According to a new research, an average westerner's eating habits which include coffee, chocolate, beef, palm oil and other commodities are responsible for the felling of about 4 trees every year.
While chocolate consumption in the UK and Germany is an important driver of deforestation in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the demand for beef and soy in the US, European Union and China result in forest destruction in Brazil and Coffee drinkers in the US, Germany and Italy caused deforestation in central Vietnam.
The study published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal combined high-resolution data on forest loss and its drivers with a global database of international trade relationships between 15,000 industry sectors in the period 2001 to 2015. This in turn enabled the researchers to quantify each country's deforestation footprint based on the consumption of its population.
"Despite the growing recognition of the seriousness of deforestation in developing countries, deforestation footprints (in rich nations) have remained largely unchanged (since 2000)," said the researchers.
Though India, China and the G7 countries have taken efforts to increase the forest covers within their country they have largely contributed to their deforestation footprints outside their borders.
The US being the main importer of a wide variety of commodities from tropical countries, including fruits and nuts from Guatemala, rubber from Liberia and timber from Cambodia had a large deforestation footprint. Due to imports of palm oil and other farm produce, China has a bigger responsibility for the deforestation caused in Malaysia.
Consumption in G7 states accounts for an average loss of four trees a year per person, but the US is above average with five trees being lost per capita. In five of the G7 countries the UK, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy more than 90 per cent of their deforestation footprint was in foreign countries and half of this was in tropical nations.
Destruction of forests accelerates the climate crisis, leads to the extinction of animals and birds due to loss of habitat and also disrupts the entire ecological balance of the earth. The research reveals a direct link between consumers and loss of forest covers across the planet.
"Policymakers and companies can get an idea of which supply chains are causing deforestation. If they know that, they can focus on those supply chains to find the specific problems and solutions," said Dr. Nguyen Hoang who led the study.
Scientists believe that if we don't also tackle this international footprint we will continue to drive devastating environmental impacts globally.