Most of us recognize rainforests are important, even beyond the massive climate change impact. They are the lungs of our world, providing us with oxygen. Their plants source 25% of our pharmaceuticals despite only 1% of them having been studied for medicinal benefits and every acre destroyed is potentially another life-saving medicine destroyed as well. Medical research is gaining much from the study of the insects, amphibians, and even mammals that live in the rainforest. Even much of the fresh water we enjoy in the US is dependent on the Amazon. Everything is connected, and as we destroy the rainforests we are slowly destroying ourselves.
Ok, so clearly rainforests are important, but that’s some far away problem. It doesn’t have anything to do with us, right? Wrong! Deforestation and destruction of the Amazon and other rainforests continues to happen because everyday consumers continue to create incentives for companies to destroy the Amazon by purchasing the byproducts of that destruction. So what are some of the biggest offenders?
1. Eating Beef. One might think that the main cause of deforestation is wood production. After all, one of the principal characteristics of a forest is a lot of trees. However, approximately 65-70% of deforestation in the Amazon happens to make room for cattle ranching. As global demand for meat continues to rise, more and more of the rainforest is being destroyed so that ranchers can meet this increasing demand. Even making sure to eat only beef grown outside of rainforest areas still contributes to the problem by raising prices and demand, encouraging more Brazilian farmers to raise cattle.
2. Buying Hardwood products. Anytime you purchase new furniture, new hardwood floors or any other product made from timber, there is a very good chance it comes from illegal logging in the Amazon as upwards of 75% of timber comes from illegal logging operations in the Amazon. The Brazilian government fails to properly vet logging companies, timber importers fail to properly examine the supply chain, and consumers fail to hold these companies accountable for what they are doing. As long as it remains profitable for everyone to look the other way, they will keep doing it, and millions of acres of rainforest will disappear forever.
3. Drinking Coffee. As a result of the rapidly rising demand for coffee worldwide, many coffee producing regions have switched over to sun grown coffee in order to increase overall productivity. However, this method of production requires the destruction of the forest where the coffee is being grown, unlike shade grown coffee. Even fair trade coffee still doesn’t address this problem, as the fair trade label has no environmental requirements at all! There is no need to stop drinking coffee (I certainly won’t), but ensuring that it is rainforest alliance certified and shade grown will go a long way to helping preserve rainforests.
4. Eating Chocolate. Chocolate has traditionally been produced in West Africa, but thanks to crop diseases, political instability and other factors, the region isn’t able to keep up with chocolate production. As a result, chocolate production in the Amazon region has increased by up to 5x in just a couple of decades. The amount of C02 and deforestation is rather astounding. A single chocolate plantation in Peru destroys 5000 acres of forest and produces CO2 equivalent to driving around the world nearly 60,000 times! It doesn’t have to be this way, but companies are taking the easy way out and destroying the environment in the process because we keep letting them.
5. Wiping your Booty. Every single day, approximately 27,000 trees worth of toilet paper are flushed down the toilet or thrown into landfills and accounts for 1/10th of total paper usage. Now, I’m not suggesting that you stop using toilet paper altogether (please don’t), nor suggesting re-use, but using virgin pulp for toilet paper is a leading cause of rainforest destruction and uses up far more water than recycled toilet paper. Recycled toilet paper makes use of the paper thrown away every day and helps prevent further destruction to the rainforest.
It is easy to see large, distant problems and assume we can’t do anything about them. However, we all need to better consider our choices and recognize that they do have an impact. No raindrop thinks it is responsible for the flood, yet each contributes to the problem.
Follow our blog at http://www.teadorabeauty.com/blogs and watch out for the next articles in this series, 10 Things You can do Today to Save the Rainforest (and yourself) and 7 Things Your Business Can Do to Save the Rainforest to find out how you can do your part to save our planet.