Sustainability Starts at Home: 10 Ways You Can Help Fight Deforestation
Updated: Mar 28
Deforestation has always been one of the key drivers of climate change. Trees play a crucial role in slowing down global warming. They capture greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and prevent them from accumulating in the atmosphere. And now we’re losing trees and forests at an alarming rate. More than 46% of the world’s trees have already been felled. What’s even worse, though, is that the felled trees release all the carbon they’ve absorbed. In the end, forests get replaced with livestock and crops, which create even more greenhouse gases.
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What is deforestation?
Deforestation is the clearing of forests and trees for human use. Deforestation has far-reaching consequences that go beyond the loss of beautiful landscapes and animal homes. It affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and contributes to the changing climate patterns that are altering the world as we know it. In short, deforestation is a man-made disaster with global impacts that threaten the stability of our planet and all the species that call it home. From the Amazon rainforest to the Indonesian jungle, deforestation is a battle worth fighting, as the future of our planet and our survival may depend on it.
Why does deforestation happen?
Deforestation happens for a variety of reasons, including:
Agricultural Expansion: One of the primary drivers (80%) of deforestation is the conversion of forested land into cropland or pasture to grow food, raise livestock, and produce biofuels.
Urbanization: The expansion of cities and towns into forested areas is another major contributor to deforestation. As more land is needed for housing and infrastructure, forests are cleared to make way for new development.
Logging: (Illegal) Harvesting timber from forests for commercial use is another significant contributor to deforestation. This practice can be sustainable if managed properly but often leads to the clear-cutting of large areas of forest.
Mining: The extraction of minerals and other resources from forested areas can lead to significant deforestation, as large areas of land are cleared to make way for mines and related infrastructure.
Climate Change: Climate change can also contribute to deforestation, as rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns can alter the structure and composition of forests. This, in turn, can lead to increased insect infestations, forest fires, and disease, which can all contribute to deforestation.
In many cases, deforestation is driven by the pursuit of profit, as the cleared land can be sold or used for profitable purposes. However, it is also driven by the need for resources and land by a growing global population, and a lack of understanding of the consequences of deforestation and the importance of maintaining healthy and intact forests.
How does Deforestation affect the Environment?
Deforestation can have significant impacts on the environment, including:
Biodiversity loss: Forests are home to a vast array of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. When forests are cleared, these species can become endangered or go extinct, leading to a loss of biodiversity.
Climate change: Trees play a crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps to regulate the Earth's climate. Deforestation releases this stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the increase in atmospheric CO2 and exacerbating climate change.
Soil erosion: Trees help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, but when forests are cleared, the soil can become destabilized and susceptible to erosion, which can lead to loss of fertility and productivity.
Water cycle disruption: Forests play a crucial role in regulating the water cycle, as they help to retain moisture and prevent runoff. Deforestation can disrupt these processes, leading to changes in water availability and an increased risk of flooding.
Decreased air quality: Trees help to clean the air by absorbing pollutants and producing oxygen, but when forests are cleared, air quality can deteriorate as pollutants are no longer being removed from the atmosphere.
Displacement of indigenous peoples: Many indigenous communities rely on forests for their livelihoods and cultural practices, and the loss of forests can lead to their displacement and loss of traditional ways of life.
Overall, deforestation can have far-reaching impacts on the environment, affecting air and water quality, soil stability, biodiversity, and the climate. It is therefore critical to ensure that deforestation is limited and that remaining forests are managed sustainably for the benefit of current and future generations.
Deforestation Solutions You Can Do from Home
Tree planting programs can be a great way to make a difference in your community. Doing tree planting on special occasions such as public holidays or opening ceremonies can draw more attention to deforestation and its consequences. Although it may seem like it won’t change a lot, it is much better than ignoring the issue altogether. While commercial organizations and learning institutions can take care of the planting, local governments have to ensure the forests are protected from any damage.
Reforestation is quite similar to community forestry, but it is a more systematic long-term process. Reforestation is crucial for regions that lost their forest territories to wildfires or logging. It requires participation from the local communities as well as the governments and non-profit organizations.
If you’re lucky to live in a region that hasn’t suffered any forest loss recently, some organizations let you help the affected areas. For example, Click a Tree helps rebuild natural habitats for endangered species all over the world. Such projects also create new jobs and infrastructure, which helps improve the quality of life of local communities.
Reducing meat consumption is one of the best ways to fight deforestation. Livestock ranching is responsible for 91% of deforestation in the Amazon, one of the most endangered areas of the world. Since Brazil is a top exporter of beef worldwide, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, the Amazon is far from being the only area affected by the global demand for meat. According to an Australian environmental group The Wilderness Society, 94% of land clearing in Great Barrier Reef catchments is linked to the beef industry.
Of course, going vegan or at least vegetarian is the best thing you can do. But as a saying goes, we don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly. Eating meat just once a day instead of 2 or 3 times will make a difference too. New meat and dairy substitutes are appearing on the market every day. They can be a great solution for people who don’t want to harm the planet but aren’t ready to change their eating habits overnight.
Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council
Even if you’re not familiar with Rainforest Alliance, you sure have seen a green frog sticker on some products in your local store. This sticker is a Rainforest Alliance seal, which is given to companies that meet rigorous social, economical, and environmental standards. Rainforest Alliance is also one of the founders of Forest Stewardship Council, a leading non-profit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.
Over the last 26 years, FSC has developed 10 principles and 70 criteria that apply to FSC-certified forests. When you buy a product with an FSC label, you’re supporting the companies that conserve their ecosystems, recognize the rights of indigenous people, and maintain high forest conservation values.
Support anti-deforestation policies
Brazil is a great example of a country that relies a lot on its deforestation policies. In 2004, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the minister of the environment, Marina Silva, presented their new Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. The plan expanded the system of protected forest areas, improved remote monitoring of the Amazon, and increased the enforcement of forestry laws. The results were truly incredible: by 2014 deforestation in the Amazon was cut by 70%. At a similar speed, zero deforestation, the program’s ultimate goal, could be achieved by 2020.
However, deforestation in Brazil rose to a 10-year high in 2019. Many Brazilians blame Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s President who was elected in 2018 and who believes using the Amazon rainforest territories is the key to Brazil’s prosperity. Bolsonaro has called for more farming, mining, and logging in the protected areas of the forest multiple times.
This shows just how crucial it is to vote for the candidates with the best environmental policies. The only way to stop deforestation for good is to make it illegal, so we must elect government officials who would support and enforce the ban. As usual, every single vote counts. So if people around you aren’t aware of deforestation and its consequences, talk to them about it and explain why it matters.
Reduce Paper Use
Opting for digital alternatives to paper products is an effective way to reduce the impact of deforestation. This can include using electronic billing and reading digitally instead of traditional paper versions. When paper products are used, it's important to recycle them to minimize their impact on the environment. Paper production is a major contributor to deforestation, as vast areas of forests are cleared to make way for paper production. By reducing our use of paper products and properly recycling them, we can help to slow down the rate of deforestation and protect the world's forests. Additionally, using digital alternatives is not only good for the environment, but it's also convenient and cost-effective. By making small changes in our daily habits, we can have a positive impact on the environment and help to preserve the world's forests for future generations.
Supporting companies that prioritize sustainable sourcing practices and avoiding products linked to deforestation is another important step in promoting a more sustainable future. This can include products made from illegally logged timber or other materials that contribute to deforestation. To make informed purchasing decisions, look for products with certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This certification ensures that the product was sourced from responsibly managed forests, where the environment and local communities are protected. By supporting companies that use sustainable sourcing practices, you are encouraging them to continue their efforts to preserve and protect the environment, while also making a positive impact on the world. Additionally, avoiding products made from illegally logged timber helps to reduce demand for these products, ultimately reducing the pressure on forests and promoting responsible forest management.
Choosing household products made from sustainable materials and with minimal impact on the environment is an important step in promoting a more sustainable future. These products are often made from renewable resources and produced through environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, reducing their overall impact on the planet. Additionally, by using sustainable products, you are supporting companies that prioritize sustainability, encouraging them to continue using environmentally friendly practices. Moreover, using sustainable household products can also help reduce waste, as many of these products are designed to be reusable or recyclable, reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. By making conscious choices about the household products we use, we can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future for all.
Ecosia is a search engine that uses its advertising revenue to plant trees. The company was founded in 2009 with the mission of using the power of the internet to create a more sustainable world. When users search the web using Ecosia, the company uses a portion of its ad revenue to finance tree-planting initiatives around the world. To date, Ecosia has planted over 100 million trees in countries such as Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and Peru, helping to combat deforestation, restore ecosystems, and create livelihoods for local communities. Ecosia is a member of the B Corp community, which is a group of companies that are dedicated to balancing profit and purpose. By using Ecosia, individuals can help to make a positive impact on the environment, simply by searching the web.
Consider avoiding food and other items that contain palm oil. Many processed foods, such as Oreos, use palm oil in their ingredients. To help reduce your impact, carefully read the labels on everything you purchase and look for alternatives to products that contain palm oil. Additionally, some beauty and hygiene products, such as bar soap and shampoo, may also contain palm oil. Try to choose alternative products that do not use palm oil whenever possible.
Despite the Amazon rainforest burning for 16 days, it received little media attention. The most effective action we can take now is to raise awareness and make sure this issue is not ignored. Share this article and its information with as many people as possible. The more people are informed, the greater the chances of taking meaningful action to address the problem. So, if you only take one action, please share this article and help spread the word.