In 2012 the United Nations designated March 21 as the International Day of Forests as a way to raise awareness on the global impact forests have on poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, and food security. According to the UN, forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, and about 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for food, shelter, fuel, and medicine.
On the International Day of Forests, everyone can participate in activities that support forests, from tree plantings to photo contests. This year’s theme is Forests and Sustainable Cities. According to Trees Atlanta, as recently as 2009, Atlanta’s urban tree canopy covers nearly 48 percent of the city. However, that urban forest is currently under threat, as two of the top three counties in the Southeast experiencing the most annual deforestation are in the metro Atlanta region.
Here are a few ways that you can help protect our region’s tree canopy and support sustainability:
Implementing small individual changes can have a big impact. Instead of receiving bills by mail, opt for electronic our auto-billing whenever possible. Rather than buying new best sellers, borrow books from the library, or opt for used copies, or download an e-book. Subscribe to digital versions of magazines and newspapers to cut down on paper use (and get news in real-time!) When purchasing paper or wood products, look for the Forest Stewardship Council seal, which denotes that the products were sourced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Support brands and retailers who’ve made a commitment to use certified sustainable palm oil in their products. Palm oil is a globally-traded good used in thousands of consumer products, from cosmetics to cookies. While ubiquitous, often palm oil is harvested in a way that contributes to the destruction of tropical forests and peatlands, thereby damaging ecosystems and contributing to global warming.
You can protect our region’s tree canopy by purchasing from local manufacturers who’ve made a pledge to sustainability. Atlanta-based TreeZero manufactures 100% tree-free office paper, made with recycled sugarcane waste fiber that traditionally is burned or landfilled.
Villa Rica-based Eutree manufactures hardwood flooring, panels, decking and other lumber products that aren’t logged out of forests. Instead, Eutree works with urban tree services to divert hardwoods, preventing millions of board feet from regional landfills each year.
Metro Atlanta boasts a wide range of organizations dedicated to sustaining the city’s tree canopy and wildlife. Get involved by volunteering at a work day, attending a special event, or simply donating to the cause. You can go even further by getting involved with a national organization with a statewide presence, like The Nature Conservancy or U.S. Forest Service.
Take care of the trees you already have. Be sure to regularly mulch and prune your trees, and water new plantings and saplings. If your yard is overrun with English ivy, kudzu, and other invasive plants, remove them to protect your trees. Plant native wildflowers instead for a fragrant, eye-catching alternative.
Raise Your Voice
Show and tell friends and family how they, too, can protect trees and cut down on tree product consumption. Learn about your local tree protection ordinance, and if your city is considering initiatives that could potentially harm the urban tree canopy, contact your City Councilperson and make your voice heard. If you suspect trees are being removed without city permits, contact your city arborist to make them aware.
By protecting our trees, we protect ourselves and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable community.