The corporations that turn rainforests into toilet paper

The Ethical Shopping Guide is a cool new resource.  It lets you check out the environmental and social impacts of corporations that produce the products you buy every day.  As Penny van Oosterzee and ALERT director Bill Laurance argue in a new essay, the Ethical Shopping Guide has some surprises for us all.

A rainforest cleared for wood pulp in Sumatra (photo by William Laurance)

A rainforest cleared for wood pulp in Sumatra (photo by William Laurance)

One of these is that a lot of the paper products that many of us use every day — from diaries and newspapers to cardboard and toilet paper — are helping to destroy the world’s most biologically diverse forests.

For example, much of the forest clearing to date on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia has been driven by two mega-corporations, Asia Pulp & Paper and APRIL (Asia-Pacific Resources International Limited).  Between them, they’ve destroyed millions of hectares of native rainforest — first turning the rainforest into paper pulp and then replanting the cleared land with monocultures of exotic, fast-growing trees to produce yet more pulp.

Although APP and APRIL are now claiming that they intend to reduce their clearing of native forests, the onslaught is far from over.  Indonesia recently announced that it plans to fell another 14 million hectares of native forest in Sumatra, Borneo, and New Guinea by 2020, for industrial pulp and oil palm plantations.  That’s an area larger than Greece.

So, pass the word.  One of the best things we can all do to help the natural world is to vote with our wallets — to avoid the products of corporations with bad environmental records. 

And we should tell retailers selling such products that we think they should drop them altogether — or we just might start avoiding those retailers as well.

And while we’re voting with our wallets, we should let the forest-killing corporations know — loudly and emphatically and often — why we’re treating them like a plague-carrier.