Saving What Remains


July 22, 2007

NGOs promote the role of the ordinary individual in conservation efforts. Recent surveys have suggested that the American public is interested in conservation efforts both on a local and an international level. So the will exists; it is only a matter of taking action.

Purchasing and consumption

People in developed countries stimulate the unsustainable harvesting of tropical timbers by demanding such wood products. Try to buy wood products that come from sustainably managed stocks (having a legitimate seal of approval) or non-rainforest woods. Though not as much of a problem now, in the 1980s people in developed countries may have contributed indirectly to rainforest destruction by demanding cheap beef products (the "U.S.-Central American connection") and livestock feed (the "Europe-Southeast Asia connection") in the form of cassava grown on former forest lands. Today palm oil, which is found in a wide range of processed foods and beauty products, is a major driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Don't buy products containing palm oil unless you know it has been sourced responsibly. At present, less damaging palm oil is certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Be ecologically aware when you purchase products.

Support sustainably harvested forest products like nuts and natural dyes and the organizations that provide these goods. Without consumer demand, these products will not be produced.

Always try to reduce power and water usage. Americans use more resources per capita than any other large. Much of the electricity we use is fueled by the burning coal and gasoline, which contribute the climate change. Recycle and reuse as many materials as possible.


Many conservation and consumer groups maintain that lack of information is one of the greatest hindrances to eco-friendly consumption. Stay informed and be aware of newly threatened areas and new developments in conservation methods, along with campaigns against forest destroyers. Numerous resources exist on the Internet and in print.


If you have the ability to travel abroad, practice eco-tourism and support eco-friendly travel in areas that are environmentally sensitive. Just because a tour is advertised as "eco-tourism" it does not mean that it is environmentally sound. Ask around and try to find those operators who are legitimate. When traveling, try to be a responsible tourist and respect local customs.

Discourage the killing of endangered animals and rainforest species by refusing to buy products made up of or containing such parts. Gently tell locals that you would rather see the colorful macaws flying in the sky than having their feathers on your souvenir.


Write to your government representatives and let them know how your feel about environmental issues. Express your concern for the future of tropical rainforests.

Join a biodiversity conservation group or rainforest organization and support campaigns and boycotts against companies responsible for reckless deforestation. If you resolve never to purchase goods from one of these firms, the company loses tens of thousands of dollars of potential revenue over the course of a life time.

Things you can do to help save rainforests

  • Don't buy products made from wildlife skins
  • Don't buy exotic pets that have been collected from the wild. You can ask pet stores whether animals are "wild-caught" or "captive bred." "Captive-bred" animals are more friendly for the environment
  • Buy recycled paper. Reduce consumption of all paper products.
  • Don't buy rainforest wood products unless you know they come from eco-friendly suppliers. A good way to know if wood is less damaging for the environment is if it has a "certification label." The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an example of a certification label body that sets social and environmental criteria for producing wood and paper products from forests.
  • Learn more about rainforests and the plants and animals that live in them. Tell others why rainforests are important.


Sunrise over the rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Review questions:

  • How can I help save the rainforest?

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