How saving rainforests can help meet climate change targets
Rainforests are crucial for the survival of the planet and life on Earth, they pull carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen, making the air we breathe cleaner.
Recent research has shown that forests do more than just storing carbon, they also help keep the world at least half a degree cooler – making them crucial in the race to prevent global warming going above 1.5 degrees.
However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global rate of deforestation is about 10 million hectares per year. In the last 40 years, that amounts to an area the size of Europe.
The pandemic showed carbon emissions can be reduced if we change our lifestyles – with emissions falling by 7%.
Five ways to help save rainforests and the planet
Prevent global deforestation
Deforestation, through conversion of land for other uses, such as agriculture has accelerated the current climate crisis. Forest degradation, through unsustainable harvesting, mining and infrastructures, is also a large contributor. In the Amazon for example, forest degradation is outpacing full deforestation. It has also multiplied the likelihood of both forest fires and traditional burning cycles spinning quickly out of control.
When buying a product or ingredient potentially linked to tropical deforestation (beef, soy, palm oil or cocoa for instance), or forest degradation (wood, paper-based products) choose certified products. Certification can be a powerful tool alongside other interventions to help ensure brands have taken into account the impact of their sourcing operations on the environment. In particular, look out for deforestation-free pledges from recognised accreditation organisations.
Consumers should look for products that have a certification, such as the Rainforest Alliance’s little green frog. This seal is an indicator that farmers and companies have taken steps to make the product in their hands more sustainable.
Watch what you eat
Cattle ranching and soy production for animal feed contribute the most to commodity-driven deforestation. Increasing the number of plant-based meals you eat will really help slash your carbon footprint.
A study carried out by Oxford University found that meat-based diets account for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse gas emissions per day as vegetarian-based diets. Which is about 2.5 times as many emissions as vegan diets.
One of the worst culprits is beef, the meat with the largest environmental impact. When compared globally, beef accounts for about 65% of all livestock sector emissions. Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter and illegal cattle ranching in the Amazon has increased deforestation there, in one of the world’s most important ecosystems. The production of soy for livestock feed also causes significant deforestation globally.
Take the train
A simple way you can reduce your emissions is by avoiding air travel where possible. Whilst this is difficult with long haul trips, there’s often a train alternative for short trips.
On average, travelling by train produces less emissions than flying. For long-haul flights, carbon emissions per passenger per kilometre travelled are about three times higher for business class and four times higher for first class, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). That is why some countries are even making it illegal in some cases to use planes where there is a train alternative. France was the first country to do this, banning domestic flights on routes that can be covered by train in under two and a half hours.
Reduce waste and recycle
Recycling our used products, such as plastics, can help ensure that they are reused and not dumped.
Food waste is also a cause for concern. For example, UK households are responsible for 6.6 Million Tonnes of food waste every year and by weight it makes up 70% of the total food waste in the UK. This means that all the energy, water usage and products used to grow that food have also been wasted.
Reducing waste helps us to live in a more circular economy, which in turns helps us to limit our environmental impact. Instead of wasting energy in food production, we can reduce our emissions. Instead of extracting new materials and using more land, we can recycle those that have already been extracted.
Sign up to the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-day challenge
For more ideas on how you can make a difference, sign up for the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-Day Challenge. You’ll receive lots of tips to inspire you to make more environmentally conscious decisions by adjusting your daily habits. Tips range from conserving water, switching to a plant-rich diet to choosing alternative energy sources like wind and solar as well as reducing your energy consumption.