If you hadn’t already heard, the planet is in a little bit of a crisis right now. August saw devastating fires spread across the Amazon, plunging the city of São Paulo into total darkness…almost 2,800km away! The fires were deliberately started by farmers aiming to quickly clear large areas of land to make room for livestock and crops. This is called slash-and-burn farming and it is destroying one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet. 25% of the world’s carbon emissions are captured by the Amazon rainforest, earning it the nickname “Lungs of the Earth” but, it’s under threat from farmers, loggers, miners and politicians all trying to line their pockets.
So, how can we help save the Amazon?
1. Swap Google for Ecosia
Did you know that just two Google searches generate around 14g of CO2?  That’s the same amount of energy as it takes to boil a kettle. Imagine how much carbon you’ll generate writing your dissertation…Yikes! Making a simple switch to Ecosia means you’ll plant trees as you search, offsetting your carbon footprint and restoring forests all over the world. Ecosia is run off 100% renewable energy so download the app and add the extension to your browser now to start planting trees with the click of a button.
2. Unsubscribe from the emails you never open
No, I don’t mean the ones from your lecturers…I mean the fast fashion brands luring you in with endless sales, and the marketing emails you’re still getting from Freshers Fair. Not only will it declutter your life, but it’ll help save the planet too. One standard email can generate as much as 4g of CO2 and emails with attachments can be as much as 50g. It may not sound like a lot, but it all adds up, especially when you consider that sending sixty-five emails is the same as driving 1km in a medium-sized car.
3. Say no to those Burger King cravings
EXPOSED! Burger King and McDonalds have been buying beef from areas of the Amazon that were ablaze this summer. The UK is responsible for sourcing £1bn worth of beef over the last 5 years from companies tied to the deforestation of roughly 500km2 of Amazonian rainforest every year. So that burger might treat your taste buds and your wallet, but it comes with a very different kind of price. In fact, the unethical practices of fast food outlets have even inspired video games. The next time you’re procrastinating, have a play on ‘Burger Tycoon’ (and don’t forget to search for it using Ecosia!)
4. Use Less Paper or Sustainable Paper
Student life is surrounded by paper. A quick walk around campus and you’ll see notepads, textbooks, coffee cups and takeaway boxes everywhere you go. The problem is most paper can only be recycled five times before it becomes paste. Demands for paper are high and forestry can’t keep up. We can reduce this pressure by using travel mugs, printing only when necessary and using recycled notepads. Luckily these solutions are tree-rific for your bank balance! A key example is coffee shops offering discounts for using your own mug: invest in one now and you’ll be saving in no time.
5. Buy local produce
One thing I love about living in Bristol are the markets. In particular, the farmer’s markets, with their colourful, naked array of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Buying local produce has so many benefits such as supporting the local community and reducing our carbon footprint and they’re usually less reliant on chemicals and preservatives needed for long journeys. So, get out of the house and go find some vegetables that weren’t unnecessarily grown half-way around the world. Maybe you’ll discover some vegetables you wouldn’t normally buy. Get creative and you might even discover your inner Ainsley Harriott!
There are so many ways we can help save our forests and, by extension, our planet too, but consider starting with these five simple ones for now. After that, consider where else you waste carbon, food and other materials in your life and start making other changes. Maybe you’ll carpool, or take public transport, or maybe you’ll limit yourself to just one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race a night and pick up a book instead. Whatever you do, just remember it takes thousands of people doing it imperfectly, not a few doing it perfectly, to make a difference.
- Pan, Y., Fang, J. et al. (2011). A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science, 333(6045), pp. 988-993.
- Swaine, J. (2009). Two Google searches ‘produce same CO2 as boiling a kettle’. The Telegraph.
- Berners-Lee, M. (2011). How bad are bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books.
- Wasley, A., Heal, A. and Campos, A. (2019). UK purchased £1bn of beef from firms tied to Amazon deforestation. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2019-09-17/uk-purchased-1-billion-of-beef-from-firms-tied-to-amazon-deforestation [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019]
Featured image: Ellie Potts