A Look At Deforestation: Last Year Billions of Trees Fell. Is Anybody Listening?

Deforestation is a huge and complex issue. In a note to US school children in recognition of Arbor Day in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”

To put it into perspective, I can’t help but think of several often used and perhaps misconstrued idioms.  “We can’t see the forest for the trees.”  “You are barking up the wrong tree.”  Better yet, “Let me cut to the chase,” as we ponder:

  • How does deforestation impact you personally?
  • Are investments in your retirement fund financing deforestation?
  • How can we educate ourselves on the risks and opportunities related to deforestation?
  • Do you or your organization purchase goods or services that might increase levels of deforestation?
  • Are you measuring the potential risks of deforestation within your supply chain?
  • Does your organization have a plan for mitigating deforestation risks within your supply chain?
  • What positive steps can be taken to protect remaining forests and increase the benefits they deliver?

The Value of Our Forests

Forests are economic juggernauts generating valuable commodities like the paper and lumber we rely on daily.  Trees are cleared to build our communities. They feed us and provide fuel for billions globally. Forests are the source of many break-through ingredients used in medical advancements.

Forests provide all sorts of invaluable environmental services ranging from water filtration and temperature control to clean air and tourism. They are home to over half of the biodiversity and creatures on earth.   If we made a concerted effort to accurately account for the value of these environmental services, it would easily exceed trillions of dollars annually.

The Loss of Our Forests

World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, another 20% has been degraded.  Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15% intact.

Stumps of Fallen Trees

Billions of Trees Have Fallen, Is Anyone Listening?

The UN Climate Summit Report states the conversion of forests for the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, beef and paper accounts for roughly half of global deforestation. Infrastructure, urban expansion, energy, mining and fuel wood collection also contribute in varying degrees.

Justin Worland reports in an article in Time magazine that “People cut down 15 billion trees each year and the global tree count has fallen by 46% since the beginning of human civilization.”  Deforestation and forest degradation account for anywhere between 10% – 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, deforestation impacts climate change in various ways. The changes include: 1. directly reflecting heat by removing vegetation cover, 2. releasing greenhouses gases through clearing, 3. preventing forests from sequestering more carbon dioxide by cutting them, and 4. the generation of CO2 resulting from the use of bio-fuels.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are credible and growing responses.  But, I would argue, not nearly enough.  Fortunately, innovative new commitments and guidelines should spur increased measurement and commitment helping to stem the tide of deforestation.

Two Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees Providing Canopy

The respiration of our remaining boreal and rain forests are the lungs that inhale CO2 and breathe out oxygen for most of the creatures on the earth. Chuck Burr, founder of www.restorationseeds.com and the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association estimates that, “when you walk from a modern immature woods into the old growth redwoods, the temperature drops 10 degrees F in the summer, the humidity increases 10 percent and the oxygen increase a few percent.  The bottom line is that the climate benefits of a plantation of 30’ (9m) trees is insignificant compared to a forest of 200’ (61m) old growth trees.”
Plain and simple, forests are invaluable and are in crisis.

It’s Time to Take Action – Saving Our Forests

In 2010 the Board of Directors of the Consumer Goods Forum approved a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020.  The aim is to achieve this through the responsible sourcing of key commodities (soy, palm oil, paper/pulp and beef) so sourcing these commodities will not deplete tropical rainforests.

Dozens of governments, scores of international corporations and more than 50 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) signed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014.  The goal of this non-binding agreement is to reduce forest loss by halve, end it by 2030 and restore forest lands by an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon annually.

In 2016, institutional investors with $22 trillion in assets requested that companies report data about forest risks through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).  According to the report, Revenue at Risk: Why Addressing Deforestation Is Critical to Business Success, the total annual turnover at risk for publicly listed companies is estimated to be up to $906 billion.

The United Nations has created a mechanism that enables organizations to participate in efforts that can combine carbon reduction and neutrality efforts with programs that incentivize people and communities to engage in activities that preserve and expand forest canopies.  Better known as REDDReducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries  this methodology was launched in 2008.

TreeZero & 100% tree free, carbon neutral copy paper

At TreeZero, our copy paper is 100% tree free and carbon neutral.  TreeZero recently partnered with the environmental group Wildlife Works to participate in their REDD projects in Africa.  The Wildlife Works projects have been successfully third-party validated and verified against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology, and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard (CCB) at the GOLD level.  Two-thirds of the funds dedicated to TreeZero’s carbon neutrality efforts go to local communities in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide incentives to stop deforestation.

TreeZero is a proud to partner of Wildlife Works and we hope that our customers and consumers find our commitment to the environment of value to their businesses and their sustainability strategies.

Conclusion

If we don’t measure forest related impacts and risks to our organizations and nature – how can we expect to manage and minimize these risks? If we don’t manage them, they are likely to end-up managing us. “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.  Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”  Theodore Roosevelt, October 1907.

The Weekly Round-Up: Focus on Food Waste

Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption. Current estimates put global food loss and waste between one-third and one-half of all food produced.

This week our Round-Up focuses on news and information on this important topic. 

Gleaning is all about feeding the hungry – One major area of food waste in America is in farmers’ fields, where crops that don’t meet top-grade quality are left to rot or be plowed under.  The Biblical concept of gleaning is reemerging as a method, not only for feeding the hungry, but also reducing food waste. According to the Society of Saint Andrews, a group that coordinates thousands of volunteer groups participating in gleaning events. Each year, 35,000 – 40,000 volunteers glean over 20 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce from farmers’ fields and orchards after the harvest for their hungry neighbors.

Volunteer Participating in a Gleaning Event 

The Institute of Culinary Education and The New School Announce Zero Waste Food Conference — Industry leaders, including acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura, will inspire creative solutions to create more sustainable food networks — The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and The New School announce the launch of the Zero Waste Food conference, an exploration of sustainable methods for producing, distributing, consuming and disposing of food in the environments where we cook and where we eat. The conference will take place on April 28 and 29, 2017 at locations on The New School and ICE campuses. Bridging the gap between research and practice, academics, activists, chefs and business leaders and producers will participate in panel discussions, and provide culinary demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes, that uncover innovative techniques for creating delicious meals from food waste.

Congresswoman renews campaign to take on food waste Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree is renewing her efforts to reduce food waste with federal legislation. Pingree, a Democrat, is an advocate for making food donation easier and cutting down on the amount of food that gets thrown out. She is a co-sponsor of The Food Donation Act of 2017, which was introduced on Feb. 7. The bill seeks to modernize food donation rules by expanding liability protections for food donors. Pingree also plans to reintroduce a pair of other food waste bills in the coming weeks. One would address food waste using tools like tax credits, research and a public awareness campaign. The other would standardize date labeling on food by distinguishing between quality and safety date labels.

The global food waste scandalby Megan Tatum –  The world binned or burned the equivalent of £2.9 trillion of food last year. A fetid pile of 1.3 billion tonnes – a third of all the food the world produced – went ‘off’ in fields, factories and family homes, says the FAO, belching out more noxious carbon than any country in the world, with the exception of China and the US.  Stuffed into this squalid mountain of discarded food lie 45% of the world’s fruit and veg, more than a third of its fresh fish and seafood, 30% of its grains and cereals and a fifth of its nutrient-rich dairy and meat – enough food to feed all Africa’s hungry.

Here in the West, our weekly shopping habits, obsession with perfect produce and scrupulous quality controls mean a third of waste happens in the final stages of the supply chain. Whereas in the developing world, as little as 5% of food is wasted by consumers and only 20% during processing, with the overwhelming majority lost in the very early stages of production.  “One of the major reasons is storage and the ability to protect the product from the farm through the supply chain to the customer [versus] a lack of storage facilities, poor distribution networks, and poor transportation,” says Liz Goodwin, former Wrap CEO and now director of food loss and waste at WRI.

The Wisdom of Garbageby JESSICA LEIGH HESTERResearchers are digging into heaps of discarded food to uncover clues about why we throw so much of it away—and how cities can cut the waste. Belinda Li, a project engineer at Tetra Tech, has been dispatched by the Natural Resources Defense Council to excavate hundreds of samples of trash in Nashville, Denver, and New York City—three cities where the NRDC has rooting or established relationships with local organizations. The bin digs are a quest to exhume data from detritus—and from there, to glean information about consumer behavior and food waste.  Trashed food exacts an enormous environmental and economic toll: By some estimates, each American family spends some $1,600 each year on uneaten eats.  

Science is great and gross! Researchers sort through bags of garbage collected in Manhattan(Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab)

Nationally, there’s a larger push to collect and crunch data about wasted food, and then make those stats publicly available with an eye toward shaping policy. Back in January, the Rockefeller Foundation—which is in the midst of a seven-year, $130 million food waste-reduction initiative called YieldWise—threw its support behind a portal designed by a coalition including the USDA and EPA. The Further With Food website allows users to zero in on the data that’s most relevant to them, sorting by audiences (such as students, restaurant workers, hunger relief groups, and lawmakers), sources (like academic, business, and NGO), and topics (including policy, meal planning, and food rescue).  By the end of June the NRDC intends to spin this new data into a toolkit including sample protocols, case studies, and suggestions for scaling up solutions that have proved successful.

Trade groups push to expire confusing food date labels – Consumers are confronted with more than 10 different date labels on packages. The food industry is working to simplify labels on perishable food. Date stamps like “best by,” “sell by,” “use by” and “best before” can be confusing for shoppers.  Those multiple notifications could soon be reaching their expiration date. The trade groups are moving to reduce those “expiration” labels to just two: “use by” and “best if used by.” They say it’ll not only reduce consumer confusion, but also keep people from wasting perfectly good food, reports CBS news correspondent Jamie Yuccas. The new label guidelines are voluntary, but giant retailer Walmart is already on board. It says it supports the effort to “simplify consumers’ lives” and “reduce food waste.”

 

Weekly Round-Up: A Focus on Deforestation

Each week we’ll provide you with a round-up of news, information and happenings on a different topic effecting the environment including deforestation, climate change, sustainability, water stewardship, recycling and more.

This week, we’re focusing on Deforestation. World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, another 20% has been degraded. Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15% intact.

The Round-Up

Plant trees while you search the web – Ecosia is the search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue. Share Ecosia and show friends how they can do good just by searching the web. https://info.ecosia.org/what

Deforestation rises with incomes in developing economies – by John C. Cannon – Economists have for the first time shown a definitive link between rising incomes and a corresponding uptick in deforestation using satellite mapping data. For a long time, economists have assumed that this more-or-less predictable pattern exists in developing economies, but it’s been difficult to prove. “Until now, nobody had found a way of testing it empirically in a convincing way,” said Jesús Crespo Cuaresma, an economist at the International Institute for Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The researchers also expected that reforestation would occur in richer countries as income levels rose, but their research did not bear that out. https://news.mongabay.com/2017/01/deforestation-rises-with-incomes-in-developing-economies/

Ceres and the PRI Join Forces to Tackle Tropical Deforestation – Ceres and the PRI announced a new partnership to tackle widespread, global deforestation driven by escalating production of beef, soy and timber, focusing initially on South America.  Through a new, joint investor group, the two organizations will support global institutional investors pressing food and timber companies to eliminate deforestation and other related concerns, including forced labor and land rights disputes from their supply chains. The announcement was made at an investor event at the United Nations climate negotiations in Morocco, formally called the Conference of the Parties, or COP22. Deforestation is a key topic at COP22, with an estimated 12 million hectares of forest being destroyed annually from human activity, or the equivalent to 36 U.S. football fields every minute. Cutting down forests releases carbon into the atmosphere, and an estimated 10 to 15 percent of global carbon emissions are produced annually from global deforestation, largely for agricultural and timber production. “Beyond the enormous environmental impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change and eroded landscapes that are less climate-resilient, deforestation poses real financial risks to investors with agribusinesses in their portfolios,” said Dawn M. Martin, who spoke at the event and is the chief operating officer of Ceres, which coordinates the $15 trillion Investor Network on Climate Risk. “Working collaboratively will enable Ceres and PRI to achieve far greater impact at stemming deforestation than each of our organizations could achieve alone.” Among the activities planned by the new global investor group over the next two years: Map and develop a set of indicators for evaluating beef, soy and timber companies’ sourcing policies and their impact on deforestation (e.g., traceability, sustainability goals and policies, transparency, adherence to certification schemes); Benchmark 50 to 60 companies in the beef, soy, and timber industries against the indicators. Based on benchmarking results, engage with low-scoring companies (including through shareholder resolutions) to press them to adopt sustainable sourcing policies. Engage in public policy advocacy at the national and international levels. http://3blmedia.com/News/Ceres-and-PRI-Join-Forces-Tackle-Tropical-Deforestation

Deforestation Free Funds is a search platform that enables people to find out if their money, in the form of individual investments or an employer-provided 401(k), may be causing tropical deforestation through investment in companies that produce, consume, or finance palm oil – the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction today. Some companies are making real efforts to reduce the harm that this industry causes – and the goal of Deforestation Free Funds is to help make this happen. By driving transparency in the industry’s financing, we hope to encourage policies and practices that bring about real change. https://www.deforestationfreefunds.org/faq#about

The New York Declaration on Forests – is a non-legally binding political declaration that grew out of dialogue among governments, companies and civil society, spurred by the UN Secretary- General’s Climate Summit. For the first time, world leaders endorse a global timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030. It also calls for restoring forests and croplands of an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon pollution every year – about as much as the current emissions of the United States. The Declaration is endorsed by dozens of governments, [30] of the world’s biggest companies, and [more than 50] influential civil society and indigenous organizations. The associated voluntary Action Agenda (section 2) serves as a guide to governments, companies, and organizations regarding the diverse set of actions that can achieve these transformational goals. http://forestdeclaration.org/summary/

 

Taking Paper to the Next Level

Taking Paper to the Next Level

Welcome to TreeZero’s blog – “Taking Paper to the Next Level”.

Our goal is to reach that next level for paper products by remaking the way we make things with innovation and sustainability.

Innovation is in our DNA and Sustainability is its partner. As our name implies, there are ZERO trees used in the making of our multipurpose copy paper. Seriously, a paper product made with no trees! 100% tree free paper is the most forward-thinking advancement in the paper industry since the introduction of recycled paper in the 1970’s. Forests along with the animals and the communities that rely upon them for their lives and livelihoods need innovation like this! And, we as a global community do too! We use agro fiber waste – specifically sugarcane waste fiber – for our multipurpose copy paper for the manufacturing process as raw material and renewable fuels as our major manufacturing functions.

Not only do we approach the way we make things differently, but we are committed to do so in a sustainable manner. Our TreeZero paper is also Carbon Neutral. What does that mean? We have determined the CO2 generated from our product’s entire value chain – from the growing and processing of the sugarcane through the manufacturing, distribution and disposal of the paper.  TreeZero has committed to offset these carbon emissions through the purchase of a corresponding amount of carbon credits. We are participating in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) projects managed by Wildlife Works in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By doing this, TreeZero is the only tree free, carbon neutral copy paper in North America!

Thank you to the thousands of companies – large and small, colleges and universities, government agencies and individuals who use TreeZero paper every day and care about the environment like we do.

We’ll use this blog forum to share our thoughts with you about a variety of subjects and topics.

Thanks for tuning in, sharing, and being a part of the journey.