Trees today, gone tomorrow

Photo: iStockphoto.com/AVT
Why protecting the world’s forests is essential to our future.

Canada is blessed with an abundance of forests, from British Columbia’s lush coastal temperate rainforest, where majestic spirit bears roam, to the vast northern boreal forest—North America’s largest intact wilderness. Home to 180 native trees and over 90 thousand species of plants, animals and microorganisms, our forests cover almost half of our landscape. They also represent one-tenth of the world’s total forest cover, one-third of its boreal forests and one-fifth of its temperate forests.

More than half of the world’s original forest is already gone. The majority of what remains is in North America, Russia and Brazil. Protecting our forests is critical, both for the planet and for our future.

What’s at stake?

Forests clean our water, purify our air, regulate our climate, store carbon and provide life-saving medicine. They maintain biodiversity and provide animal and plant habitats. They also play a key role in our economy, culture, traditions and history, and—when managed responsibly—are a source of renewable and recyclable products like paper and furniture.

Though Canada’s forests are undeniably essential, only eight percent are protected by legislation—far less than what is necessary to sustain forest ecosystems over time. Worldwide, every year we’re losing a startling 13 million hectares of forest—that’s an area larger than Greece! Read on to find out what’s being done about it and how youcan help.

Choose certified products

When shopping for lumber or products made from trees, you can choose responsibly sourced wood. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ‘check-tree’ logo—the best choice for healthy forests and healthy communities. The FSC is an international, independently audited certification and labeling system that allows buyers to choose paper and wood products that come from responsibly managed forests and verified recycled sources. Not only are FSC-certified forests measured against a set of strict environmental and social standards, but you can actually track the fibre used in any product you buy from forest to shelf.

FSC is the only forest certification system to be exclusively preferred by government agencies, corporations and others around the world. In fact, the area of FSC-certified forests in Canada is growing rapidly, with the total certified area increasing from 35 to 49.9 million hectares from 2009 to 2012. In addition, conservation groups and members of the Forest Products Association of Canada signed the landmark Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement in May 2010, which included a commitment to develop a new set of globally-leading boreal forest practices based on the FSC National Boreal Standard. Clearly, the demand for responsibly-sourced products is growing. To find FSC-certified products and suppliers in Canada, use FindFSC.com.

Save paper, save trees

We use paper every day. The good news: total paper consumption in North America has declined. The bad news: it remains a major driver of forest destruction. North Americans consume more paper per capita than anyone else on earth—upwards of 500 pounds annually. Get the facts about paper consumption and its impact. In addition to buying paper with a legitimate green label (we always recommend FSC), here are easy steps you can take:

• Reduce the amount of paper you use. Follow tips from WWF or the Reach for Unbleached Foundation to cut back at home and work.

• Avoid paper containing fibre from endangered forests and other controversial sources. Visit Global Forest Watch for information on protecting ancient forests, and find out more about illegal logging. Greenpeace estimates 60 to 80 percent of timber produced in the Brazilian Amazon is illegally sourced!

• Choose paper with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.

• Buy from companies that follow environmentally responsible paper policies. Check out ForestEthics’ Green Grades program, an annual report card grading the paper practices of large companies or browse our slideshow of forest-friendly paper companies. Kudos to companies like Victoria’s Secret, which cleaned up its act and undertook more sustainable practices.

Support activism

In 1993, the B.C. government announced it would allow forestry companies to log 62 percent of the forest in Clayoquot Sound. In response, over 12,000 citizens attended a summer-long road blockade, greatly reducing the amount of work taking place and eventually compelling the government to take an ecosystem-based approach to logging. Taking a stand makes a difference.

Check out these 14 fantastic non-profit organizations, which are working hard to preserve our forests:

Friends of Clayoquot Sound
Rainforest Action Network
Sierra Club Canada
ForestEthics
Friends of the Earth
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Greenpeace
David Suzuki Foundation
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Tree Canada (Don't forget to celebrate National Tree Day on September 26, 2012!)
Trees 4 Life Canada
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Canopy
Natural Resources Defense Council

Thanks to their hard work—along with the help of hundreds of thousands of supporters such as yourself—great work has been accomplished.

Take B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, for example. It’s the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. In February 2006, after years of citizen protest, campaigns and negotiations, the government agreed to implement ecosystem-based management and protected areas, which safeguard 50 percent of the natural level of the region’s old-growth forest. (Still, no matter which way you cut it, protecting 50 percent of a forest isn’t enough to save the whole. Join the fight and help Take It Taller for the Great Bear Rainforest, an initiative of the Rainforest Solutions Project.)

Go meatless more often

Producing meat for human consumption requires a lot of land. Around the world, the demand for meat is growing—and much of the land used to raise animals is created by clearing tropical forests. In Brazil, for each cow, 2.5 acres of Amazon rainforest disappear. Read this report to see how our appetite for hamburgers is fuelling Amazon destruction, then check out potential solutions.

Earth’s magnificent—and irreplaceable—forests urgently need protection. Whether you start small, by learning more about deforestation, donating to your favourite environmental organization or buying FSC-certified products, or dream big and start your own campaign, the world’s forests need your help, today.

Comments, questions, tips? E-mail editor@green-living.ca
Want more information? Check out our slideshow of 13 eco-friendly sources of everyday paper goods.