Guest poster, Abby Ray, who used to spearhead media outreach for the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit organization, wrote this amazing post months ago. I just found it amongst a series of draft articles. Time moves so quickly that Abby is now a master’s candidate in the Sustainability Management Program at Columbia University . Go Abby! (Sorry Abby posting this article took so long.) She also writes a local NJ blog called ecoMotown.com that focuses on eco-friendly living in Morristown and the vicinity. Welcome, Abby!
When you stop at your local coffee shop to order your large latté, do you ever stop to think about where your coffee beans come from? What about the wood patio furniture you’re lounging on? The flowers you buy for your sweetheart? If you’re like most people, why would you? Those goods are certain to have come from a long way away.
Why should you care about these everyday things? Well, the chair you’re sitting on could be illegally logged, hurting the livelihoods of legitimate foresters and potentially causing massive habitat destruction. That organic coffee you’re drinking? Sure, it might not have been grown without chemicals, but what if the farmer recently cleared a pristine rainforest to be able to grow that coffee? Often times, forests are worth more when they’re gone and farmers can use them to grow cash crops like soy and palm oil – or use them to graze cattle.
You might be thinking now – well, is anything safe? There’s no way I can possibly worry about all of these things. That’s why the Rainforest Alliance has done your homework for you; we’ve made it easy to be a responsible consumer. We’re an international nonprofit organization that works with farmers, foresters and hoteliers, typically in areas of high biodiversity, to help them manage their land and businesses in a sustainable way. We also work with companies in the U.S. and Europe to create connections to those farmers, foresters and hoteliers so that they have buyers for those sustainable goods.
Farms – whether they grow coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, flowers or sugar — that meet strict standards on sustainability can earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. You, as a consumer, can look for that seal (a little green frog) when you’re out at the grocery store.
Rainforest Alliance Certified farms protect waterways, curb deforestation, promote wildlife conservation, reduce agrochemical use, protect workers rights, and provide decent wages and housing to farm workers as well as access to education for farm children.
When it comes to wood, we are the leading certifier of the Forest Stewardship Council, the gold standard of responsible forestry. When buying wood or paper goods, consumers can vote for the more sustainable option by picking something that is FSC-certified. FSC-certified wood can be traced back all the way to the forest, where local and indigenous community rights are respected, workers have safe working conditions and landowners have created a forest management plan to help conserve waterways and wildlife habitat.
And because tourism can have such a huge impact on areas of high biodiversity (like the tropics), the Rainforest Alliance has developed a sustainable tourism program. Right now our searchable database of hotels that work with us on improving their sustainability includes operations throughout Latin America, and we’ll be expanding soon.
I encourage fellow Green Talk readers to vote with your spending dollars! Each time you buy a certified sustainable product, you are showing companies and farmers that you support them for doing the right thing. If you don’t see certified products at your local retailers, be sure to request those products. Businesses respond to consumer demand for certification, which will support sustainable farming and forestry and ensure that workers and wildlife are protected.
Editor’s note: I have spent an hour on the Rainforest Alliance website. A must read. If you are a teacher, they have wonderful resources. I urge you to support their fine work making it possible for generations to come to keep the Rainforest intact.
Logo courtesy of the RainForest Alliance.
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- How to Make Your Workplace More Sustainable: Grass Roots Approach