By cutting down rainforests (deforestation), we reduce the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon emissions from deforestation and associated land use change are estimated to be 10-15% of the world’s total. The World Wildlife Fund estimates the world continues to lose 48 football fields worth of forests every minute. Rainforests are being cut down at a rate that will eliminate them in forty years.

When indigenous people have legal rights to manage their forests, deforestation rates often decline. Local communities tend to protect their forests more effectively than governments. These communities depend on the land for their basic needs, but communities often struggle to gain legal power to fight large companies clearing their forests for lumber, pasture, or crops.

Forests are worth protecting

Here are three main causes of deforestation:

Pasture (Cattle Grazing)

Raising animals for food uses huge amounts of land, water, and other resources. More people today are making meat a staple in their diets. To meet demand, agriculture is expanding in the tropics – roughly 80% of new agricultural lands are replacing important rainforests. We can reduce our impact on Earth’s resources by choosing to eat less meat. Meat production uses 75% of agricultural land globally, and producing one pound of beef can take up to 1800 gallons of water.If we all eat less meat, we can use fewer resources and feed more people.

Plant-based diets use fewer resources and feed more people

Crops (Palm Oil Plantations)

Many of the food products sold in our grocery stores have been reformulated to use palm oil (in place of hydrogenated vegetable oils). By checking the ingredients labels on some of your favorite foods, you’ll find palm oil as an ingredient in most margarines, chocolate-coated protein & energy bars, various nut butters (including many peanut butters, almond butters, and sunflower seed butter), and even Girl Scout cookies. The environmental concern with palm oil is that it is grown on plantations which were previously rainforest lands – rainforests are being cut down to provide farm land to grow palm plantations for harvesting palm oil.

Rainforest exhibit at California Academy of Sciences


The demand for hardwood products (such as mahogany, teak, and rosewood) has contributed to deforestation on a large scale from rainforest areas in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Obtaining timber from the rainforest is often cheaper than planting and harvesting native trees such as oak because the loggers are not responsible for the costs of planting. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of timber is logged illegally (without a permit) in tropical rainforest countries such as Brazil (70%) and Cambodia (90%).

Tropical rainforests are the heart and lungs of the planet

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Shifting to a diet that is higher in plant-based protein and lower in beef is healthier for you and our forests.
  • Shop for brands that certify they are gentler on rainforests. Tell companies that it’s important to you that forest products are sustainable.
    • Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, cocoa, hazelnuts, tea, bananas and other foods
    • FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified lumber and paper products
  • From ecotourism to charitable gifts, you can support scientists, conservationists, and indigenous peoples working to protect rainforests.

Table Rock, Protected by the Nature Conservancy

Related LEED® v4 Credits:

  • LEED BD+C, MRp Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials (2 pts)