HOW ONE SMALL TREE FARM AND A LEADING CORPORATION HELPED FUEL MY HOPE FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Paper Myths that need to die

This blog post is sponsored by FSC International, Domtar Paper, Charmin, and Bounty.

Humans and wildlife need healthy forests to survive, and anyone who’s spent time in them knows how wonderful they can make us feel. Camping in the woods as a child instilled an awe for nature in me that I have never lost. And because of this, I know all-too-well how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by the rate at which we our losing the world’s forests. From clear-cutting for agriculture, ranching, and urban development, we have already lost nearly half of the Earth's original forest cover. Seeing trees cut down, in a once-wooded-area where I am from in Tennessee, making way for some fast-food restaurant, strip-mall, or parking lot, brings tears to my eyes on the regular. Is there no way around this feeling of despair and hopelessness for our forests, and our planet as a whole? Well, by visiting one, small FSC-certified tree farm in Arkansas, my hope for the future was fueled in a much-needed way.

I learned first-hand how some of the biggest players in the paper products industry are using responsible, sustainable management practices to actually create healthy forests and foster human well-being at the same time. I got to go behind-the-scenes and get a unique look at P&G’s commitment to sustainability, seeing how they are using forestry for good in all of their Charmin, Bounty and Puffs products. I also got to witness their symbiotic relationship with the leading organizations: Domtar, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Four States Timberland Owners Association (FSTOA) where, together with P&G, they are not only driving progress in responsible forest management, but also helping ensure a more sustainable future for us all.

 Breathing in the freshest air at a sustainable tree farm during a unique, behind-the-scenes look into responsible forestry.

Breathing in the freshest air at a sustainable tree farm during a unique, behind-the-scenes look into responsible forestry.

Driving through a family-owned farm in Arkansas that serves as one of Domtar and P&G’s pulp suppliers , I could feel and smell the health of their natural, local ecosystems. I saw deer and birds, and even traces of wild boar that regularly bathe in their mud. On a once degraded hay farm, now stands hundreds of thousands of healthy trees. Where there once was a landscape altered by humans harming the natural ecosystem, there now stands one that mirrors the natural, local environment. Partnerships like this (of leading corporations, local communities, and environmental leaders) may seem like a small win, but this is the kind of collaboration that our planet needs right now. When corporations commit to doing the right thing, they have the potential to create a scalable, positive impact.

Speaking with the landowners and foresters that have been a part of this family-owned farm since 1999, I learned that they view this plantation as their “30-year-old garden.” They began planting pine trees here, where there had previously been a foreclosed hay farm, and they now supply their surplus wood to paper mills like Domtar. In fact, 500,000+ trees are replanted each year on this farm alone. I learned that, in Arkansas, around 27 million tons of timber are grown each year... and of that, only 13 million tons are harvested. If it weren’t for tree farms like this one, who plant trees for paper and wood production, millions of Arkansas trees would be at risk for exploitation by land development. Think of those ugly shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and parking lots.

 8 year old Pine stand

8 year old Pine stand

Unlike some other industries, the sustainable paper that Domtar produces and P&G uses isn’t sourced by clear-cutting forests. In fact, the image portrayed when encouraging consumers to “go paperless” doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the environmental potential of paper done right. I learned that the paper industry in America is actually helping US forests thrive. In Arkansas alone, 1.2–1.5 million acres of forest has been added since the 1970’s due to their growing timber industry. More than 50 percent of the state is covered in trees, in large part due to the existence of the paper industry, so “The Natural State” for now is actually staying that way.

Another counter-intuitive way that harvesting wood for lumber and paper actually helps our forests, is by preventing forest fires and the spread of disease. I learned, from the FSTOA, that surplus density of more than 40% of trees in a forest is hazardous. Think an over-grown forest. According to one of their representatives, “Having too many trees, in any given area, actually makes our forests more vulnerable to infectious outbreaks and uncontrollable forest fires.” California doesn’t allow any trees to be removed from its conservation areas, and according to these plantation owners, “it’s a likely reason why so many forest fires get out-of-hand there.” And the Forest Stewardship Council agrees: “The natural cycle of forests includes death, so good forest management systems use science to sustainably manage them… to mimic nature.”

In my research for this post, I also learned that tree plantations such as this one, in the United States, are an example of the fifteenth most powerful way to mitigate climate change (Project Drawdown). With some of the best research from scientists around the world, they have concluded that the establishment of tree farms, on previously deforested land, can both improve the health of ecosystems and take pressure off of our natural forests. They also result in 18.06 gigatons of reduced CO2. Knowing this, these organizations are working together, not only to ensure the sustainability of the paper products industry and help take care of the world's forests but also to provide a natural carbon-sink that wouldn’t exist without them.

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So, what does the FSC certification on paper products actually mean?

In order for a tree plantation or farm such as this one to be eligible for FSC certification, it must meet rigorous environmental standards. Not only does the Forest Stewardship Council require that native species aren’t endangered by the creation of any farm, they also stipulate that, as part of pre-harvest activities, sites with rare and endangered animals must take steps to protect them. It also guarantees that the social and economic wellbeing of workers are prioritized, and that indigenous peoples’ legal and customary rights are not affected by land management activities.

How is P&G helping take care of the world's forests?

For every tree harvested, for use in the production of their paper products, at least one is regrown. As of July 2014, 100 percent of the virgin fiber found in all of Charmin, Bounty, and Puffs comes from sources that have been 3rd-party-certified as responsibly sourced. P&G Family Care and its partners are also working together to increase the supply and demand of FSC certified products through various initiatives, which will benefit the broader paper industry. P&G also continues to work closely with existing smallholder efforts, such as the Four States Timberland Owners Association, and works with its partner organizations to expand on those efforts to directly support the adoption of the FSC forest certification among non-industrial woodland owners.

People and paper have gone hand in hand for almost 2,000 years, and in 2013 the United States alone used approximately 69 million tons of it. Knowing that the production of such a massive consumable like paper can be done sustainably and ethically is inspiring to say the least. It also makes me feel better when I consume sustainable paper in my daily life. By purchasing FSC certified, sustainable products like Bounty, Charmin, and Puffs, I can have confidence that our world’s forests are being cared for, local communities like those in Arkansas have economic and social well-being, and that sustainable forestry efforts that sequester carbon are financially incentivized.

 May Hall trees planted amongst Pines

May Hall trees planted amongst Pines

This visit to, what might seem like a small tree farm in Arkansas, truly helped fuel my hope for the future of our planet as a whole. The passion of the foresters and the organizations all coming together to do the right thing was something beautiful, to say the least. As more corporations make the initiative to do things sustainably, I hope you are given hope as well. As I said before, this may seem only like a small win, but as one of my favorite quotes by Ryunosuke Satoro says, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Small wins, and small farms, when added together can become something much greater.

As always, thank you for reading! Let me know any questions you may have about my trip to Arkansas, or what I learned about the sustainable paper products industry, in the comments below.

-Renee

 Follow me On Pinterest @Model4greenliving!

Follow me On Pinterest @Model4greenliving!

THE BEST PODCASTS ON HEALTH, SUSTAINABILITY, AND MINDFULNESS.

THE BEST PODCASTS ON HEALTH, SUSTAINABILITY, AND MINDFULNESS.

I have curated the best podcasts on health, sustainability, and expanding your mind in the list below. I also included MY first two podcast interviews at the bottom for you to learn more about me. Whether you're interested in sustainability, the human body and mind, the environment, vegan health, social justice, or just want to be inspired; there's bound to be a podcast for you to discover. I hope you enjoy!

Read More

THE TRUTH BEHIND ZERO WASTE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE PRIVILEGE.

THE TRUTH BEHIND ZERO WASTE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE PRIVILEGE.

This year, for Earth Month, I decided to experiment with going zero-waste. I began with the simple idea that anyone can do it and, by doing so myself, that I would make the world a "greener" place. Some prominent zero-waste influencers suggest that this is a possibility for all of us, so we should all try. And to some extent, I agreed. I quickly discovered, however, that a complicated set of corporate and institutional structures prevent most people from ever coming close. 

I saw first-hand that waste-free living is nearly impossible if you aren't extremely diligent and privileged with free time to do so in the first place. Is striving for zero-waste on an individual level the best way to use that privilege for the betterment of our planet and society as a whole? Or should we also be demanding governments finally get involved with us? 

Read More

WHAT I EAT IN A DAY, AS A PALEO-VEGAN

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     When the Ethical Writers and Creatives, a group that I'm a member of, proposed that we all do a "What we Eat and Why" link up, I was eager to participate. The questions, What is healthy?What is morally right?, and What is sustainable?, all come with answers that are different for everyone. They are also often met with an eye-roll. I know I've asked myself these questions, on my journey to live a better life, with multiple answers that have shape-shifted and evolved over time.

My Dieting Journey (eating disorder included)

      I started off on a standard American diet. Around the age of 21, I became vegetarian, then vegan, and subsequently developed "orthorexia" due to the pressures that I put on myself to be a size zero for the fashion industry. I am more naturally a size 4, so I used my vegan diet as an excuse to under-eat and make myself smaller for my work. Last year, I was able to recover with the help of my family and friends, and got back to my healthy weight. I realized that I was blogging and speaking up for the health of animals and environment, but I wasn’t treating myself with the same compassion. I decided that, in order to be sustainable for myself, something had to change.

     I still wanted to be vegan for ethical reasons, but needed something different that would allow me to gain weight in a “healthy” way. You can read more about the importance of eating less meat for our environment in this post. I listened to a famous vegan YouTuber who touts, "Eat as much as you want, just very low fat and lots of fruits!" so I when I first upped my calories, I went on a high-carb low-fat (HCLF) vegan diet. I should also add that this new diet had a heavy emphasis on sugar being perfectly healthy.  (Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is..)

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"High-carb, low-fat vegan was actually making me sick."

     Soon thereafter, although I gained the weight back and was no longer feeling malnourished, my health began to suffer in other ways. At the time, I truly believed that my new diet was the way to recover from years of under-eating, in a healthy way. In hindsight, any diet that celebrates table sugar and eating pounds of fruit probably isn't a smart idea. In November 2017, I tested positive for hormonal imbalances, had extreme fatigue, and developed Perioral Dermatitis on my face. Obviously, something wasn't working.

     Instead of trying to tackle my diet on my own again, I decided to seek the help of an Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Herbalist and Nutritionist. With their guidance, I have been eating a plant-based Paleo type diet, that avoids excess sugars and increases my daily fat intake. (phew!) It appears that high-carb, low-fat vegan was actually making me sick, and the key for me is balance! I truly hope that this new diet helps me achieve sustainable health, and is also sustainable for the planet. Only time will tell.

Whole Food, Plant-Based or Paleo-Vegan?

    My current diet is still plant-based and made up of primarily whole foods. Almost all plant foods, except for grains and white potatoes, are also considered Paleo. What makes my diet more specifically paleo rather than whole food, plant-based, is that I am limiting my fruit and bean intake to only once a day, and rarely eating quinoa with no other grains.  You may have heard of the term "Paleo" lately and associate it with high meat consumption only. I believe that my vegan diet however, fits into that category as well.

     A Paleo diet is loosely defined as a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans (1). Since we only have presumptions to go off of, it's my opinion that a vegan diet, as long as it doesn't include grains, processed junk foods, sugars, and alcohol, is also one that our Paleolithic ancestors may have thrived on. 

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What I Eat in a Day:

      My whole food, plant-based, Paleo-type diet (again with the long labels... sorry!) gets the majority of its bulk from non-starchy vegetables. These include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, green beans, zucchini, celery, cucumber, collards, tomatoes, etc. It also more sparingly includes starchy vegetables (legumes and root vegetables), fruits, seeds and nuts, avocados, unsweetened plant “milks,” tofu, tempeh, and oils. All herbs and spices are allowed, and a big part of my treatment is a personalized herbal tea that I drink twice daily. The biggest adjustment has been cooking myself vegetables for breakfast in the winter, instead of having lots of fruit or cold cereals.

     I am also not supposed to have frequent snacks throughout the day, but instead three solid meals. This was difficult the first week, but now my body is used to it. Intermittent fasting (not snacking and having a long break between dinner and breakfast) is said to allow the body to heal faster, because your energy isn't allocated to digesting all day long (3). I feel this has been very beneficial for my health. The saving grace for me, in this diet that makes me abstain from sweets, is that I don't have to give up dark chocolate or coffee. Two of my favorite things. My standard daily meals look something like this:    

Breakfast

Smoothie bowl with paleo granola or fresh fruit in the summer. I try to use low sugar fruits such as berries, and apples, as well as fresh greens in my smoothies as well. Cooked veggies and tofu scrambles for in the winter.

 image and recipe via  Fool Proof Living

image and recipe via Fool Proof Living

 Recipe and Image Via the  Minimalist Baker

Recipe and Image Via the Minimalist Baker

Lunch

A veggie-heavy salad in the summer, including kale or mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, alfalfa sprouts, overnight-soaked legumes (peas, lentils, beans, etc.), half of an avocado, and freshly squeezed lemon, for my lunch... Or (you guessed it) more cooked veggies or a soup in the winter.

 GoodNess bowl  via Lazy Cat Kitchen

GoodNess bowl via Lazy Cat Kitchen

 my favorite meal out: sides matter from Hu Kitchen

my favorite meal out: sides matter from Hu Kitchen

Dinner

For dinner, my favorite meal is a macrobiotic bowl (sans grains) in the summer, and roasted veggie power bowl in the winter. Check out my post about the macrobiotic diet here.

 Home Cooked meal from Model4greenliving

Home Cooked meal from Model4greenliving

 Paprika Roasted Macro Bowl via  FLora and Vino

Paprika Roasted Macro Bowl via FLora and Vino


      I try to vary what I eat everyday based upon what's in season and listen to my body when I shop. If I look at fresh corn or green beans, for example, and my mouth starts to water than I know my body wants it. Listen to your body too! The healthier you eat, the more in tune you begin to be with what your body really needs. I have found that, during the summer, a combination of raw fruits and veggies during the day and cooked veggies at night works best. During the winter, I eat more hot, cooked veggies and tofu scrambles for breakfast, soups and roasted vegetables during the day, and cooked vegan dishes at night. I also try to combine my fat intake with salads and cruciferous vegetables so my body can process my meal more easily (3).

     I hope this look into a typical day for me has been helpful for you. Everyone is different, so I am by no means prescribing my diet for you, or criticizing anyone who eats differently than me. To say this has been a fun and easy process would be a lie. I do know however, that through this undertaking, I am setting my self up for sustainable health in the long run. Let me know in the questions below if you have any questions, and check out this great book to learn more about a whole food, plant-based diet.


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5 SUSTAINABLE GIFTS FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST

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     When thinking of all of the possible gift guides I could provide this holiday season, I kept feeling a sense of urgency to not do your average list. Yes, buying sustainable alternatives to the normal stocking stuffers is helpful. Giving sustainable alpaca socks, handcrafted by fairly-paid, South American artisans, instead of those trendy Zara Faux Leather Gloves, made of polyester and coated in polyurethane, is important. But unless our loved ones asked for those things specifically, how do we know they need them? Does your mom or boyfriend, really want another pair of socks or gloves? 

     Thats why I've decided to create a list for the holidays, this year, that I can truly get behind. One that helps us all make a switch for the better, that desperately has to be made for our planet... A PLASTIC-FREE HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE! It's a win-win because you get to give to those you love (something they actually need), and at the same time encourage the helpful habits needed for our planet's sustainable future.

Help your loved ones keep our natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace single-use plastics and encourage the helpful habits needed for our planet's future.


GIVE A PLASTIC-FREE HOLIDAY!

See below for examples of the things that I never leave my house without, that all easily fit into my purse or day bag. Together we can help our loved ones keep our oceans and natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace single-use plastics and all that other "one-use" junk that never really goes away. 

1. Reusable Shopping Bag


WANT TO EXPLAIN YOUR GIFT AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT? 

Check out my talking points below and give the gift of information this holiday as well!

What is a single-use plastic?

Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Examples of single-use plastics are plastic bags, straws, iced and warm coffee cups, soda and water bottles, eating utensils, and most takeaway food packaging.

Click the picture above to read my campaign to end the mindless consumption of single-use plastics:

How much are we actually using?

Every year, the use of plastics is increasing. According to Project Drawdown, “The total production of plastics is estimated to grow from 311 million tons in 2014 to at least 792 million tons by 2050. This is conservative, with other sources estimating over 1 billion tons if trends continue.” 

Why is it a problem?

Single-use plastic utensils, straws, bags, bottles, and cups are polluting our planet. Recent studies estimate that "by the year 2050 there will be more plastic—by weight—than fish in the ocean," WEF, New Plastics.

Together we can help our loved ones keep our oceans and natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace "one-use" junk that never goes away. 

      Now I know what you’re thinking... What if my friends and family already made the sustainable switch? They don’t need another reusable bottle or straw... If that’s the case, Woo Hoo!! Might I suggest that you make a donation in their name to charity instead? The Pachamama Alliance is doing amazing work to protect the Amazon Rainforest, it's people, and the Amazon River.

"The rainforest's rivers play a central role in feeding  hydrological cycles (the circulatory system of the planet) and are central to regulating the global climate. In partnership with many other organizations, Pachamama is developing a plan to secure permanent protection for the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon River region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and Peru. This area is recognized as containing the highest levels of biodiversity in the entire Amazon basin and perhaps in the whole world. I want to protect that area from any more clear-cutting and oil exploration, and my guess is, so do you and your family. Pachamama is one of the BEST charities to donate to, making a tangible difference for our planet’s future through their efforts. CHECK THEM OUT HERE: Pachamama Alliance

MAKE THIS EASY, PLANT-BASED PIE FOR YOUR HOLIDAY AT HOME

This decadent, vegan pie is the perfect dessert for holidays spent at home.

     It's the holidays, and for me that means spreading compassion however I can. Even with food! If you're at all like me, then you may be the only vegan in your household too, and you want to make dishes that everyone loves. This pie is sure to please everyone who has a sweet tooth... and watch out, because it will disappear fast! It's so good that it may even convert your non-vegan family members... or at least encourage them that plant-based doesn't mean boring.

     Made with chocolate and hazelnuts, it fits just as well with warm holiday dishes as it does with a pile of raw greens and fruits. Thankfully it's a pretty straightforward one to whip up and you probably have the majority of the ingredients hanging out in your pantry already. Even in a blizzard, a skip down to the bodega or corner store for hazelnuts is not out of the question. These measurements can be changed to fit your dietary needs and tastebuds also, so feel free to adjust as you see fit. Bon Appétit!

 
This post originally appeared on Sustaining.Lifewhere you can find simple vegan recipes, a sustainable shopping guide, and holistic musings about living a sustainable lifestyle. All images are by Faye Lessler.

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut TortE

Prep time: 60 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes.

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Ingredients:

• 1 cup flour

• 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts

• 6 oz dark chocolate (75% - 100%) - you can sub up to half of this with cacao or cocoa powder if you're running short on chocolate chips/baking chocolate

• 1 tsp vanilla extract

•  2 tbsp maple syrup

1 cup sugar

• 3 tbsp coconut oil (cold, slightly solid)

• 2-6 tbsp ice wate


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Directions:

1. Grind 1/2 of the hazelnuts in a blender until powdered. Add flour, hazelnut powder and 1/2 of the sugar to a large mixing bowl and incorporate.

2. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil and iced water, adding one tbsp at a time as you mix with a wooden spoon. Dough should form, smooth but a little crumbly. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Once cooled, roll out as much as possible before pressing dough into the pie dish. Heat oven to 350*F.

4. Prepare a double boiler by placing a smaller pot inside of a larger one, 1/3 full of water. As the water in the bottom pot boils, the smaller pot will float without touching the bottom of the larger pot. Add chocolate, vanilla and 1 tbsp coconut oil to the small pot and let melt.

5. When chocolate is 1/2 melted, add remaining sugar and maple syrup, stirring as you go. Remove from heat just before all of the chocolate is melted and stir vigorously until smooth (or as smooth as you can get).

6. Add remaining hazelnuts, roughly chopped, to the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. 

7. Add chocolate mixture to the crust, even out with a spatula, then top with more chopped hazelnut pieces.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the center of the pie settles and the crust is browned.

9. Let cool for 20 minutes, then slice and serve with a generous helping of vegan ice cream! This torte is even better served cold the next day.

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Renee Peters

Renee Peters is a NYC-based model, blogger, and advocate of mindful, sustainable living. She strives to be a role model by using her platform for positive change. Through her blog, Model4GreenLiving, Peters seeks to reshape the way people think about environmental issues and provide practical tips and everyday actions for readers.  Peters uses social media to promote that same message, as well as one of self-love and body-positivity. She also volunteers, is an environmental activist, and is an avid learner of anything relating to the planet and its health. For booking inquires visit Muse Models NYC or Nomad Management Miami.