Forests and Trees
Why Forests and Trees Are Important
- Half of all the world’s plant and animal species live in forests.
- More than a quarter of the medicines we use come from rainforest plants.
- Over a billion of the world’s poorest people rely on forests for their livelihoods.
- Trees clean the air we breathe by removing pollutants.
- Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which helps to slow climate change.
- Trees help to prevent flooding and soil erosion.
- Rainforests regulate the world’s rainfall and climate.
- Trees are good for health and well-being.
What's Happening to Forests
- One football pitch of forest is cut down every 2 seconds.
- Human activities have led to the loss of nearly half the world’s trees.
- Only 17% of forests left are protected.
- We’re consuming forests! More than two thirds of rainforest destruction is carried out to produce commodities which end up in 50% of the products in our supermarkets according to expert organisation Global Canopy. Deforestation is also hidden in packaging, investments and pensions.
- Soy, beef, palm oil and wood products are the biggest contributors to deforestation; also, to a lesser extent, commodities such as cocoa, sugar, corn/maze and coffee, infrastructure projects and mining. See Union of Concerned Scientists.
- 75% of soy production in Brazil is used for animal feed, about 20% for biofuel with just a tiny percentage (around 1%) used directly for human diet (eg tofu, soy milk).
- Tropical deforestation contributes more than 12% of global warming emissions.
- The global trade in roundwood, paper, furniture, and other products originating from illegally extracted timber is a multi-million dollar industry according to WWF.
- 35-40% of trees cut for industrial purposes become paper products and whilst some of this wood comes from forestry practices, much of it comes from unsustainable deforestation in countries like Indonesia according to the Ecologist.
What You Can Do To Help
Consume and Invest Responsibly
- Consume with care, avoid waste and recycle.
- Use less paper and recycle what you use.
- Print double sided.
- Print less – go digital.
- Use reusable not disposable cups.
- Use cloth rather than paper napkins.
- Avoid packaging where you can.
Use recycled paper or paper certified by FSC, regarded as a gold international standard (use recycled for toilet tissue, see article below). PEFC is another international forest certification scheme. (See note below).
- Choose products made with sustainable palm oil or other sustainable alternatives.
- Reduce your meat consumption and buy local, pasture fed meat.
- Repair, restore, reuse furniture and wood. Use vintage furniture or reclaimed timber where appropriate.
- Look at WWF’s Timber Scorecard to see how good retailers are at ensuring their timber comes from sustainable sources.
- Consult Friends of the Earth’s Good Wood Guide to see which timbers from around the world are critically endangered or vulnerable and ensure they come from sustainable sources or avoid buying them.
Support Charities to Protect and Restore the Natural World
- Support conservation charities such as International Tree Foundation, Rainforest Concern, Tree Aid, World Land Trust and in the UK, the Woodland Trust and your local Wildlife Trust. See more on these organisations and others working to protect and restore trees, forests, peatlands and wetlands.
- Join Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace or WWF.
- Plant trees – resilient native species.
- Apply for support to plant trees (UK projects):
- The Woodland Trust for free trees for communities and schools.
- International Tree Foundation grants for community-based tree planting initiatives.
- The Forestry Commission including the Urban Tree Challenge Fund and Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme.
- Join others in tree planting initiatives:
Please note Positive Nature has no formal affiliation with these organisations
Articles, Information and Links
- Not if but how: the palm oil of the future, Global Canopy. According to Global Canopy, outright rejection of palm oil is not the answer.
- What’s driving deforestation, 8 Feb 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists
- Other deforestation drivers, 26 Feb 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists
- 10 big changes for forests over the last decade, 10 Jan 2020, World Resources Institute. WRIs forest experts reflect on major changes over the last decade and what we should expect in 2020 and beyond.
- Friends of the Earth – Repairing, restoring or adapting existing wood items
- Friends of the Earth – Buying secondhand, recycled or reclaimed timber
- Friends of the Earth – Buying locally produced FSC-certified wood products
- Friends of the Earth – Live sustainably: how to be a conscious consumer – see 5. Good Wood Guide
- WWF – Illegal logging
- Woodland Trust – Sustainable management of forests, woods and trees in the UK. ‘A vibrant wood fuel and timber economy is seen as key to underpinning sustainability. However, sustainability can also be achieved when woodland is managed for other purposes, such as recreation and education.’
- Are paper’s problems being palmed off? 27 Nov 2019, The Ecologist.
Toilet paper is getting less sustainable, researchers warn, The Guardian, 5 July 2019 – We should be using toilet tissue made from recycled paper according to research by Ethical Consumer highlighted in this article.
- Global Forest Watch, an interactive map to explore tree cover loss and tree cover gain in countries around the world.
- Note on forest certification: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is regarded as an international gold standard for forest certification enabling consumers to identify forest products which come from responsibly managed forests. Its members (represented in Environmental, Social and Economic Chambers) include WWF and Greenpeace. PEFC is another international not-for-profit forest certification scheme founded by small forest holders which meets the UK government requirements for sustainable timber. Read Greenpeace’s briefing on FSC and other certification schemes.