The Amazon rainforest is not only a breathtaking part of our world, but it’s also absolutely vital to the health of our planet. If you’ve been reading the news, you’re probably aware that recently, the Amazon has been hit with a record number of fires. Even as media coverage ebbs and the fires are eventually controlled, the threats to the rainforest won’t disappear! Here are 5 ways you can help the rainforest with simple actions and lifestyle changes.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Avoid Palm Oil
One really easy way to help the rainforest? Avoid palm oil. Palm oil is found in half of all processed foods in the US and in many common household products. And palm plantations contribute to rainforest deforestation! Read your food and product labels carefully and choose not to buy products with palm oil.
Besides avoiding palm oil, you can also look for products that have the FSC label. By paying attention to how your food and other purchases are produced, you can create less demand for unsustainable goods. Unless it’s certified as sustainably harvested, avoid woods like mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. And remember that you don’t necessarily have to go without anything you love in order to help the rainforest!
Buy Recycled and Reusable
Luckily, more companies are switching to recycled materials in their packaging. What’s more, being eco-friendly is fashionable! And as a result, more companies are catering to that trend. Here’s a good start: Next time you’re on the hunt for some jewelry, look out for recycled gold and silver. Instead of buying boxes of paper coffee filters, opt for a reusable filter. And when you need paper products, look for ones made with recycled paper.
Donate to a Verified Non-Profit
Sadly, in any time of crisis, there are people who try to take advantage of our generosity. Here are a few verified non-profits that are doing great work to help the rainforest.
Amazon Frontlines is an international group of people living and working in the western Amazon as human rights lawyers, environmental activists, forestry specialists, environmental health scientists, filmmakers, journalists, anthropologists, and farmers.
Rainforest Alliance brings those involved in business, agriculture, and forestry together to amplify the voices of farmers and communities to protect the rainforest. They also educate people on how to fight and adapt to climate change in new ways.
Rainforest Action Network defends indigenous peoples’ rights to protect their land, life, and culture in the Amazon rainforest.
Amazon Watch partners with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.
Rainforest Trust purchases threatened tropical forests in order to preserve them and protect them from deforestation. And it has been working for more than 30 years!
Why is the rainforest important?
Biodiversity: The Amazon rainforest alone contains around 10% of the world’s known species, including jaguars, capybaras, sloths, and red-eyed tree frogs. Even though rainforests cover less than 2% of our planet’s surface area, they are home to 50% of its plants and animals!
Water: Rainforests add water to the atmosphere through transpiration, when plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis. Scientists estimate that about 15% of the world’s freshwater flows from the Amazon Basin alone.
Climate: In its pristine state, it makes a significant contribution to pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
People: Nearly 1.6 billion people—more than 25% of the world’s population—rely on forest resources for their livelihoods, and most of them use trees on farms to generate food and income.
Medicine: Seventy percent of plants identified as useful in the treatment of cancer by the U.S. National Cancer Institute are found only in rainforests. Scientists have found more than 2,000 tropical forest plants as with anti-cancer properties. However, we’ve only analyzed less than 1% of tropical rainforest species for their medicinal value.
Beauty: It’s awe-inspiring, it’s beautiful, and it deserves to be protected!
Is there any good news?
Yes! Contrary to the popular phrase, the Amazon rainforest is not exactly “the lungs of the earth.” Even though it’s about as important to the planet as lungs are to the human body, it isn’t responsible for 20% of our oxygen. So we’re not going to run out of air because of these fires. And even though deforestation is a problem, thankfully, half of the Amazon is protected under federal law. Still, there are always reasons to help the rainforest and keep fighting for this ecological wonder!