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5 Surprising Things That Are Harmful to Our Forests

Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to get ugly from the get-go (yes, we still can't get over #1)

Source: Anton Bozhina [11]

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In today’s modern world, it’s easy to feel disconnected with our forests and much easier to forget just how much our ignorance is hurting one of Earth’s greatest treasures.

Here are five surprising things that you may not realize are harming our forests.


1. Avocado

Delicious-looking ripe avocado
Avocado is easily one of the world's trendiest superfood with a large following base.

Source: Louis Hansel [12]

As the poster child of millennial healthy eating, avocado is easily one of the trendiest members of the superfood squad.

Also known by its alias, alligator pear, this native fruit of South Central Mexico is so rich in nutrients! Did you know that adding avocado to your diet can lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and also give you a healthier complexion? [1]

Yes, we’re talking about that glow, dah-ling.

Hold the guac, though. We hate to admit it, but the overall hype around avocado does come at a cost to the environment. In Mexico, high demand for avocados has caused massive deforestation by farmers who have to clear the land for the crop.

Not only that, but producing avocados also needs lots of water. In fact, one kilogram of avocados needs two thousand litres of water, which is four times the amount needed to produce one kilogram of oranges! In Chile, locals have blamed the global obsession with avocados for droughts [2].

Even more shocking, the rise of avocados have also attracted thefts! In Michoacán, where 80% of Mexico’s avocados originate, cartels run a so-called “blood avocado” trade, violently enforcing a nonnegotiable extortion fee from farmers based on the size of their land and the weight of their crop [3].

Ehem, what we’re trying to say is, you might want to go easy on avocados.

Avocados are good, but a healthy planet is even better.

2. Car wax

A shiny red car driving down the asphalt road
Carnauba wax has a high melting temperature and is resistant to UV rays and water.

Source: Pixabay [13]

Ever wonder why your car is so shiny? Well, you got carnauba wax to thank for that!

Native to Northern Brazil, carnauba wax comes from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree, which are gathered, dried and beaten to loosen it.

While it's widely used for confectionery products and cosmetics, it is the IT ingredient for your car wax because it has a high melting temperature and is resistant to both UV rays and water, which prevent oxidation, fading and discolouration while adding that glossy and shiny finish we all love to see [4].

Translation: Applying a layer of carnauba wax saves you $$$ from polishing or repainting your car.

But If it has so many benefits, then why is it on the list?

Well, the problem with carnauba wax is its production is very costly to the environment. It's linked with high rates of deforestation, biodiversity loss and persistent droughts. On top of that, there are also some ethical issues involved in carnauba wax production, such as poor working conditions and low pay.

The good news is, there are some organisations who are supporting local suppliers to find new approaches to the many social and environmental challenges in the industry [5]. So things are definitely shaking in the carnauba wax industry.

3. Toilet paper

Stacks and rows of toilet paper
In the rage of COVID-19, one of the biggest things people have been hoarding is toilet paper.

Source: Jasmin Sessler [14]

Remember when toilet paper was all the rage months ago?

While the coronavirus has finally reached its last stage, we don't think the mental image of people fighting over toilet paper in supermarkets is going away anytime soon.

But it's kind of scary when we think of the environmental impact behind this panic buying. Take the U.S for example. Even before the coronavirus, the U.S was already the biggest buyer of toilet paper in the world!

Did you know that people in the U.S use roughly 130 rolls of toilet paper each year? [6]

That's right and what makes it scary is this massive consumption is taking a toll on far away places, say, the Sumatran rainforest a.k.a the home to the critically-endangered Sumatran tigers and the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia [7].

In some parts of the world like Brazil, deforestation has gone down by almost 80% since 2004. But it's an entirely different case with Indonesia where its deforestation rate has nearly doubled over the last decade—with pulp and paper being one of the largest contributors [6]. And US markets have recently seen an influx of products made with fibres from Sumatran trees.

Imagine our tropical rainforest getting trampled by chainsaws and bulldozers....

....for toilet paper.

Want to save our Sumatran tigers? Start buying tissue products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified or 100% recycled [6]. If you want to go the extra eco-mile, you can also switch to bamboo toilet paper or even wash cloth for a change.

4. Rubber

A car tire
About three-quarters of the world’s rubber harvest goes to make automobile, truck and airplane tires

Source: Mike [15]

Okay, we’re letting the spotlight on natural rubber here, not its synthetic sister.

We get natural rubber by tapping the rubber tree for its sap (also known as latex).

About three-quarters of the world’s rubber harvest goes to make automobile, truck and airplane tires—almost two billion a year [8]. That’s how much we depend on rubber.

As the second-largest rubber producer in the world, Indonesia supplies tons of rubber to the global market [9]. While it enriches our country and provides a stable income to rural communities, our current rubber production is highly unsustainable, which can seen by how we are slowly destroying the home of indigenous communities and some of the world's endangered species! In the process, we're also converting our forests into a monoculture, which greatly diminishes soil fertility. Yikes.

There's some hope, though. In Sumatra, Indonesia’s Thirty Hills Landscape, WWF is working together with Michelin and its joint venture partner to design zero deforestation plantations, showing that natural rubber can be produced in a sustainable way while still maintaining a sustainable flow of income for local communities [10].

Last but not least....

5. Palm Oil

As much we hate to say it, almost EVERYTHING contains palm oil. From pizza to lipstick to shampoo.

But it's not really hard to see why. Palm oil lends great texture to foods and is semi-solid at room temperature. It's also odourless and colorless so your food smells like....well, your food [11].

Source: Business Insider [12]

But its production is rife with ethical and environmental problems, from the widespread razing of some of the world's biodiverse forests to the devastation of orangutan habitat and the burning of peatlands. As if all of that is not heartbreaking enough, palm oil production also makes our planet more vulnerable to climate change as a result!

What can you do? Buy RSPO-certified products! In November 2018, the RSPO standard was strengthened and it now acts as an essential tool, which helps companies achieve their commitments to palm oil that is free of deforestation, expansion on peat, exploitation and the use of fire [11].


As consumers, we’ve always been given a choice between convenience and sustainability. But what we read just now shows that living sustainability is no longer a concept or trend; it’s the only way to live. That being said, let’s lend our voice to our forests who are tirelessly working to provide for us and keep us safe.

May the forests be with you.


Disclaimer: This list is not a ranking based on the most damaging things that are harmful to our forest to the least. The things mentioned are written in a random order.








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