Sustainable Harvest logo.jpgOne of the groups I like to support is Sustainable Harvest International (SHI). SHI works to reverse rainforest destruction with direct replanting programs and teaching farmers sustainable land-use practices that allow them to take control of their environmental and economic destinies.

The primary cause of deforestation in tropical climates is NOT commercial logging, but slash-and-burn agriculture and the need of many people to use wood for cooking fires. Therefore, not only has SHI planted more than 2 million trees in the last decade, they have also worked to reduce new deforestation by teaching sustainable agricultural techniques such as multi-story cropping and organic farming, helping local communities develop short-term and long-term cash crops, and offering homestead improvements such as wood-conserving stoves, all of which have a major impact on preserving forests. The combined programs are highly effective in both restoring and preserving tropical forests.

I like how SHI works to balance environmental, economic and social realities when designing their programs. They go beyond just replanting by working through local education to ensure the long-term health and expansion of tropical forests.

They are not a forest investment program, they are not restricted to a single country or wood species, nor do they have additional religious or political agendas to promote. They are in multiple countries, providing a full range of services that we believe will better the social, economic and environmental conditions of the forests and the people dependent upon them.

Since 1997, SHI has worked with more than 2,000 families and 900 students in Honduras, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua implementing alternatives to slash-and-burn farming, a leading cause of rainforest destruction in the region. They note that they have, with local field personnel trained by SHI:

  • Planted more than 2,800,000 trees.
  • Converted 14,000 acres of degraded land to sustainable uses; thereby saving 70,000 acres of tropical forest from slash-and-burn destruction.
  • Improved nutrition through the establishment of more than 200 organic vegetable gardens.
  • Increased farm income up to 800%.
  • Built 165 wood-conserving stoves (saving 1,650 trees per year)
SHI also offers tours of their programs (visit a chocolate farm!) and a small online store offering products from some of their projects. I think it's an impressive organization and working to ensure that the forests provide long-term economic benefits for all.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")