Rainforests cover only 2% of the Earth’s surface, and yet they are home to more than 50% of the world’s plants and animals, according to Rainforest Maker. These important ecosystems help regulate weather patterns and temperatures by increasing the Earth’s oxygen levels and decreasing its CO2 levels, providing biodiversity and a home for millions of species, and overall being a vastly important ecological piece of the planet.
Though most people understand the positive impact that rainforests have on our planet, unfortunately, the world’s rainforests are quickly deteriorating and being devastated by human actions and climate change caused by human consumption. According to the UN Development Program, we have lost over 130 million hectares (or over 320 million acres) of rainforests since 1990 and we continue to lose dozens of species in rainforests every day. Additionally, World Wildlife Fund found that climate change could wipe out half of all plant and animal species from the Amazon rainforest by 2100.
Here are a few small changes you can make in everyday life to positively impact rainforests (based on these 10 simple actions from our partner, World Rainforest Day):
- Reduce your carbon footprint. Rainforests absorb carbon dioxide. A 2014 NASA study found that tropical forests absorb around 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion. They also found that forests and other land vegetation currently remove up to 30 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Some ways to reduce your carbon footprint include traveling in ways that don’t use gas, such as walking, biking, or even skateboarding! Additionally, carpooling or taking public transportation lessen the amount of vehicles on the road and thus reduce the amount of carbon production.
- Lower your beef and dairy consumption. Most of the rainforest clearance done since 1970 has been in an attempt to create pasture for grazing livestock. Studies from Brazil’s INPE institute estimate that over 45 million hectares, or 62% of the total cleared area of the Amazon, has been converted into cattle pasture. In fact, it is estimated that cattle ranching accounts for 80% of the current deforestation rates.
Even one day a week without meat or dairy creates a much bigger impact than you’d think. As an alternative, if giving up all meat and dairy once a week is too much, you don’t need to necessarily reduce all of your meat eating. Beef has proven by far to be the most problematic source of meat as cows need the most land space for grazing, land space for their food consumption, water, and produce CO2 in the meantime. Replacing a few of your beef meals with chicken can drastically cut down the number of trees that are being cut down for our food.
- Shop ethically. Many resources humans demand are found and produced in rainforests. This high demand has a very real impact on the Earth. For example, increased demand for palm oil has caused the number of palm plantations to double in the last 10 years. These plantations destroy habitats for many endangered animals and populations. An estimate by Express says that palm oil production has caused the orangutan population to lose 90 percent of its natural habitat. One tip for shopping in a way that protects the rainforest include looking for products with no palm oil in them (finding a “RSPO” label on a product means that it meets the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s standards). Similarly, The Rainforest Alliance seal is found on the products of companies audited to meet strict environmental, economic, and social standards, so finding the Rainforest Alliance’s green frog logo is a good sign that the product you’re about to buy is doing some good for rainforests. Finally, spending a few extra dollars on purchasing fair trade coffee, chocolate, etc. goes a long way in helping out the rainforests.
For more tips for doing your part to help preserve our precious rainforests, check out worldrainforestday.com.