4 Factors Contributing to Climate Change & How You Can Help

Vermont Woods Studios was founded on a passion for the planet- its forests and their inhabitants. When the company was started in 2005, Peggy was nearing her 50th birthday and made a concrete decision that the time to do something to help fight climate change and save the world was now.

Years earlier, she had started a non-profit, Kids Saving the Planet, but she struggled to raise capital to make an impact. So she turned to business as a vehicle for change. Through Vermont Woods Studios and our non-profit partner Forests For Monarchs, we plant trees for every order and provide an eco-friendly alternative to imported wood furniture, which is a key driver of climate change, as you’ll read below.

But since the company was founded in 2005, it has only become more urgent that we all do our part to help fight against climate change. So we’re putting together this post to help educate about what the leading causes of climate change are and how you can help fight against it.

Transportation

Transportation makes up the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. 28.2% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation alone. With more than half of these emissions coming from passenger cars, light-duty trucks, pickup trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles.

Illegal Logging & Deforestation

In Michoacan, Mexico, swaths of forest land has been clearcut by illegal loggers. We’re working with a non-profit partner to restore these forests, which the monarch butterfly relies upon for its annual migration. Learn more about our partnership with Forests For Monarchs.

According to a 2012 report by Interpol and the United Nations, global deforestation accounts for 17% of all carbon emissions globally, more than 1.5x the amount of emissions produced by the global transportation and shipping industries (including all air, road, rail, and shipping traffic).

“Reducing deforestation, and especially illegal logging, is therefore the fastest, most effective and least controversial means to reduce global emissions of climate gases.” -2012 Report from Interpol and the United Nations

Deforestation is one of the major challenges facing the world today. Over the past several decades, the Earth’s most valuable forests have been decimated by deforestation. Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface now cover a mere 6%. Currently, we are losing rainforest land at an average rate of 1.5 acres every second. Experts say if we continue on this path, the last remaining rainforests could be gone in less than 40 years. Read more facts about deforestation.

Two of the key drivers of deforestation include:

  1. Illegal logging to supply the international furniture and flooring markets
  2. Slash and burn agriculture (for cattle or monocultures like palm oil)

Illegal logging to supply the international furniture and flooring markets is an especially big problem in Central and South America (the Amazon basin), as well as forests in Southeast Asia, Russia, China, and Africa.

Often times forests are clear-cut by illegal loggers, and then the remaining vegetation is burned and the area converted into farmland. The two biggest drivers of slash and burn agriculture are cattle farming and monocultures. Cattle farming supplies the world’s demand for beef. Although many crops are planted in monocultures (corn fields, apple orchards, etc), palm oil plantations are especially problematic because of their scale and the areas of the planet where these plantations have sprouted.

Palm oil plantations are common in Latin America and Southeast Asia. 25% of Indonesia’s rainforests have been clear cut to put in palm oil plantations. During this process, the forests are slashed and burned, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and leaving many animals, especially endangered species, like orangutans, without a home. When this happens, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, roughly 4.8 billion tonnes annually, which equals 8-10% of carbon dioxide emissions globally.

This is incredibly alarming because forests also act as carbon sinks. So not only are we releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by clear-cutting trees, but we are also taking away a valuable resource of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Talk about a double negative.

Livestock & Animal Agriculture

Cows produce methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide

Not only does agriculture create demand for pastures that drives deforestation, it’s also a key contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions itself. Livestock like cows, buffalo, and sheep use fermentation to break down food in their stomachs. This process creates methane and nitrous oxide, both gases that have a higher potential for warming than carbon dioxide.

According to the New York Times, these gases produce the equivalent of almost 10% of carbon emissions in the US.

Food Waste & Over Consumption

According to the EPA, 22% of the municipal solid waste that makes up landfills is food waste? This equates to roughly 30.6 million tons of food waste every year within the United States.

When food waste is sent to the landfill, there is no oxygen for it to properly break down. Therefore, this anaerobic process creates methane, which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere.

5 Easy Ways to Help Save the World from Climate Change

1. Avoid Palm Oil Products

You might think palm oil is only in your food, but it can also be in your furniture. Palm oil or oil palm biomass can be found in certain furniture products as an alternative to wood-based furniture and a variety of other applications like adhesives, gloss, and other treatments.

Inform yourself about how you can avoid supporting unsustainably made palm oil products including food, makeup, soaps, shampoos, and furniture. The problem is extremely complex as there are 170 different names for palm oil and boycotting it completely is not a viable solution.

2. Reduce or Eliminate Your Consumption of Meat and Eat More Plants

Animal livestock and eating meat are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture as a whole.

It is stated that if cattle were their own nation (no other meat included), it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Globally, 14-18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture alone.

By adopting a more plant-enriched diet, we can lower the greenhouse gas emission that comes from livestock by 60-70%. It is important to note that you do not have to become a vegan or vegetarian to make a difference. Reducing your meat consumption and replacing some dishes with plants can make a huge impact.

3. Start Composting

Start composting your food scraps to convert methane into carbon dioxide. If you don’t have the ability to start composting, try reducing the number of food scraps you have by using as much of the food as possible – get creative!

4. Drive Less or Go Electric

There are many ways you can help reduce the emissions from transportation including flying less, carpooling more, using public transportation, walking, or biking. Even implementing one of these proposed solutions once a week makes a difference. Additionally, if you have the ability to do so, you can request to work more from home to reduce the daily commute to work.

5. Buy American Made Wood Products

The international furniture and flooring markets are one of the key drivers of global deforestation. Trees are harvested from vulnerable forests in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Russia, and those logs are often sent to china for processing. In China, the origins of the illegal woods are obscured, and the logs are processed into hardwood flooring and furniture. Those products then get shipped all over the world to supply furniture and flooring markets, including in the US.

Buying American made wood furniture and flooring ensures that your purchase doesn’t support this practice.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Marina McCoy

Marina McCoy is an award-winning, Zero-Waste & Recycling Expert and Founder/CEO of Waste Free Earth. She has been living zero-waste for the past six years and loves sharing her enthusiasm for waste reduction with anyone willing to learn. For more than half a decade, Marina has been building custom zero-waste strategies for businesses and events all throughout the United States, helping lower their overall waste consumption and environmental impact.