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The disappearing rainforests and what you can do about it

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

Did you know more than 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed every day, with an additional 80,000 acres being significantly degraded? That is more than the area of 50 football pitches lost every minute.

Half of the world's tropical forests have already been cleared - this loss of rainforest also means approximately 135 plant, animal and insect species are lost everyday.

The techniques used to clear forests often lead to additional environmental damage: the slash-and-burn technique is a cheap deforestation technique where the trees are cut and then burnt in situ, removing the unwanted trees and making the land more fertile. This releases tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and kills much of the wildlife in the area.

So, what are the main causes of deforestation and what can you do about it?

Agricultural farming

Rain forest is often razed to create grazing land for livestock: each cow in the Amazon basin requires 2 acres of land! Much of the deforestation is driven by large western multi-nationals.

What can we do: Beef is the primary reason for deforestation - to have the biggest impact, try to eat less meat, particularly beef. Luckily, there are plenty of great plant-based alternatives that will make the switch easy. If giving up meat is too difficult, look carefully at packaging to understand where the meat was reared.

Palm oil & soy

Alongside rearing animals, rainforests are also often destroyed to create fertile land to grow crops - much of which are driven by western demand. The biggest culprit is palm oil, an incredibly versatile substance used in food, cosmetics and cleaning products.

Soy beans are another major crop grown in these deforested areas, for both human consumption and also for animal feed. Again, cutting out meat is likely to have a large impact here.

What can we do: read food and cosmetics labels carefully and avoid anything containing palm oil; look out for this hiding in foods like peanut butter, bread, vegan cheese, ice cream and vegetable oil. Similarly, try to avoid soy-based proteins such as tofu or look at labels for soy not grown in deforested areas.

Coffee, coca, tea, rice and banana are also sometimes grown on deforested land so look carefully at a food's origin on the packaging before buying.

Paper and fuel wood

Huge areas of rainforest are logged every year to produce paper and wood-based fuel such as firewood and charcoal. The paper industry alone is predicted to consume 4 billion tons of wood annually by 2020: this demand often results in the deforestation of land to be replaced with fibrous pulpwoods.

What can we do: use a little paper as possible and use recycled paper/card wherever possible. Try to refuse receipts - they are also not recyclable! If using charcoal for fires or BBQs, look at the packaging to ensure it is from legal, sustainable sources.

You can also help by donating to conservation charities

There are a number of fantastic charities working hard to conserve the world's rainforest, you can help them by donating (and sometimes even volunteering):

The Rainforest Trust

The Rainforest Trust purchases and protects rainforests around the world through partnerships with local communities. Since launching in 1988 they have saved over 18 million acres around the world and have 19 million acres more in the pipeline.

Cool Earth

Cool Earth protects rainforest by helping communities that live in and around rainforests to develop livelihoods so they earn more from keeping forest standing.

Rainforest Foundation UK

Rainforest Foundation UK tackles deforestation by helping communities acquire land rights, challenging logging companies and campaigning for better national and international laws to protect rainforests.

>> Read next: How to calculate and reduce your carbon-footprint

>> Read next: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change

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