Walk the Walk: Be a Better Consumer
Protect the Amazon & help save our planet by being a mindful consumer.
Buy only what you need, reuse, don’t waste, research the products and pick environmentally friendly, cleanly sourced items that treat workers and living beings fairly and ethically. Learn where your product comes from, and how far it traveled to get there. Determine what natural resources are used and how much energy was needed to produce it. Buy locally and organically. Think renewable. Think clean. Think less. Think with kindness. Think future.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. You Are What You Eat
2. Keep Trees and Forests Standing
3. Where Does Your Energy Come From?
4. Do You Know Where Your Gold Comes From?
5. Work with Amazon Aid
My consumption impacts myself, my family, my community and the world at large. I consider issues of health, environment and social responsibility when I make buying decisions.
– Conscious Consumer
1. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!
As a consumer you can directly protect the Amazon by changing the way you eat!
Clearing land for agricultural use is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon and in tropical forests worldwide. The biggest drivers for land conversion for agriculture are:
Over the last 20 years commercial soybean production has risen sharply to become one of the main drivers for clearing the Amazon. However, with recent public pressure there is now a voluntary moratorium to stop soybean expansion in Brazil’s forests. Recent actions to deal with some of the drivers of deforestation, such as pressure to change the soybean industry, has shown how organizations and individuals can slow deforestation of the rainforests by refusal to buy products that aren’t environmentally friendly and through awareness campaigns to expose destructive unsustainable practices. Soybeans are mostly used for their oil, and as a major ingredient of livestock feed, with a smaller percentage used human consumption.
Palm Oil production is now monopolizing the global market for vegetable oil and is found in roughly half the packaged products sold in US grocery stores. Palm Oil plantations currently covers more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface and is mostly produced commercially and on a large scale. It is estimated that by 2022, Palm Oil plantations for biofuel will cover 700,000 hectares in Brazil. Old growth forests are cut, destroying the habitat and homes of many species. It also adds to climate change. When forests are cut and burned not only is the tree’s carbon released, but the soil heats up and dries out to release the soil’s underground carbon.
Beef (Cattle & Pasture)
The main cause of destruction to the Amazon is for cattle production. Sixty to seventy percent of all deforestation of the Amazon has been to clear and convert land for cows. Beef is considered to be one of the most inefficient foods to produce, contributing 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions and requiring 11 times more water and 28 times more land than pork, chicken, dairy and eggs. Additionally when compared to other plant based products such as wheat and rice, researchers found that beef requires 160 times more land and produced 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions. In many cases cattle are fed plant based grain. It can take up to 10 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. 1.3 billion tons of grain are consumed by farm animals each year. Cattle production causes environmental problems from land degradation and air and water pollution to loss of biodiversity. Animal agriculture is responsible for approximately 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Boycott Companies Responsible for Rapid Deforestation Rates
We know that the root cause of the unprecdented amounts of fires in the Amazon is rapid deforestation for the purposes of ranching, farming and mining.
The question is: who are the companies responsible for the rapid deforestation that is threatening the most diverse ecosystem on the planet, its indigenous peoples and ultimately the global climate? Click on the button below to learn more.
Eat Less Meat!
Land conversion for cattle ranching is the largest cause of deforestation of the Amazon. Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined. Cattle also release methane into the atmosphere exacerbating climate change. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon. The production, processing and distribution of meat requires large amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, water, feed and fuel. In many cases grain is given to cattle for food. In the United States around 4 million acres are for producing plants for humans to eat, while around 56 million acres of land are used to grow feed for animals. If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million people. Eating less meat will reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the Amazon, world’s forests and the environment.
Buying local is a great way to cut down on the environmental impact of your food. When you buy local you reduce the distance and the energy needed for the food to travel. Short food supply chains help boost your community economy and provides fresher products that will retain more nutrients. Support stores that limit waste and support environmentally friendly products that are local and organic. When eating out look for local restaurants that use locally sourced products.
Read the Label
Reading the labels on your food product can give you information for purchasing sustainable products. In some cases the packaging will show whether your product is organic, and produced ethically. If you are not sure about your purchase, information can be found on the internet for environmentally friendly products. Think before you buy products with soy, palm oil or other materials that may harm the environment.
Eat It Raw
Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits!, Grow it yourself ! Eating your food raw is not only healthy but it cuts down on energy needed to cook it. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables usually guarantees fresher food, and in many cases it will be local, which will cut down on energy needed for transporting the item. Join a community garden or try a vertical garden and grow your own food. Not only will it taste great but it will be fun.
Look for organic products. Pasture-raised organic animals have less of an environmental impact and are treated more humanely than animals raised in industrial settings. Animals raised organically will have access to the outdoors and cannot be given hormones or antibiotics, which is not only healthier for the animal but for you. Certified organic plant based foods are grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, and petroleum, or sewage-sludge-based fertilizers. Sometimes organic can be expensive so if you are on a budget choose smartly and look for organic products that have the largest impact for protecting the environment.
Don't Waste Food
Around one third of all food produced for humans is wasted or lost and accounts for around 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions yearly. Greenhouse gas emissions from food waste is the third largest emitter after the United state and China. Food loss and waste also recklessly wastes natural resources, including land, energy, labor, water, and capital.That’s something to think about! You can help! Tell your friends too! Purchase and eat only what you need. Don’t throw away the leftovers-make a new meal, give it to somebody who is hungry, or try composting. Adding composed plant based food to your soil creates a nutrients rich soil that promotes vitality, biodiversity of soils critters and growth. Many companies and organizations globally are dedicated to solving the problem, by recycling waste into biofuels, giving extra food to the poor and hungry, and offer expiring products for a lower costs.
Grow Your Own Garden
Grow your own garden of food and you will not only enjoy fresh, nutritious vegetables, but you will cut down on your carbon footprint. If you have no outside space for growing food look for cool new ways to grow food vertically. Try growing flowering plants that attract the pollinators(bees, birds, bats, butterflies and beetles)that carry pollen from plant to plant to fertilize and allow the plant to reproduce. Over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops are fertilized by the pollinators, a crucial interaction needed for reproduction and to sustain these plant species. The misuse of chemicals, climate change and the loss of habitat has threatened the world’s pollinators. Plant a garden of flowers that the pollinators love and your yard will not only be beautiful but buzzing with important life that helps our planet thrive.
2. KEEP TREES IN THE AMAZON AND TROPICAL FORESTS STANDING
Use less wood products.
One of the most important things people can do to mitigate climate change is to keep trees in the Amazon and the world tropical forests standing. You can directly affect change by paying attention to what comes from all things made from wood.
Illicit Logging is a $100 billion global industry. Sustainable, responsibly sourced logging can be a long-term source of income for local people, but frequently individuals and companies do not follow protocol and the law. Studies have shown that, in Peru alone, 80% of all timber cut is from illicit sources. In many cases organized crime is involved. Most logging activity is concentrated along highways and major rivers. Trees are oftentimes cut on protected areas and are mixed in with wood taken from legal logging concessions making it difficult to identify the wood that is illicitly cut. The most valuable timber species in the Amazon basin is mahogany which is valued for its color, quality and longevity. One tree can be worth thousands of dollars in the US markets. Trees cut in the Amazon are also used locally for charcoal, pulp and building materials. Unsustainable logging causes significant damage to the Amazon forests, including threats to the indigenous peoples, fragmentation of the forest and habitat, loss of of species and biodiversity, pollution, decimation of wildlife for bushmeat, and more roads making it even easier to access remote areas of the rainforest. Today many conservation groups and organizations are advocating for sustainable certified wood products which helps maintain forests and prevent the land from being converted for agriculture and cattle ranching.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Use Less - Buy Recycled - Reuse
When purchasing recycled paper products, look for those that are made with the highest amounts of recycled content. Look for tree-free paper products that are made from kenaf, waste straw, or hemp.
Use your own reusable bags at the grocery store, cloth napkins, and avoid using paper plates and cups. Work digitally to cut down on your paper use.
Buy Certified Wood Products
Look for wood products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative(SFI). These wood products have not been harvested in old growth forests or have used chemicals in their production.
Learn about alternatives such as recycled or reclaimed lumber, and independently certified.
Buy Non-Timber Sustainable Forest Products
The Forests of the Amazon produce many non-timber products including rubber, medicine, Brazil Nuts, fruits, nuts, and fibers. Purchasing sustainably managed forest products can create incentives for working in the forests in a way that does not harm the environment.
3. WHERE DOES YOUR ENERGY COME FROM?
How you consume energy can help save the Amazon and the world.
The burning of fossil fuels-oil, gas and coal-is the main driver of climate change. Studies have found that American refineries process approximately 171,000 barrels of oil from the Amazon annually. The expansion of oil and gas is posing a serious threat to the Amazon and leads to deforestation, soil and aquatic poisoning, air pollution and indigenous conflict. Since many of the Amazonia rivers are connected, oil spills in one area can travel the rivers to affect new areas. Fish often travel great lengths of the Amazonia rivers and tributaries and can be exposed and poisoned by regions polluted by toxic spills. Oil can adversely affect the fish eggs and larval survival. Fish are one of the main staple food of the peoples of the Amazon. Proposed oil and gas fields now cover around 283,172 sq miles of the Amazon, hat which is larger than the state of Texas.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Use Less Energy
Turn down your thermostat, share a ride, or leave your car at home and instead walk, ride your bike, or take local mass transportation. THINK about how you use your energy and where it comes from.
Educate Yourself About Your Government's Energy Policies
VOTE for candidates that support a green economy Every country is becoming aware of issues related to climate change. Carbon from fossil fuels is the main contributor of climate change and organizations, companies and governments are developing policies worldwide to promote a green carbon free economy with clean fossil free energy sources. What is your country doing to curtail climate change and promote clean energy sources? Who are the leaders on climate change and how can you support them? Vote green!
Support the Renewables
Renewable energy sources come from the Earth – found in the air, from sunlight, our oceans and deep within the ground. They are constantly being renewed by nature and cannot run out. Using renewables will help keep fossil fuels in the ground. As we becomes more knowledgeable about the implications of climate change alternative renewable energies are emerging and becoming cheaper and more efficient. HOW COOL IS THAT? Learn where your energy comes from. Some power companies provide an optional service, called green pricing, that allows customers to pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated from clean, renewable energy sources.
What are Renewables?
- Solar - Technologies that convert the sun’s energy and light into energy.
- Wind power – Winds are captured by wind turbines to generate electricity.
- Geothermal – Harnessing the heat from under the Earth’s surface or from the earth’s constant temperature 10 feet underground to supply heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.
- Oceans – Capturing thermals energy from the sun’s heat and mechanical energy from the motion of waves and tides
- Bioenergy from biomass - Converting organic matter from recently living plants or animals into energy. Burning biomass for bioenergy generates about the same amount of carbon dioxide as the burning fossil fuels. However, the new plants grown for biomass pull in similar amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to keep bioenergy as an energy source close to carbon neutral. Unfortunately, tropical forests are cleared to grow plants for biofuels making this renewable problematic.
- Hydroelectricity - Catching kinetic energy of flowing rivers and waters to produce electricity. BE AWARE – Some hydroelectricity comes from dams which can be destructive to forests and ecosystems.
4. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR GOLD COMES FROM?
You can protect the Amazon and world forests by purchasing cleanly and responsibly sourced gold products.
Illicit and unregulated artisanal and small scale gold mining(ASGM) is a new and growing threat that is destroying and poisoning the Amazon and world forests. ASGM is a type of gold mining conducted by individual miners or small enterprises with limited capital investment and production. In most cases the miners use mercury, and operate in poor conditions, with no controls or regulations.
While ASGM can be an important means to help people out of poverty, it can also destroy the environment leaving in its wake desert-like wastelands poisoned with mercury and other toxic chemicals that are used in the process. Approximately 100 tons of mercury is released into the Amazonia atmosphere yearly. This mercury contamination travels throughout the Amazon tributaries, accumulating in the fish that ingest it, and in turn poisons the people who eat the fish both near and far away from the mining sites. Mercury is one of the most toxic elements on earth and can cause severe neurological effects including brain and organ damage, lowered IQ, and in some cases a shortened life span. Children and pregnant women are the most affected. The impact of the release of mercury cannot be overstated. Mercury is invisible and can remain in a system for as long as 10,000 years.
Artisanal and small scale gold mining is the largest emitter of human caused mercury pollution in the world– even more than the burning of all fossil fuels globally.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Be Aware and Share
Gold is in many things from your cell phone to the jewelry you wear. Learn about issues related to small scale gold mining and tell your friends. Did you know that it takes approximately 100 tones of earth to make one gold wedding ring?
Ask Questions and Buy Cleanly and Responsibly Sourced Gold
- Ask your jeweler/or gold supplier where their gold came from.
- Is the gold fair-trade and fair-mined?
- Is the gold conflict and cruelty free?
- Is your gold recycled?
Precious metals can be recycled repeatedly with no degradation in quality, they are both a renewable as well as a natural resource.
Support Organizations Working to Promote a Clean Supply Chain for Gold
There are many organizations working globally to tackle issues related to illicit small scale gold mining. Many organizations including Human Rights Watch, The UN, Global Witness, Survival International and Amazon Aid, are working to promote a clean supply for gold that not only protects the Amazon and its peoples, but peoples and habitats worldwide. The situation is urgent.