Forests play an essential role in our world’s ecosystem. Covering about 31% of the earth’s surface, forests are home to 80% of the world’s land-based species and soak up carbon dioxide contributing to climate change. However, as forests continue to shrink due to deforestation and forest degradation, the benefits they provide the world are fading as well. Agricultural expansion is the leading cause of deforestation, but infrastructure projects, mining, wood extraction, and forest fires contribute significantly to the permanent destruction of our world’s forests.
Though California’s fire season has barely begun, experts have only grim predictions for the coming months with an arid spring. As devastating fires start to sweep the state once again, those burnt forests will no longer be able to capture greenhouse gases that threaten our world’s climate. As carbon dioxide fills our atmosphere, worsening climate change, California and the world will continue to experience dry seasons that increase the risk of forest fires. This deforestation and climate change feedback loop is a massive threat to the world.
As forest fires burn away the vegetation that previously helped the land retain water and topsoil, the soil left behind is at risk of being blown and washed away. This soil erosion leaves land infertile and primed for flooding. Companies like Granite Seed work hard to ensure that topsoil after forest fires can be salvaged using erosion control initiatives like erosion control matting and seed planting aides. However, large companies aren’t the only entities that can do their part to counteract the effects of deforestation in communities worldwide. It’s up to every individual to find ways to live sustainably and curb the progression of climate change.
Plant a tree
Though a seemingly small act, simply planting a tree can help fight against deforestation and the impact deforestation has on our climate. Head to your local garden center to pick up a seedling, or simply buy your own seeds to begin growing from scratch. If planting a tree on your property isn’t a feasible option, consider buying from sustainably focused retailers that plant a tree for every product sold or donate to reforestation non-profits.
Avoid purchasing products with palm oil
Palm oil is the world’s most-used oil and can be found in almost most products you purchase from the grocery store. Unfortunately, because demand for palm oil worldwide is so high, producers fall to methods like illegal deforestation to harvest enough to supply food processing establishments. However, it is possible to harvest palm oil sustainably. If you can’t eliminate your favorite products with palm oil from your shopping list entirely, keep an eye out for alternatives marked with a sustainable palm oil certification.
Buy used or recycled products
There are many industries you may not expect that contribute to deforestation, like the fashion industry. Fast fashion companies use wood-based cellulose to create viscose and rayon textiles, and the production of leather products is linked to deforestation through animal agriculture. Rather than continuing to buy brand-new clothing items every time you have an event or want to update your wardrobe, consider thrifting. Adopting this philosophy with furniture-buying can make a big difference as well. If you have to buy brand new furniture, keep an eye out for pieces made from reclaimed wood.
Despite technology making it a lot easier to eliminate paper usage in day-to-day routines, the pulp and paper industries are still growing exponentially. About 40% of all timber is put towards creating paper products, and demand continues to skyrocket every year. Try to find digital alternatives to printing out emails or asking for receipts at the store when you can. When you’re done using a piece of paper, toss it in a designated recycling bin instead of the trash.
Spread awareness and be a conscious consumer
To understand how your lifestyle may be contributing to deforestation, you must educate yourself on climate issues and how you can make a difference. Once you’ve done so, start conversations with your friends and family and encourage them to make sustainable adjustments in their lives as well. Though it does take a little extra effort to search for palm oil on an ingredients list at the store, it’s well worth it to keep our planet healthy.
The bottom line
Though you may feel like one person making a drop in a vast ocean when it comes to reducing deforestation, every small effort matters. By considering alternative sustainable options in every facet of your life, from the kitchen to your closet, you’ll find that it’s not too difficult to reduce your carbon footprint.