Expert Insights

Restoring Our Forests

Kevin Jennings
July 9, 2023
Forests support the environment by regulating the climate, cleaning our water and preventing soil erosion. Trees improve our air quality by turning carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe. How can you do your part to preserve and restore them? Read on.
two people hiking through the forest

Protecting and Re-Growing Our Forests

GreenCars offers a safe haven for the green lifestyle. A place where you can learn how to be a part of the solution when it comes to many of the manmade ecological maladies that face our world today.

In this article, we hope to explain some of the perils impacting our forests and wildlands and to share the steps you can take to help preserve them. When faced with big problems, we often hear people lament, “What can I do?" and "I’m just one person.” However, we can all make small changes that will result in a big difference in the world. Together, we can be the change.

car parked by a forest

Be Grateful for Forests

Forests are the living, breathing lungs of our planet. They support the environment by regulating the climate, cleaning our water and preventing soil erosion. Trees improve our air quality by turning carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe. They also play a significant role in removing harmful CO2 and other pollutants found in the air. Much of which can be attributed to burning fossil fuels. Trees even protect us from natural disasters like floods and landslides and provide homes to a variety of wildlife both small and large.

Did you know that forests cover about 30 percent of our planet’s land mass, and that 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found within them? Though rainforests cover less than seven percent of our planet’s total land mass, they are home to 50 percent of earth’s plants and animals, according to The Nature Conservancy. Unfortunately, every day 200,000 acres on the Amazon rainforest is burned and destroyed. That’s a football field-sized section every second.

Ending Deforestation

The biggest danger facing forests around the globe today is deforestation; chopping down or burning thousands of acres of forest land to create more room for agriculture fields and pastures used for farming and raising cattle. For hundreds of years, humans have encroached on forest land, destroying and degrading much of the planet’s natural wild places. Already, we have lost half of the forest land on earth. Industrial activity has decimated the Amazon rainforest as well as massive forests in Canada, Indonesia and the Congo. In fact, over the past 50 years, we have lost 17 percent of our rainforests.

Besides turning forests into pastures for cattle or fields for crops, we cut down forests to develop housing tracts, logging and mining. The wood from these trees is used for everything from building materials and furniture to printer paper, books and toilet paper. As our forests disappear, so do many plants, animals and insect species, throwing off the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, we are losing over 10,000 species of rare plants and animals every year to deforestation.

We must take the appropriate steps to protect the forests we have left. They protect us from the greenhouse gases that are contributing to the warming of our planet. Ending deforestation is one of the quickest and surest ways to slow the effects of climate change. Organizations such as Green Peace, World Wildlife and Tree Foundation aim to protect forests everywhere from deforestation, working with people and calling out industries that are destroying our forests including governments who fail to protect them.

In 2019, the United Nations released two science reports that urge “the saving of forests in order to curb the extinction crisis and fight climate change.” So, what can you do? Let’s find out.

What You Can Do

We want you to know that all is not lost, and that change is coming. Last year, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname signed a pact to protect the Amazon Basin from deforestation and fires in the rainforest. Because of climate change, over 80,000 fires broke out in the rainforest in 2020 alone. Together, the seven countries agreed to a plan of reforestation and the replanting of trees in devastated areas. There are numerous organizations that you can engage with to support saving the rainforest. These deforestation conservation groups include Amazon Watch,  Conservation International, Rainforest Alliance and Trees for the Future. But that’s just the beginning. You can also make a positive difference by doing any of the following suggestions.

Be Careful What You Eat

The rainforest is being cut down to create pastureland for cattle and fields to grow soybeans and palm oil. When you are at the grocery store, check the food product labels before making your purchases to see if they include soy or palm oil ingredients. Reduce your intake of red meat and, when you do eat it, buy from local farms that use sustainable practices. You can make a big difference by voting with your dollars and selectively choosing sustainably produced foods and products.

Vote with Your Dollars

Buy used products and those made with recycled materials. One of the byproducts of deforestation are tropical woods such as ebony, mahogany and rosewood used to make furniture and musical instruments like guitars. Seek out forest-friendly products such as shade-grown coffee and look for products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance. Plus, there are hundreds of companies that give back to the environment. You’ll find a list here.

Reduce Use of Paper

To save trees, there are many ways we can reduce the amount of paper products we use. For instance, you can use paper made from recycled pulp or use technology instead of paper. Resort to e-bills. Use sharing libraries or read digital books and magazines. When you must print something on paper, use both sides of the sheet. If you need a straw, use a recycled paper straw to replace the plastic straws contributing to ocean pollution. Use cloth napkins, cloth diapers and air-powered hand dryers instead of products sourced from paper – or try an alternative like recycled paper towels.

Prevent Forest Fires

Another way to prevent the further destruction of our forests is to prevent forest fires. Be sure to create a fire free zone around your house. Remove dry grasses and weeds from around your property. Keep trees cut back and away from buildings. Use fire-resistant roofing materials. When camping or using public lands, obey local laws regarding campfires and keep a fire extinguisher close by. Drown all fires and dispose of all smoking materials. Stay with fires until they are completely out and dispose of wood ashes in a metal bucket, soaked with water.

If you spot a forest fire, dial 911 to report the fire right away. Tell the dispatcher when and where you saw the fire. Let the dispatcher know if you saw anything suspicious in the vicinity of the fire and stay on the line until instructed to hang up.

A person planting

Plant Trees!

Reforestation will help us restore damaged ecosystems and limit climate change. Take the initiative and plant trees in your community by joining organizations that plant trees in your town, state, country and around the world. According to The Tree Foundation, “Whenever you donate, make sure your money is going to restore native ecosystems rather than planting timber monocultures destined for logging.” Find out more by visiting One Tree Planted, and Trees for the Future.

Contact Legislators

Call, write or email your state representatives and remind them that protecting the rainforest, as well as supporting local land management, is an important aspect of curbing global warming and climate change. Require them to support low-carbon development, deforestation-free supply chains and clean energy. You can find your federal elected officials here.

Electric car by the forest

Drive an Electric Car

Our rainforests are being impacted by oil extraction. However, new technologies that rely less on ecologically damaging oil and gasoline production is making a positive difference. You can reduce your carbon footprint and help our rainforests by driving an electric car. According to the Department of Energy, “Switching to electric vehicles is one guaranteed solution to reducing carbon footprints and, thereby, mitigating any further damage to the environment.” By driving a zero-emission vehicle and using clean energy to recharge your car, you can be part of the pollution solution by making a positive environmental change for the betterment of the planet and all its creatures.

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt