Trees are a very important part of our environment! Not only do they give us oxygen, but they also store carbon dioxide, they give life to our wildlife and provide both man and animals with the materials for tools and shelter. But we are rapidly removing them from the ground to fuel our ever-growing population and consumerist nature. Destroying the very thing that allows us to breathe.
The talk of plastic pollution is huge, and a call to action is getting traction all over the world. We… I can get so caught up in one movement, the plastic-free movement, that it's easy to overlook other important issues that have an impact on our planet. There is one issue that always plays on my mind and which I try to make meaningful changes in my lifestyle to account for. Deforestation.Deforestation "the modern-day plague” is defined as the removal of forests on a massive scale. Forests cover 30% of the earth’s surface and according to Natural geographic, we lose an area of forest equivalent to half the size of England each year. The impact of this loss is damage to animal habitats, loss of biodiversity and a huge contribution to global warming.
A small section of land cleared for agriculture | Amazon rainforest, Bolivia 2014
Getting a bit technical here but I found this explanation rather interesting… “Deforestation causes carbon dioxide to linger in the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide accrues, it produces a layer in the atmosphere that traps radiation from the sun. The radiation converts to heat which causes global warming, which is better known as the greenhouse effect.” – Wikipedia.
Some of the key causes of deforestation can be attributed to agricultural expansion, livestock/dairy farming, logging and infrastructure expansion. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the reasons why we are making an effort to eat less meat and dairy is because of the impact industries have on the environment.
The issue of deforestation is happening on many fronts and affecting many parts of the world. While it might seem that the impacts from the loss of rainforest in Brazil, for instance, is localised to that part of the world, in reality, it has consequences for the whole planet. These impacts can be linked to food shortages in regions that need it most, increased risk of flooding and even displaced indigenous peoples.
Not the best of shots, however, this is one of the Orangutans we saw in the wild | Borneo 2017
One of the most devastating impacts for me personally is the loss of animal habitats. After visiting the Amazon in 2015, Simon and I knew we wanted an adventurous honeymoon, so we went to Borneo in the hope of seeing Orangutans in the wild. And we were lucky, very lucky. Seeing these majestic animals outside of captivity or rehabilitation centres is a rare experience, and we were lucky to see more than one up close in the wild. So why is this experience so rare? Well, the short answer is deforestation. Due to the demand for Palm oil, the current rate of deforestation is such that it is predicted that within the next 50 years, Orangutans will be extent (totally crying as I write this). This means our children’s children will never be able to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, and that absolutely terrifies me.
Trees are slow growers, so it can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years for a tree to grow. This means we need more land for longer periods of time to grow them, cut them down, turn it into products and then throw it way. There are ways we can sustainably manage our forests, however. A few years ago, I was introduced to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through my work at the time, and I guess this is where I started to rethink our consumption of paper. FSC is an internationally recognised certificate for forest management and considers both environmental and social indicators, and it is not easy to get. Learning the processes involved was hard work but something I really enjoyed, as it’s now an important value.
Photo by @Cheggy twenty20
Even though paper or other by-products of wood have less impact on the planet than plastic at their end-of-life, the pre-consumer impact is huge and one we can’t take for granted or ignore. We need to be actively making a change in how we consume, and we need to do this now.
So, what can we do to help reduce the impacts of deforestation? Look for products that have the FSC logo, use items made from recycled paper or switch to bamboo or sugarcane paper products. You can also help by using your own bags or containers, even if paper options are available. Go paperless in the office or at home, say no to receipts and help the Orangutans by buying palm oil free products.
One of the simplest things we have done to reduce our paper usage is changing our toilet paper. You may have heard me already talk about Smartass TP, its made from 100% renewable unblended sugarcane and bamboo – this is great because they are fast growing, taking no more than a year to regrow. A much more sustainable option than standard TP, helping reduce the 27,000 trees flushed down the toilet every day.