In cosmetics, the quality of raw materials is crucial. The product should fit the skin and bring added value to skin care. In my series of articles on the treasures of the rainforest, I have also wanted to study the raw materials of cosmetics from an ethical and ecological point of view. Eco-certified products have the least possible impact on the environment. Did you know that with the wise raw material choices, you can also promote biodiversity? For me personally, nature is especially important. I enjoy spending time in old forests, where nature can make its own choices without human intervention. In my series of rainforest treasures, I have combined my love of nature and natural cosmetics. Keep on reading to find out how your choice of cosmetic ingredients can save rainforests.
Rainforests have their own special habitat
Rainforests range from temperate zones to the hottest tropics. Rainforest is a type of vegetation where rainfall exceeds 1,500 millimetres per year. The largest rainforests are located in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Did you know that the rainforests of the temperate zone are located even in the Nordic countries? There is a small area on the Norwegian coast that is counted as a rainforest.
There are not very many rainforests on earth. Only about 2% of the earth’s surface is rainforest. The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest rainforest, covers an area of about 5.5 million square kilometres.
In the rainforests, life is elevated
The roof of the rainforest is about 30-50 metres above the ground. The canopies of large trees are there. The highest vines, the climbers do also reach the roof of the rainforest.
Below, in the shade of the canopies, is the undergrowth, inhabited by vines, flowers, ferns and decayed vegetation.
Some animals spend their entire lives in the canopy of the rainforest. Others spend their time mainly in the ground layers. The trees in the rainforests are dense and obscure the soil from light. Therefore, undergrowth in rainforests is very scarce. Typical rainforest undergrowth are mosses and ferns that can withstand low light. Other plants live in symbiosis on tree trunks. Tropical orchids are a good example of such plants. It is estimated that up to 70-90% of rainforest life is in trees. The soil often contains only bryophyte and the roots of the largest trees.
The biota of the rainforests is plentiful
Up to 70% of all species on Earth live in rainforests. The biodiversity of rainforests is so great that a large proportion of the rainforest inhabitants are still completely unknown. Heavy rains combined with heat create a unique habitat for plants, insects, birds and many other animals. The decline of rainforests on the planet is having a decisive impact on biodiversity.
The abundance of flora and fauna in the rainforest is dazzling. An area of 1,000 acres may contain 1,500 different flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies. The Amazon rainforest alone is home to 10% of the world’s known species. The trees that produce seeds and nuts can be up to 1,000 years old.
Rainforests are the pharmacy of the earth
A quarter of the world’s medicinal plants have been found in rainforests. 70% of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as being relevant for cancer treatment are found only in rainforests. Even more incredible is that although there is a huge repertoire of medicinal plants in the rainforests, only about 1% of them have been studied. There is a huge natural pharmacy in the rainforest. Local people living in rainforests have knowledge of the different plants’ suitability for medical purposes and skin care. Many of the rainforest products are highly antimicrobial. They have analgesic and antioxidant effects. Plants have special characteristics known as heritage. By using rainforest products collected by local people, we also pass this heritage information to future generations.
The lungs of the earth
Rainforests are called the lungs of the earth because they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Rainforests absorb carbon dioxide from exhaust emission of cars, planes and heating. Rainforests are a major carbon sink. The gradual disappearance of rainforests is decreasing the earth’s ability to remove carbon, which has an adverse effect on the climate. Naturally, the state of the climate is also affected by many other things, such as the state of the seas.
Rainforests affect rainfall and cloud formation
Rainforests have many effects on the global climate. Rainforests help maintain the world’s water cycle by evaporating water and creating rainfall. Drought is a major problem in many areas. The water mass created in the rainforests travels around the world. Moisture generated in the rainforests of Africa ends up in America and Europe. By deforestation of rainforests, we are creating new areas suffering from drought.
Humidity generated by rainforests also has an impact on climate change. Water vapor is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Therefore, even small changes and disturbances in the climate water balance can be fatal.
Rainforests are under threat
The area of rainforests is decreasing every day. We are destroying rainforests so fast that they could disappear completely in a hundred years. Of the originally measured 15 million square kilometres of rainforest in the world, there are only about 6 million square kilometres left. Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest began in the 1960s. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest was at its peak in the 1990s. At that time, an area about the size of Spain was cut down as farmland for soybeans, oil palms, coconut palms, rubber trees and livestock. Mining has also destroyed a significant area of the rainforest. If oil palms or coconut palms are planted in place of the cut rainforest, the rainforest will not burn. The farm has only a tree field and the biotope rich in life is gone forever.
Currently, deforestation has calmed down due to intense pressure. However, 18 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year. The destruction of rainforests must be stopped.
The farmland expansion continues
Farmers are forced to deforest farmland from the rainforest, as the land already cleared will only remain fertile for a short time. Rainforests are very complex ecosystems. The nutrients in the rainforests are not in the soil but in the trees and other vegetation. When a rainforest tree dies naturally and decays, it releases nutrients for other plants. In this way, the surrounding plants utilize the dead plants as nutrients. There is not much nutrient in the rainforest soil itself. If the felled trees are removed, there will be no nutrients left in the ground for new growth. Therefore, the rainforest cannot regenerate after felling. And of course, the logs will be removed as the rainforests grow some of the world’s most valuable tree species. The smuggling of logs is quite common.
When a rainforest is cleared for soybean or oil palm plantation, the entire rainforest biotope is destroyed at the same time. Thousands of rare plants, trees, birds and butterflies are gone along the rainforest. The rainforest cannot be replanted. Rainforests have formed as a result of millions of years of evolution. Rainforest plants and animals are formed in certain types due to special conditions.
Fortunately, due to international pressure, world policymakers are already interested in protecting their rainforests. Brazil and Indonesia have stood up and made their legislation more rainforest-friendly. This is an important step in protecting rainforests. Brazil and Indonesia have the most rainforests in the world.
How can rainforests be protected?
The world is awakened by the plight of the rainforests. Numerous organizations are working to save rainforests. State administrations make decisions aimed at protecting rainforests. At the grassroot level, each of us can do something. The easiest way to protect rainforests is to support organizations that protect rainforests. I’ll tell you how you can support the vitality of rainforests in your cosmetic choices.
In rainforests, money grows on trees
Like all of us, local people living in or near rainforest need money to live on. They have children who need to be educated. They need proper health care as well as a home. They have two options for generating income; felling the forest trees and become a soybean grower or live in the traditional way, collecting valuable nuts and other forest products. With our own choices, we can encourage local people to maintain their ecological lifestyle. By purchasing and using rainforest products, we are also preventing the destruction of rainforests.
How rainforest-friendly raw materials for cosmetics is produced?
There are many nuts and seeds growing wild in the rainforests, which are used as raw materials for cosmetics. Because of these products, not a single rainforest tree has had to be planted or cut down. Only the nuts, seeds and fruits produced by trees are used in the products.
The world’s rainforests are home to an estimated 50 million people. They belong to the indigenous people of their territories. Indigenous people have always used the harvest of trees growing in rainforests for food, medicine and skin care. Most rainforest plants are completely dependent on the rainforest biotope. They cannot be cultivated like monoculture, a cultivation of single crop. The trees in the rainforest are completely wild.
Coconut palms also grow wild
Have you ever thought that a coconut palm, for example, is as unecological when cultivated as an oil palm or rubber tree? Organic, rainforest coconut palm is a whole different matter. Coconut palms growing in a natural biotope also smell and taste quite different from those growing in a monoculture. Local people in the rainforest have even treated acne with coconut oil. With regular coconut oil, this cannot be done because coconut oil easily clogs the skin. Authentic, natural coconut is a whole different thing. If you find wild coconut oil somewhere, give it a try.
Harvesting is collecting
Harvesting in the rainforests takes place only by manpower. Locals collect products from the rainforest at hand as night work, collecting in the woods. They know where the best trees are and because they produce the crop. Local people also know how often the crop can be harvested without damaging the plants.
For example, in addition to global warming, wild vanilla has suffered from excessive harvesting. Vanilla is a wild orchid species growing in rainforests that is highly endangered. The vanilla sold in the store is not this wild strain. Wild vanilla grows In Thailand and in some other countries.
Local rainforest people wander on foot along labyrinthine jungle trails in very rough terrains. Organic harvesting in rainforests does not require infrastructure such as roads or electricity grids. Local people are used to walking in the woods without damaging nature. After harvesting, the nuts are washed in the river and dried under the sun. Nuts produced by local people are particularly organic and ethical products.
Get rainforest products as raw materials for your cosmetics
Of course, I definitely prefer local products. However, in addition to these, we should also favour cosmetic raw materials that are produced ethically and ecologically in rainforests. That’s why I started my series “Treasures of Rainforest”.
Cosmetic choices can also make an impact
Many people think that cosmetics is a margin industry. The amounts of raw materials used in cosmetics are quite small. They should not matter for rainforests. However, I strongly disagree.
To start with an example, we, the people who are dealing with natural cosmetics, have been at the forefront of fighting for animal rights resulting vegan products. We have also been fighting against the use of massive child labour in the mica industry. Our voice has come a long way and influenced many policies. The reason for this is that cosmetic users represent a large grassroot level of people that forms the so-called public opinion. We have said no to unethical products and pointed out the grievances.
The cosmetics industry is following trends closely. Now the trend in cosmetics is ecology and ethics. Trends in cosmetics have a very strong impact on public opinion. With cosmetic choices, you can take important messages to consumers and thus to decision makers.
The Treasures of Rainforest -story series
I have written a series of articles on the treasures of the rainforests. The Treasures of Rainforest series tells the story of cosmetic raw materials that are the original plants of rainforests.
I would like every user and manufacturer of natural cosmetics to stop for a moment to think about the origin of the cosmetic raw materials they use. Where the products are made and how the raw materials are produced.
Here are some good cosmetic ingredients you can use in your own products
Have you used products from the rainforest?