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 ENVIRONMENTAL CHARITIES TO GIVE TO NOW

  From Left to RIght : PLASTICS POLLUTION, PALM OIL FARMS CAUSING RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION, mass OVERFISHING leading to ocean SPECIES' EXTINCTION, METHANE POLLUTION FROM INDUSTRIAL CATTLE PRODUCTION, THE CLEAR CUTTING OF FORESTS, AND CORAL BLEACHING DUE TO WARMING SEAS.

From Left to RIght: PLASTICS POLLUTION, PALM OIL FARMS CAUSING RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION, mass OVERFISHING leading to ocean SPECIES' EXTINCTION, METHANE POLLUTION FROM INDUSTRIAL CATTLE PRODUCTION, THE CLEAR CUTTING OF FORESTS, AND CORAL BLEACHING DUE TO WARMING SEAS.

     As an animal lover and environmentalist, I cannot think of a more pressing time to give back to charities fighting to preserve the natural world. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, “Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. We’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species too: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.” The mass extinction occurring on Earth cannot be reversed with more climate change denial and corporate lobbying in the White House. 

From plastics pollution, palm oil farming causing rainforest habitat destruction, mass overfishing, species extinction, methane and water pollution from industrial cattle production, the clear cutting of forests, and coral bleaching due to warming seas, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Donating to charities fighting against big oil, wall street, and other corporate interests is an easy and positive step in the right direction.

     Organizations standing up for nature need our help, now more than ever, if we are to keep the planet's continued destruction at bay. I have listed the top environmental charities to give to now. All of the charities listed below have proven track records in environmental protection, conservation, and habitat restoration. Each is also transparent with their research expenses and funding, and spends 80% or more of the charity’s total expenses on the programs and services it delivers. Donations made to any one of these organizations can help ensure that the wildlife and ecosystems of planet Earth are protected for us and the future generations to come.


350.org

350.org logo

     "350 is building a global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice."

     "Climate change isn’t a distant, abstract problem — it’s here, today. People all over the world are feeling the impacts, from island nations that are going underwater, to indigenous land being exploited for fossil fuel extraction. The fight against climate change is a fight for justice. That means listening to the communities who are getting hit the hardest, and following the leadership of those who are on the frontlines of the crisis."

     Visit 350.org to find out more information and about how you can get involved.

350.org climate march cop22

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Biological Diversity Logo

     “At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive."

     Visit The Center for Biological Diversity to learn more or check out the video below.


Conservation International

Conservation International Logo

     On a global level, Conservation International is doing great work to protect our planet. “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, they empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.”

     “For more than 25 years, Conservation International has been protecting nature for the benefit of everyone on Earth. Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. Our food, our water, our health, our jobs — they all rely on the health of the planet’s ecosystems. Conservation International works at every level, from remote villages to the offices of presidents and CEOs, to find these solutions. Our work is moving entire societies toward a healthier, more sustainable development path — so that we don’t use up today what we’re going to need tomorrow.” 

     Visit Conservation.org for more info or check out the video below. 


EarthJustice

Earthjustice Logo

     "Earthjustice is a public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities. Earthjustice uses federal and state environmental laws to protect the environment by taking government agencies to court for failing to enforce our nation's environmental laws, and corporations for breaking them. Earthjustice does this work on behalf of hundreds of community and environmental groups, providing legal services free of charge. True and lasting change happens when the power of the law is on your side. That is why the earth needs a good lawyer." 

     Visit Earthjustice for more information or check out the video below, featuring the true story of a town who "discovered strength in unity and turned the tables on the powerful oil & gas industry."


Greenpeace Fund

      "Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future."

     "A group of thoughtful, committed citizens came together in 1971 to create Greenpeace. That was more than 30 years ago, and in that time, Greenpeace has indeed changed the world. And we continue to make the world a better place. Our committed activists and supporters have come together to ban commercial whaling, convince the world’s leaders to stop nuclear testing, protect Antarctica, and so much more." 

     Visit Greenpeace for more information on how they are are protecting the environment, and how you can support their cause.

Greenpeace ocean activism by Denis Sinyakov

Natural Resource Defense Council

NRDC logo

     "NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. We combine the power of more than two million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild. NRDC was founded in 1970 by a group of law students and attorneys at the forefront of the environmental movement. Today's leadership team and board of trustees makes sure the organization continues to work to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities."

     Visit NRDC for more information and check out the video below, explaining ocean acidification due to global warming and how NRDC is working to combat it.


Oceana

Oceana Logo

"Oceana was established in 2001 to fill the gap of missing resources spent by environmental nonprofit groups in the United States going towards ocean advocacy. Oceana is an international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals. Since its founding, Oceana has won more than 100 victories and protected more than one million square miles of ocean. Find out more about how Oceana is helping to save the oceans victory by victory here."

     Visit Oceana to find out more information, and watch the video below.


Rainforest Action Network

Rainforest Action Network logo

     "Rainforest Action Network campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action. RAN envisions a world where each generation sustains increasingly healthy forests, where the rights of all communities are respected, and where corporate profits never come at the expense of people or the planet."

     "We are committed to doing what is necessary, not only what is considered politically feasible, to preserve rainforests, protect the climate, and uphold human rights. We are committed to working with Indigenous communities and frontline communities directly impacted by profit-driven systems of injustice. We support the leadership of these communities in working on strategic and effective solutions to protect people and the planet. We honor the intrinsic value of biodiversity and wildness. We recognize our interdependence with healthy natural systems and seek to maintain the integrity, richness and abundance of life in all its forms. We support Traditional and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including the right to sovereignty, self-determination, reparations and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) regarding decisions implicating customary rights on traditional lands. We believe creativity, integrity and people power drive the success in our campaigns and in our organization; while compassion, irreverence, and a celebration of life’s possibilities drive the commitment to our mission."

     Visit Rainforest Action Network to find out more and to donate to their cause. Also watch the video below to see their work fighting against the devastation of the  Palm Oil Industry.


Wildaid

Wildaid logo

     "WildAid’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. We envision a world where people no longer buy wildlife products such as shark fin, elephant ivory and rhino horn."

     "While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products by persuading consumers and strengthening enforcement. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and global network of media partners, WildAid leverages nearly $200 million in annual pro-bono media support. Our message reaches up to 1 billion people every week. WildAid's strategy for achieving this goal is to reduce demand for these products using our slogan: "When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too."

Visit the WILDAID website to learn more and watch the video below to see what their work looks like.


Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. Our food, our water, our health, our jobs — they all rely on the health of the planet’s ecosystems. But we’re taking more from nature than nature can give. We can end this crisis. But we need big ideas and even bigger solutions. -conservation.org


     No matter who you decide to give to, giving back benefits us all. I encourage you all to find an organization that aligns with your ideals, and give back in any way you can. Visit CharityNavigator.org to find out more information and determine which charities are best for you.