How to Protect the Outdoors and Wildlife Part 1

In honor of National Wildlife Day, I’d like to talk a little about what you can do to protect the outdoors and wildlife. Each species plays its own unique and valuable role in its own ecosystem. All ecosystems on Earth are connected and we as humans depend directly on these ecosystems and the species within them for our survival and well-being. About a third of the food we eat is pollinated by various bird, insect and bat species -- many of which are endangered and disappearing. Most of the oxygen we breathe, about 70%, comes from tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton that drift with ocean currents and live at the surface. They take in CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it to the oxygen we breathe. The rest of the oxygen we breathe comes from rainforests (about one-third) and a very small percentage from other sources. If these ecosystems are not protected, not only wildlife are threatened, but our own health and survival are too. Here are some ways you can help:

Educate Yourself!

The first step to making responsible choices and taking action to protect the outdoors and wildlife is to become aware of the issues. Then, you can make an informed choice on how to modify your behaviors and consumption patterns.

Click here to explore some of our planet’s greatest threats affecting wildlife and the health of ecosystems (it’s all interlinked!). Share what you learn with friends and family.

Help Protect Wildlife Through Political Engagement

Your vote and your voice matters.

  • Vote for representatives in your local, state and federal government who support pro-environmental policies and endangered species.
  • Write a letter to your congressman or woman urging them to stand up to big agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, among others, to support climate-friendly policies, protected areas, and support the fight to end the illegal wildlife trade (get them to support restrictions on trade items such as ivory and shark fins).
  • The Animal Welfare Institute has a great resource -- The Compassion Index -- to figure out how well your elected officials are protecting important safeguards in the Endangered Species Act, one of the US’s most successful policies to protect species in danger of extinction.
  • Support petitions such as these that call for an end to global wildlife trafficking.

Reduce Your Ecological Footprint

One of the best ways to protect wildlife and the outdoors is to help preserve those wild spaces where they roam! Reducing your footprint by making small changes in your everyday life can collectively have a big impact that supports wildlife conservation and habitat preservation.

Reduce, reuse, recycle … and compost!

Reduce your consumption of single-use plastics whenever possible. Plastic is everywhere and it’s polluting critical ecosystems around the world, particularly our oceans. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic gets dumped into our oceans, threatening seabirds, fish, sea turtles and other major marine megafauna. If we do nothing, it’s estimated that by 2050, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

  • Bring reusable shopping bags to markets and stores
  • Carry around a reusable water bottle so that you never need to buy plastic water bottles
  • Say no to plastic straws, plastic bags (ziplock bags, saran wrap too!) and bottles whenever possible

Reuse: think before tossing! Think about whether you can reuse, sell or donate something before tossing it in the trash.

Recycle items such as aluminum, glass, plastic and cardboard/paper products. Find out what you can recycle in your area and always try to recycle as much as possible. Despite some myths out there, recycling has less impact on the environment than making new products or tossing them into the trash.

  • Avoid or limit products with lots of packaging or packaging that can’t be easily recycled.
  • Dispose of e-waste (electronics) and other hazardous materials such as batteries at designated centers that know how to dispose of them properly.

Compost: Composting reduces your overall waste. Composting organic material such as food scraps, leaves, grass and other yard clippings, reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and prevents unnecessary amounts of waste from going into landfills. Composting also returns valuable nutrients to the soil to help maintain soil quality and fertility and saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reduce runoff. It makes an excellent fertilizer for your plants, flowers and vegetables!

Avoid the use of harmful chemicals in and outside the home.

They are harmful to the environment and to your health. These include:

  • Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, etc.
  • Chemical fertilizers
  • Harmful cleaning agents containing bleach, ammonia, among others.

Save energy

  • Save energy by walking or biking instead of driving when you can. If you have to drive to get to work, is there someone you can carpool with?
  • Replace your dryer with a clothesline.
  • Turn off the air conditioner or run it less often when possible.
  • Make sure you turn off lights and unplug cell phone and other chargers when they’re not in use!

These are just a few suggestions to make sure you’re doing good by the environment and its inhabitants. As a recap, continue to educate yourself, use your voice and make a political stance, and lastly, find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle around your home. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series as I discuss ways to spot eco-friendly products, how to be a more conscious traveler, and specific ways to be a more eco-conscious cat owner!

Other references

  1. Save the Plankton, Breathe Freely - National Geographic
  2. New Report Reveals What Companies Can Do to Help End Plastic Waste - World Wildlife Fund

Read Part 2 Here

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