Deforestation is when large patches of forest are cleared for farmland, livestock, mining, and urban development. Among their many vital roles, trees reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change, produce the oxygen we need to breathe, and provide habitats for millions of animal species. Since forests play such a major part in sustaining our planet, deforestation is a major problem with far-reaching consequences. Ways you can make a difference include recycling, buying sustainable products, and telling your elected officials to support environmentally friendly policies.
EditMaking Lifestyle Changes
- Recycle or purchase recycled products. Recycle as much paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, and glass as you can. Reuse paper by writing or printing on both sides, and look for recycled paper products at the store.
- You could add newspaper to a compost heap, use it to wrap presents, or cover textbooks with it.
- Milk jugs and other containers can be used in the garden as watering cans, pots for seedlings, and bird feeders.
- Instead of throwing old clothes out, donate what you can and use anything that’s in bad shape as cleaning rags.
- Go paperless. Have your utility companies and other services bill you electronically. Try to use fewer paper products, like paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper.
- Swap paper towels and napkins for cloths. You don’t have to give up toilet paper, but look for products made from recycled materials.
- Walk, cycle, or take public transit. In addition to creating carbon emissions, cars require rubber for tires and oil for fuel. These products contribute to deforestation, so do your best to find alternative means of transportation.
- Walk or ride your bike whenever you can. Take the bus, subway, or other public transit if your destination is far away or the weather prevents walking and cycling.
- If you can’t avoid driving, try to carpool. For instance, try to set up a carpool system with coworkers, classmates, or other parents at your child’s school.
- Avoid taking joy rides, and try to do all of your errands on one trip instead of making several short trips.
- Eat less meat. If you don’t want to go vegetarian, try to designate a few meatless days of the week. Massive patches of forest are cleared to make room for beef cattle. Additionally, soybean production threatens forests, and almost all soy is used for animal feed.
- If you do eat meat, try to purchase products from purveyors that don’t use cleared forestland to graze livestock.
- Avoid products that contain palm oil. Palm oil production is one of the leading causes of deforestation. Check the labels of your food, pet food, and beauty products to make sure they don’t contain palm oil.
- You can also find a list of palm oil-free products on Ethical Consumer: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx.
- Grow your own produce and support local farmers. Grow your own food or buy produce from a local farmer so you know where your food comes from. That way, you won’t support clearing a forest to make room for farmland.
- Look for products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC certifies that products derived from trees, like toilet paper and furniture, are sustainably sourced. Check for an FSC seal whenever you purchase paper, wood, and other forest products.
- You can also find a list of certified products and brands on the FSC website: https://us.fsc.org/preview.consumers-guide-to-forest-friendly-living.a-617.pdf
- Make sure any mahogany, teak, or other tropical wood products you purchase are FSC certified.
- Buy flowers from a local nursery. Orchids harvested from rainforests can damage the ecosystem and contribute to deforestation. Make sure any orchids, tropical flowers, and other plants you purchase were grown in a nursery instead of in the wild.
- Support companies that follow through on their sustainability goals. Lots of companies make sustainability goals, but some of them don’t actually do anything to meet those commitments. Check Supply Change’s website for information on an exhaustive list of companies: http://www.supply-change.org/#load-in-more-companies.
- From fast food chains to major retailers, you can find information about whether specific companies do anything to meet their sustainability goals. You might find that you spend a lot of money somewhere that hasn’t done anything to reduce its contribution to deforestation.
- Hold off on upgrading your electronic devices. Your mobile device, tablet, and laptop are made of metals and other materials that need to be mined. Mining contributes to deforestation, so try to replace your electronics only when necessary.
EditEducating Yourself and Others
- Stay informed about environmental protection efforts. Add yourself to the email lists of non-profit organizations committed to stopping deforestation. Get updates from them about letter campaigns, petitions, and environmental news. Search online for articles about environmental protection to stay informed about the latest victories, threats, policies, and other developments.
- Look for intensive online courses. Some environmental protection organizations offer online courses with voluntary donation-based tuition. You could learn about practical ways to take action in your community and dig deep into legal and economic issues surrounding deforestation.
- For instance, check out Pachamama Alliance’s Game Changer Intensive: https://www.pachamama.org/engage/intensive.
- Talk to your family, friends, and peers about deforestation. If you don’t recycle at home, talk to your parents about how important it is. Try asking your teacher, principal, and classmates about ways to conserve paper at school. If your office doesn’t recycle or wastes resources, talk to your coworkers and boss about reducing waste.
- Share stories about conservation on social media, and tell your friends how they can make positive lifestyle changes and support sustainable companies.
- Host an educational event. You could organize a panel discussion, symposium, or other informative event at your school or workplace. Plan it independently or contact a community group to help you organize an educational public event.
- Browse the faculties of local colleges and universities to find an environmental expert. If a company based in your area has made sustainable strides, see if the CEO or other executive officer can participate. Tap your speakers’ university or company email lists and social media platforms to advertise the event.
- See if you can use a conference space or auditorium at your work or school, or at a speaker’s facilities. Reach out to local restaurants and ask for food donations so you can offer light refreshments.
- Write to your elected officials. Tell your congressman, president, prime minister, and other elected officials that they need to support policies that protect the world’s forests. In addition, tell them to support the rights of indigenous populations, since they often help protect forests.
- You can email, Tweet, or use other forms of social media to reduce your paper use.
- Volunteer for a non-profit organization. From planting trees locally to organizing information campaigns, volunteering can have a significant impact. If you’re not sure what organization you could join, try searching Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org/.
- You can browse organizations by entering your location and causes that interest you into the appropriate search fields.
- Look for an internship or fellowship. Look for a nearby environmental organization or, if you can relocate, apply to groups based elsewhere. Search their websites for internship opportunities or call their office to ask if they hire interns.
- You’ll find internship and fellowship opportunities that suit a variety of disciplines, such as law, communications, international relations, and public policy.