Millions of hectares of tropical rainforests disappear every year worldwide. The consequences are dramatic – for people and animals in the affected countries, but also for the global climate. Consumers can counteract through their consumption behavior.
Tropical rainforests are enormously important in many respects. Nowhere else on earth is there such a wealth of biodiversity. The Amazon rainforest alone is home to almost one third of the world’s animal and plant species. Hundreds of indigenous peoples call it home (University of Hamburg, 2017). In addition, tropical forests play a major role in stabilizing the global climate. They are the largest carbon dioxide reservoir on earth and also act as a kind of air conditioning system for the world. Solar radiation causes large amounts of moisture to evaporate above the trees and rivers. This is how huge clouds of haze form and move to higher altitudes, cooling the atmosphere (WWF).
Through slash-and-burn agriculture and the ongoing deforestation of the so-called "green lungs" of our planet, these properties and effects are increasingly being lost. In 2018 alone, 12 million hectares of tropical forests were destroyed (Global Forest Watch, 2018). This is roughly equivalent to the area of England.
Consumers can influence this development through their consumer behavior in everyday life. Because: our consumer society is a major contributor to the decline of rainforests.
Protecting the rainforest starts in the shopping basket
Global demand for agricultural goods such as palm oil, soy and meat is high. The consequence: For livestock farming and the cultivation of soy, which is used among other things in concentrated feed for cattle, pigs and co. huge areas of forest are being cleared, especially in the Amazon regions. The same is true for oil palm plantations in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia (WWF, Spectrum, 2018).
Therefore, pay attention to a conscious meat consumption. Eat less meat, but high-quality meat – preferably from regional production. Also, reduce your consumption of products that contain palm oil. Vegetable oil can now be found in every second supermarket product, in foodstuffs such as margarine, chocolate or muesli. Since 2014, manufacturers have had to label products with palm oil as such, so it makes sense to take a look at the ingredients.
Use paper sustainably, protect forests
Whether for printers and copiers, for packaging or hygiene products: Paper is an indispensable part of our everyday lives. In Germany alone, almost 250 kilograms of it are consumed per year and person (Federal Environment Agency, 2017). What many don’t consider: the extraction of wood for paper and pulp production is one of the main reasons for the (often illegal) clearing of forests worldwide (WWF).
So try to make your paper consumption more sustainable: Use recycled products whose production requires much less wood, energy and water than that of new paper. You can take your cue from the Blue Angel seal of quality. Print only when really necessary – and then preferably double-sided. The reverse side of used sheets can often still be used for notes. Also try to avoid packaging waste as much as possible. The Federal Environment Agency offers further helpful tips for saving paper.
From furniture to barbecue charcoal: avoid products made of tropical wood
Tropical wood is very popular in the furniture industry. It is resistant and often also inexpensive. However, the low prices can also be attributed to the fact that working conditions and wages in the countries of origin are poor and there are no environmental protection requirements (Umweltdialog, 2017). Therefore, buy furniture made from domestic woods that have been harvested and processed under responsible environmental and social conditions. You can read about what to look out for in our article on sustainable furniture.
Even barbecue charcoal is mostly made from tropical wood. We inform you about alternatives such as briquettes made from olive stones here. If you still want to barbecue with charcoal, choose products with the seal of FSC or (even better) Naturland to promote an ecological timber industry.
Aluminum: light metal with serious environmental consequences
Aluminum is found in a variety of large and small objects in our everyday lives: in deodorants and in aluminum foil, but also in cars and train cars. But this is a problem for the environment. For the production of the metal, the ore bauxite is needed, for the mining of which primeval forests and rainforests have to give way (Federal Environment Agency, 2016) . Forests in Australia and China are particularly affected, but also in countries such as Guinea, Brazil and India. In addition, a waste product of the extraction process is toxic sludge, some of which is discharged into local waterways, destroying local ecosystems (Utopia, 2015).
Because of its many uses, it’s hard to do without aluminum completely. Looking for alternatives makes sense especially when the valuable metal is used unnecessarily or wastefully. This is the case with food packaging, for example. Use a lunch box instead of aluminum foil for the break bread you bring along and avoid packaged ready-made products as well as tin cans. Save the aluminum lid on yogurt packaging by choosing products made of glass.