslides
- Healthy forests support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion globally
- Forests and woods are beautiful. A walk in a forest is better than any antidepressant
So which are the top products we should avoid – the ones contributing to deforestation?
Two million trees are felled daily to meet the needs of the US paper market alone. That’s 730 million trees per year! The worldwide paper demand claims 40% of all the timber cut down and this paper-mania increases yearly! Even worse, illegal logging is part of that 40%. In Indonesia, 30% of the wood used in papermills is Illegal!
We have to recycle paper and cardboard ourselves (check out sites that give advice on this). Small actions add up from millions of people – for example re-use cardboard for all sorts of things, stop printing E-mails unnecessarily, check if there is a local scheme where your waste paper, etc. is collected by councils or recycling companies, and only use paper from sustainable forests (check for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label).
If one ton of paper is recycled, that saves 17 trees!
This humble product is responsible for the felling of 27,000 trees a day, including tropical hardwood trees in rainforests. This is not acceptable! These rainforests are essential to our planet and are home to many endangered species.
Western demand is for the thicker, multi-ply toilet paper made from virgin pulp. This is totally wrong when there are mountains of paper that can be recycled into 2 ply toilet paper. Ok, it’s not so white and soft but it’s going to be flushed down the toilet anyway! Another choice is bamboo toilet paper as bamboo is sustainable and grows quickly. Even better, use a bidet spray or ‘bum gun!’ It is definitely more hygienic, won’t cause allergies and block sewage systems like ‘wet wipes’ and is eco friendly.
Right, now into agricultural products which are responsible for a staggering 40% of forest loss
UNSUSTAINABLE PALM OIL
This is top of the list in products that contribute towards Indonesian deforestation which, in turn, is responsible for almost wiping out our beloved orangutans and a host of other forest life. Palm oil goes into a wide range of products including beauty products, chocolate spread, bio fuels, etc. If the product does not carry a sustainable palm oil certificate, then it’s not.
Don’t forget, Europe’s imports of palm oil are often used as biofuels (diesel and petrol are also mixed with biofuels), so opt to walk, cycle, use public transport or arrange car sharing as much as you can in order to reduce the demand for fuel.
We all know that eating less meat is better for us and the planet. The Amazon rainforest has been devastated with trees cleared in order to produce sufficient beef to satisfy the world’s lust for meat. If the idea of life without meat dinners is intolerable, try to buy from small farmers using best agroforestry practices and cut down to two meat meals a week and make the rest vegetarian. (Equally delicious!)
Keep an eye on where your soybeans come from and don’t be misled into thinking soybeans are only eaten by vegetarians.
Actually, most soybeans go into animal feed (for cows, pigs and poultry) and cheap, bulk produced meat products.
Low quality beans (most likely grown in cleared rainforest) go into animal feed and cheap food. Most good quality vegan or vegetarian meals are derived from organic, high quality soybeans that are, most likely, not grown in ex-forest land; however, you will have to check on the packaging or with the manufacturer about this.
And, by the way, through animal feed more soy beans (per litre and in total volume) go into producing cow milk than soybean milk!
I have two vegetarians in the family and don’t use soybeans anyway in their meals; vegetables are cheaper and more readily available than soybeans here in Libya.
EAT LESS CHOCOLATE!
Oh dear! Cocoa beans are often grown on illegally deforested land and, as the demand for chocolate products rise, so does the number of trees being felled. Check the label or the manufacturer to ensure the cocoa beans in your favourite chocolate or chocolate product are sustainable.
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR POSSESSIONS!
Mining and the infrastructure it requires (roads, power plants, workers homes, etc) are also responsible for deforestation so don’t keep on buying the latest smartphone, laptop, car, etc as they all use aluminium and rare metals. If demand for these raw materials does not increase because we use our phones, etc to their maximum life span, then the need to clear land for mining will drop.
BUY SECOND HAND FURNITURE (OR REUSE/REPURPOSE)
There is plenty of lovely second-hand and surprisingly cheap furniture available. More durable too in many cases, and often beautifully restored or upcycled. I have a wood bedroom suite (aged about 50 years) that has well outlived my friends’ and neighbours’ modern suites.
STOP USING FIREWOOD!
….or don’t burn it excessively and, again, check it is from a sustainable source. Ideally, if possible, invest in an alternative, cleaner form of heating if you burn wood for heating.
So, to sum it all up, here’s how you can start protecting our incredible forests and rainforests right now:
- Only buy products using sustainable palm oil or cocoa
- Use less paper and recycle what you use
- Only buy recycled 2 ply toilet paper (even better, install a bidet spray)
- Eat less meat or try vegetarian
- Check where the soybeans in your food and soybean milk come from
- Buy second hand furniture
- Repurpose and upcycle wooden furniture
- Quit using firewood
- Get the most out of your car, laptop, mobile phone, appliances etc before buying new
- Leave the car in the garage; use less fuel
Remember, we are denizens of this earth only for a very short time. It is our job to preserve it in all it’s natural beauty for other species and our future generations. Do we really want to be the generation that destroyed it?
Sources: National Geographic, Rainforest Rescue, Wikipedia, Greenpeace, Sustainable Food Trust, Researchgate.net
This item is contributed by our guest writer Halima Curran in Libya; thank you Halima
You can read more from Halima or follow her on Twitter at @HRafferty1