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Individual Action

What You Can Do | Individual Action | Community & Beyond

Help sustain the world's forests.

Nearly half of the 3.4 billion cubic meters of wood consumed annually is used in construction and for paper and other wood products. On average, per capita paper use is nine times higher for someone living in a developed country than for someone living in a developing country. You can decrease paper consumption in a number of ways. Begin by recycling paper and buying products that use less packaging. Bring your own tote sacks to the store instead of getting plastic bags each time you shop. Another way to cut down on paper, and one you might find especially useful, is decreasing the amount of junk mail you receive. Visit the Action Network at the Center for a New American Dream to learn how and for other useful tips.

Buy and use certified wood.

Forest loss in developing countries is estimated to be as high as 170,000 km2 per year. Wood certification means that the wood was harvested in a way intended to ensure the continued viability of the forest from which it was taken. If you're making repairs, renovating, or building, look for certified wood products and environmentally friendly furnishings. Many of the home improvement chain stores sell certified wood. Home Depot and Lowes are two of several. Also, look for furniture manufactures, like Ikea, who advertise that their furniture is made of certified wood.
Learn about wood certification.

Following are just three of many organizations that have wood certification programs.
Buy eco-friendly flooring.

. Today you can buy renewable cork and bamboo flooring and carpets that have been manufactured sustainably — for example, carpets made with a percentage of recycled material. Also check the manufacturer's commitment to recycling and to converting to a nearly zero effluent manufacturing process. Recycling solid waste and reducing particulates released to the atmosphere during manufacture are both goals that should be supported.
Check out your local flooring or home improvement stores. If looking online, here are just three of many sites to shop:

Reduce the pressure on the world's fish supply.

Many of the major fish food species have declined or been depleted, yet overfishing continues globally. Global fish and shellfish production totaled 105 million metric tons in 1997. That total is far more than oceans, rivers, and lakes can sustainably yield using today's fishing methods. Using those methods, the commercial fishing industry has the capacity to catch 30-40% more fish than fish stocks can support. But overfishing is only one pressure on coastal ecosystems; another is "bycatch" — the unintended or unwanted fish or small fry caught during commercial fishing. Some are kept for sale but many are thrown away as garbage or thrown back to the sea where most die of injuries and exposure. Bycatch totals about 20 million metric tons per year, 25% of the global marine fish catch. Methods used to harvest shrimp are among the most harmful to sealife and coastal ecosystems in general.

If you eat seafood, make sure it's harvested sustainably.

You may already buy dolphin-safe tuna, but there are other seafoods you can choose that reduce the adverse impacts to sealife. When eating out or at home, don't eat endangered fish species, refuse or cut down on shrimp, and let the seafood seller or restaurant know that you are making your choice for ecological reasons.
Find out which species are most endangered.

Check out these sites for more information about endangered sealife. Download Adobe Acrobat And here's something to help you make informed choices. Download the Audubon Society's fish chart to carry with you when you go out to dine or to purchase seafood. (Free Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
Minimize your share of solid waste.

In 1990, nearly 17 million US citizens lived in the five most populous cities — Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia — all of which are located on or close to an ocean, bay, or river coastline. Millions more vacation in urban centers and in coastal resorts. Traditionally coastal zones in US cities are used primarily for trade and industrial development, becoming outlets for pollution and regions of brownfields. To reduce the pressure we exert on urban areas' coastal ecosystems, we must decrease the amount of solid waste we generate. Many coastal cities (Boston, Baltimore, New York, and Providence, RI) are now recognizing the tourist potential of urban waterfronts and investing in recreational development projects.
Learn how urban decision makers manage ecosystems.

If you live in, near, or plan to visit a US urban area, find out how local environmental agencies manage vital ecosystems and their strategies for sustainability. Check out the environmental departments at city government web sites, for example, Los Angeles and New York:

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