How To Speak For The Trees On International Day Of Forests

Here at KOOSHOO, we love trees. We love them for a lot of reasons: the fresh air they filter for our lungs, the carbon they sequester from our atmosphere, their calming presence in a chaotic world, the habitat they provide for so many other species. And, of course, for the materials they offer us. We take this last one very seriously.

Our forests are in trouble, and they need our help. According to the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), “the world has lost 420 million hectares of forest – an area bigger than India – since 1990, and deforestation continues at about 10 million hectares per year, due mainly to agricultural expansion.”

Sustainable use of resources is a key tenant of our business model and practice. Our products may be plastic-free, but simply switching to materials like rubber or cotton - without considering how they were grown and harvested - was never an option for us. We knew, even in the very early years when KOOSHOO was still a dream, that responsibly sourcing these materials for our products would be paramount. Where we invest our energy is in being the change we want to see from the roots up as opposed to offsetting our damage after the fact.

From the organic cotton in our headbands and scrunchies to the natural rubber in our hair ties, each material has been carefully chosen for the ways in which they are grown and harvested. There is always room for improvement, but we think we’re on the right track. One way we ensure the sustainability and responsible harvest of these materials is with the help of the Forest Stewardship Council (more on this below).

A view of a leafy green forest from the ground looking upwards toward the tree canopy, where light shines through in pockets.

International Day of Forests, why celebrate?

March 21st marks the International Day of Forests. We’re of the mindset that every day should be a day to celebrate our leafy friends, given how much they provide for not only humans but for all beings. That being said, it’s helpful to have an official day to focus our attention on the lungs of our planet. This year’s theme is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption.” We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to dive a bit deeper into the certification we work with for our products and packaging, to ensure they are sustainable, equitable, and do more good for the planet overall.

Forest Stewardship Council Certification

These days, there seems to be a certification for just about everything. We are encouraged by the rise in sustainable certification programs but it does mean the consumer has a bit more work ahead of them to discern what’s legitimate and what’s straight-up greenwashing. At KOOSHOO, we take great pride in ensuring that all our packaging - as well as the natural rubber in our plastic-free hair ties - be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program.

Read more about how natural tree rubber can change the global hair industry.

A natural rubber tree is being harvest for its liquid rubber material, which is white and pours into a black bucket.

What is FSC-certified?

The mission of the Forest Stewardship Council (established in 1994) is to promote sustainable forest management solutions. To achieve their mission, they - and any entity using the FSC label - abide by a series of 10 principles and 57 criteria. These principles include recognizing workers’ rights and employment conditions, respecting Indigenous communities, management planning, and many others.

This organization established itself following the failure of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to reach an agreement on halting deforestation (you may be familiar with the Earth Summit from Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s famous speech compelling adults to take action against climate change).

What does it mean to be certified and why does it matter?

By participating in and supporting the FSC-certification program, we are sending a signal to our customers that we have gone the extra step in ensuring (as much as we can) that our products are being responsibly produced. We are also sending a clear message to our suppliers that sustaining our planet’s forest resources is important to us, as well as being critical and necessary.

While certification doesn’t eliminate bad actors in the field of forest management - and there is much work to be done to protect more forests - these kinds of certifications go a long way in ensuring businesses are being held accountable to the environment, people, and the planet.

All Plastic-Free Hair Ties Are Not Made Equal

Recently we’ve noticed a number of copycat plastic-free hair ties hitting the market. We say ‘copycat’ because many of these companies have been quite literally copying and pasting text from our website. KOOSHOO is the only company (to our knowledge) that uses FSC-certified rubber, via the Fair Rubber Association.

“The ultimate aim of the Association is to thereby contribute to an improvement of the working and living conditions of the primary producers of natural latex (rubber), as well as promote the environmentally friendly production [of] natural rubber, as chemical-free production first and foremost benefits those engaged in the cultivation of the natural rubber.” – Fair Rubber Association

Although natural tree rubber is superior to synthetic rubber for its ability to biodegrade, not all rubber trees are grown equally. In some parts of the world, native rainforests (and their dependent ecosystems) have been cleared to make way for giant, monoculture rubber tree plantations. This is because most natural rubber in the world is used for car tires - although some of this rubber does end up in other products, like hair ties.

We mention this as a reminder (to ourselves, and to you) to always be vigilant when assessing a business's sustainability track record. These days, it is very easy to “appear” sustainable but in many cases, may actually amount to a certain level of greenwashing. Monocultures of any kind are proving themselves to be unsustainable means of producing just about anything; particularly when the creation of a monoculture involves the destruction of native rainforest habitat.

What organizations should I look out for?

Internationally, there are a number of sustainable forest management certification entities, among them being: the Forest Stewardship Council, the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC). Within PEFC, there are several sub-certification groups and many more member organizations:

While each has its own set of specific standards and metrics, the processes for all certifications are generally quite rigorous and stringent. In order to use the FSC-certified logo, for example, our packaging and natural rubber suppliers must go through a strict application process, pay membership fees, and pass audits by a third-party, independent organization.

What about offsets and tree planting?

There are many ways for a business to walk its sustainable walk when it comes to protecting the health of our forests. Many have pointed to tree planting as an effective means of offsetting impact.  The idea behind offsets and tree planting is really to “offset” impact after the fact. For example, businesses engage in tree planting to offset their carbon emissions from manufacturing a product. While this is better than nothing, it can sometimes feel a bit like a band-aid solution.

These activities can be very useful in the remediation of destructive clear-cutting and other deforestation practices. Carbon offset programs can also help fund valuable tree-planting and other forest restoration work necessary to combat deforestation or replanting of areas impacted by fires or other disasters. Tree-planting then, is not just a business tactic, but can be a meaningful way to reforest our planet.

The important thing to be mindful of is the intention behind any tree-planting program and to keep an eye out for greenwashing. It’s one thing to plant a tree, but if the product being produced is in itself contributing to deforestation, it is not a sustainable act. 

At KOOSHOO, we strive to be accountable from the beginning with our decisions. That said, we recognize there are energy-intensive activities that occur after the product has been made - shipping, namely - and are actively looking at ways to help offset that part of our supply chain. 

Getting it right from the beginning

While we understand that being in the business of manufacturing just about anything has an impact somewhere, getting it right at the outset was hugely important for us. We asked ourselves: how can we create a better product (plastic-free hair ties) for people that is truly sustainable and that nurtures our natural ecosystems (and its people) at the same time?

When we were considering the materials to use - not only for our products but also for the packaging that would surround them - we wanted those materials to be sustainably harvested and produced. We wanted to ensure that our forests are around well beyond our lifetimes, for future generations to enjoy. This is why you will see the “FSC” logo listed under all our products containing natural rubber. Read more about our commitment to sustainability in hair accessories here

“Where we invest our energy is in being the change we want to see from the roots up as opposed to offsetting our damage.”

What can you do to speak for the trees?

There have been claims to suggest that certification programs are ineffective in slowing the pace of deforestation globally. There are numerous potential reasons for this but one major problem is that there are more uncertified regions of forest around the world as compared to certified regions. This needs to change, and we can all do our part. There are a number of ways you can take action, on International Day of Forests and beyond!

  1. The FAO suggests (and we would agree) that you can contribute to the sustainable use of forests by choosing forest-derived products with verified certification. Just look for the names we’ve listed above. These certifications are for more than just wood and 2x4s! The rubber in our plastic-free hair ties comes from natural rubber trees, for example. These certification programs are driven by people just like you who are speaking up for the trees: without our voices, they can’t do their work. 
  2. Be mindful of greenwashing: if something seems suspicious about a company or organization’s claims to be sustainable when it comes to forest management, ask questions and dig.
  3. When purchasing products made from wood or a wood-derived material like natural rubber, delve deeper into the company to see what they have to say about the sustainability at the source of that product. If it’s not stated clearly by the company, reach out to them to ask point-blank. Nothing brings us as much joy here at KOOSHOO as customers asking tough questions - that’s because it’s those tough questions that drive real change. 
  4. Fall in love with trees. Once we love something, we are compelled to want to protect it. Plus, time spent in and around trees or forests can be both cathartic and therapeutic for the body and soul. Get to know your trees and the issues they face. Every region will have its own set of challenges. In some areas of the world, devastating wildfires (both natural and man-made) have wiped out forests on an unprecedented level. Elsewhere it may be floods, pests, drought, clear-cut logging or destruction of old-growth forests, development, or conversion of forest into agricultural land. Very likely, there is a way for you to get directly involved by voting, signing petitions, or other citizen-based advocacy efforts.

How do you protect your trees?

“Forests cover nearly one-third of the Earth’s land surface and provide people with goods such as timber, fuel, food and fodder, help combat climate change, protect biodiversity, soils, rivers and reservoirs, and serve as areas where people can get close to nature.” --FAO

A green pine forest is enshrouded in layers of fog.

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