Last spring I was invited to travel to Costa Rica with the Rainforest Alliance to witness first-hand the benefits Rainforest Alliance certification was having in farming communities around central Costa Rica. On the trip, I visited several Rainforest Alliance certified farms, including a banana plantation and processing plant, a tropical flower farm, and a small passion fruit farm. I visited with small farmers and factory workers, and witnessed the beneficial impact that Rainforest Alliance certification has protecting the rainforest, supporting local communities, and preserving wildlife.
One of my biggest takeaways on the trip was learning how impactful RA certification is in bettering the lives of workers and their communities. Though the choice to purchase Rainforest Alliance certified products is an easy one, our basic consumer choices can have a lasting positive impact on workers, communities, forests and wildlife.
This week the Rainforest Alliance is celebrating ‘Follow the Frog‘ week, highlighting the important role everyday consumer choices can have in bettering our communities and the environment. At the core of the Rainforest Alliance’s message is that just because we don’t see the effects of our choices, doesn’t mean they don’t have far-reaching consequences.
Our world is a complex place, and often making the right choices can feel like entering an impossible labyrinth. Happily, the Rainforest Alliance helps you effect positive change every day with their easy-to-spot frog seal of approval. So, the next time you’re at the store, shop the frog! The Rainforest Alliance makes it a cinch to find RA certified and verified products with this helpful feature on their site. Once you start shopping the frog, you’ll be surprised at how often this tiny seal pops up. Shop better, rest easier. It’s that simple!
Head below for a look at some common consumer products, and the positive impact that Rainforest Alliance certification has on communities and wildlife.
Follow the Frog: Simple Ways to Protect the Ranforest 1 of 12
Learn how you can use the power of choice to preserve the environment, help workers, and save wildlife right now!
Coffee 2 of 12
Until the 1970s, almost all coffee was shade-grown as a matter of necessity because coffee plants didn't thrive in direct sunlight. But the development of sun-tolerant varieties has led to clear cutting the rainforest for coffee cultivation. While that has increased yields, it's also contributed to erosion, water pollution in the form of run-off, and the widespread destruction of the rainforest and wild animal habitats.
Certification Makes a Difference 3 of 12
Rainforest Alliance certified farms help turn back the clock by assisting farmers to grow coffee that's sustainable and profitable. Working with the Rainforest Alliance, farmers are able to increase safety, productivity, and lower their use of harsh agrochemicals. In addition, Rainforest Alliance certified farms help to protect local biodiversity and the livelihood of coffee farmers. Supporting these sustainable coffee practices is as simple as looking for the Rainforest Alliance frog seal on coffee bags.
Bananas 4 of 12
With their large, poorly protected fruits and lack of genetic diversity, bananas are particularly susceptible to disease and pests. As a result, the industry is heavily dependent on pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, which all have a significant impact on the environment and workers alike.
Steps Toward a Brighter Future 5 of 12
The Rainforest Alliance has helped farmers curb some of the worst practices in banana production by lowering use of agrochemicals, ensuring that workers have access to protective gear and after-work showers, as well as creating planted buffer zones that help to protect areas around banana plantations from exposure to pesticides and run off. In addition, RA certified farms provide benefits and a more stable work environment for workers. The program has been so successful that today 15% of all internationally traded bananas come from Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms.
Cocoa 6 of 12
While Rainforest Alliance certification is a boon to the environment, it also contributes to the well-being of the farmers and laborers who grow our food, which is especially clear in the case of cocoa. Cocoa production often depends on child labor and child slavery, particularly in Ivory Coast, a major producer.
More Ethical Choices in Chocolate 7 of 12
Rainforest Alliance certification ensures that cocoa farms do not employ children under the age of 15. Moreover, the Rainforest Alliance is committed to ensuring that children in farm communities receive a good education. Certification also helps producers and farmers to take a longer view of crop production, working to provide healthy, sustainable crops that reduce the use of agrochemicals and increase plant and animal diversity. Learn more about the impact the Rainforest Alliance is having on communities in CÃ´te d'Ivoire here.
Flowers 8 of 12
Because flowers don't end up on plates, regulations regarding pesticide use are generally more lax than with other types of produce. And while that doesn't make much a difference for the end consumer, it means exposing the workers who grow them to all manner of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, fertility problems, and a host of other catastrophic health problems.
Image: Elizabeth Stark
Positive Change 9 of 12
Flowers are an especially profitable product for farmers in the tropics, so it's important to ensure they are able to reap the economic benefits of this valuable crop without imperiling the health of workers. Rainforest Alliance certification puts programs into place such as composting, recycling, the planting of barrier trees, and water monitoring. In addition, RA certification helps producers to lower quantities of agrochemicals used by putting more efficient practices into use that save producers money. By seeking out Rainforest Alliance Certified flowers, you are supporting efforts to develop standards that protect workers and their communities, as well as preserve the environment, while still ensuring consumers have access to beautiful tropical flowers. To find out where you can find Rainforest Alliance certified flowers and plants in your area, use the handy "Shop the Frog" feature on their site. RA certified flowers are available at many major retailers including Sam's Club, Costco, Walmart, and Whole Foods.
Image: Elizabeth Stark
Protecting Habitats 10 of 12
Sustainable flower plantations can also play an important role in preserving wildlife habitat. While touring the a P&F flower farm in Costa Rica, our group spotted two sloths and the red dart frog pictured here.
Image: Elizabeth Stark
Tea 11 of 12
Requiring both large expanses of land and intensive labor to harvest, tea production in many parts of the world has led to abuse of both workers and the environment. Poverty, poor housing conditions, deforestation, and habitat loss, are just some of the consequences of the global tea trade. Tea production, and tea farmers, are also vulnerable to a changes in global weather patterns, and increasing drought in some areas.
Moving Toward Sustainable Practices 12 of 12
In Kenya, the Rainforest Alliance, in conjunction with the Kenya Tea Development Agency, is bringing together producers to apply sustainable agriculture standards in tea production to address some of these abuses. The first farm to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification was the Kericho estate, owned by Unilever and used to supply teas for Lipton and PG Tips brand teas, currently available in Europe.
Disclosure: I traveled to Costa Rica with the Rainforest Alliance, and they sponsored my trip. All of the information provided here reflects my own opinions and views.
More from Brooklyn Supper on Babble:
25 Healthy, Creative Spinach Recipes Everyone Will Love
19 Baked Egg Recipes Hearty Enough for Dinner
25 Classic Apple Cinnamon Recipes for Fall