March 21st is International Day of Forests as established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. In Portugal we celebrate Arbor day.
I do care about the environment but I must admit I care too much and do too little. This might have gone unnoticed, expect for the tragic events of last year. Our forests were devastated by wild fires on two different occasions, June and October. Fatalities: 111 people. Non-fatal injuries: close to 300. Homes were lost as well as businesses, cars, properties, animals, livestock, etc. We can think “at least those people are alive” and that is definitely true but imagine working for something your whole life, just a simple home, maybe a small business, and having it ruined in a matter of hours or even minutes. It was a very dark year for us and our forests. There were over 400 active fires at one point. Summer is coming and we’re getting scared and asking ourselves if enough was done to prevent a similar tragedy, if we learned something. I really hope we did.
What can we do to help prevent deforestation?
- Do you really need to print that? You sure? Maybe you don’t. Save your printer for when you absolutely need it. Less printing = less paper = fewer trees are cut down.
- If you must print something, can you use both sides of the page? Do it if you can.
- Get your bills digitally. Many companies and service providers are willing to send them by email instead of a letter in the mail. It’s pretty much the same for you. Just save them in a folder instead of printing them.
- Read digital books. I know, we’re book lovers. We’re not going to stop buying or reading actual books anytime soon. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes we don’t need a physical book. When I was a student, we often had to buy books only to read two chapters and be done with them. What’s the point? Besides, you’ll be spending less money and accumulating less clutter.
- Go to the library. You don’t always need to own a book. You can get it from the library. If we all share, fewer books are printed.
- Read magazines online. Yes, I do feel bad about this one too. I know magazines make money by selling printed issues but too much paper is wasted if we all buy magazines, read them once and throw them away. Maybe get an online subscription for your favorites? Your still paying and contributing but not polluting as much.
- Reuse gift bags and bows. Does anyone care if a gift bag was used before? You save money too, Christmas themed gift bags, for example, can be pretty expensive.
- Plant trees. Not everyone has the chance to do this but, if you do, this is the best way to make sure we have plenty of trees. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Use reusable containers. Not only for trees and forests but for the environment in general. Same for cutlery. I understand that paper plates and cups can be really convenient but they’re not environment friendly at all. Just so wasteful. Maybe limit them for parties?
- Avoid paper towels. Another very convenient item we should all avoid. It’s very easy to substitute, though. If you must buy them, get recycled ones. If you don’t mind parting with them, simply use cloth ones.
- Same for napkins. Switching to cloth napkins which you can throw in the wash instead of in the trash is much better.
- This is not for everyone and I understand that but many moms swear by cloth diapers.
- Buy used wooden furniture. Cheaper and you help prevent deforestation.
How to prevent wildfires:
Sadly, most wildfires are caused by people. We should all be educated on how to prevent them. Here’s what we can and should do:
- Never leave a fire unattended. This one is pretty obvious.
- Always make sure you have put out a fire when camping. Using water or dirt, never leave until you’re certain it is out.
- Obviously do not discard cigarettes or anything that might cause a fire from your car. Some people think it’s okay to throw cigarette butts through the window. This is more likely to cause a fire than you can imagine. All you need is a few dry bushes.
- Be informed about local laws when burning yard waste. It is forbidden to do so in Summer when the hot temperatures might help in spreading the fire. Be careful about wind and make sure you have water at hand.
- Clean around your property if you live near a wooded area. You need to protect your home against wild-fire.
- Please follow local rules and don’t think it won’t happen to you. Things happen and there are circunstances you cannot control when it comes to fire.