How to Protect the Outdoors and Wildlife Part 2

In part 1 of this 2-part series on environmental and wildlife protection, I gave you a few ways in which you could protect the outdoors and wildlife, including getting a bit more educated on the subject, getting political, and various ways in your day-to-day to reduce, reuse, and recycle. If you didn’t have a chance to read part 1, click here and check it out.  In part 2 of this series I’ll walk you through ways to spot more eco-friendly products, how to be a more conscious traveler, and specific ways to be a more eco-conscious cat owner. Let’s get started.

Be a Conscious Consumer

Think about what you buy and where you buy it. What products you purchase and what you eat can significantly impact wildlife and their habitats.

When shopping, try to look for labels that have a commitment toward responsible production or harvest, with minimal or no negative impact on the environment or society. Here are some labels and certifications to look out for that work to protect, in a socially-responsible manner, forests, oceans, land and waterways:

Educate yourself about what ‘all natural’ and ‘organic’ labels really mean. Keep in mind that these definitions are constantly changing so you'll need to read up on these terms and their definitions regularly.

  • When labels aren’t available, ask the supplier (if at a market) or an employee in any given store or restaurant where the product came from and how it was made or harvested.

A special note on Palm Oil: Palm oil can significantly hurt wildlife so be sure to educate yourself about palm oil and choose products wisely. Unsustainable palm oil production is responsible for vast deforestation globally and has led to the endangerment of keystone species such as the Orangutan and Sumatran Tiger. However, this isn’t to say to avoid palm oil all together as that could have consequences for companies that are trying to improve the situation. Instead, try to look for products with the RSPO label to make sure you’re buying products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label ensures that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Try to eat locally and in-season when possible (do you really need those mangos in December? Or, maybe lay off the avocado toast for a while). Eating locally helps reduce waste along the food value chain, reduces the miles food travels, alleviating fossil fuel use, reducing air pollution and cuts back on greenhouse gas emissions. Purchasing at a local farmers market also cuts down on unnecessary food packaging and rids you of the mystery of where your food came from and how it was produced.

Reduce your meat consumption. Meat and dairy production has a large impact on the environment, not to mention animal welfare. If you eat meat and dairy products every day, try to cut back a little. Start with every other day, then maybe a couple times a week, once a week, couple times a month, etc. Try to substitute with meat alternatives like veggie burgers (there are some pretty amazing ones on the market!), beans, lentils, coconut or nut-based yogurt and milk, among other options. Another option is to make purchases from ethically raised farms. Look for retailers, like Wholefoods, that go out of their way to explain the living conditions of the beef and chicken that they sell in their stores.

This is may be obvious, but never buy exotic animals! Also be careful of purchasing products made from wildlife, such as clothing, shoes, purses, art and jewelry.

Travel ‘Wisely’

Believe it or not, but the way you travel can have a big impact on wildlife and the outdoors. Check out this great article in the Washington Post on being a socially conscious traveler.

As a general rule, try to avoid as much as possible “mass tourism”

  • Avoid all-inclusive resorts: they typically produce enormous amounts of waste and have minimal impact on the local economy and negative environmental impact. They often contribute to massive coastal development that threatens the habitat of seabirds, sea turtles and various other flora and fauna.
  • Avoid ocean cruises: there’s really nothing positive environmentally speaking when you take a huge-ship oceanwide cruise. They produce tons of waste and offer little economic benefit to dock destinations. They often contribute to more pollution in those areas and habitat loss due to dock construction.
  • You can support the local economy when you travel by choosing locally owned and run hotels and tour operators. Try to stay in hotels that are trying to minimize waste and protect the environment. Here is one of many resources to find eco-responsible hotels.
  • Look for certifications and properly trained guides when choosing tours, particularly ones that are nature- or wildlife-based.
  • I really like tour operators that have a commitment to the destination: one such tour operator is El Camino Travel.

Consider animal welfare when you go to see or interact with wildlife:

  • Be sure to read this excellent Nat Geo article on the dark side of wildlife tourism.
  • Avoid operations that advertise swim with the dolphins, riding an elephant, pictures with tigers, among others. These operations are almost never beneficial to wildlife, as operators often exploit animals in pursuit of maximizing profits.
  • Do not feed the wildlife when you're on these excursions...most popularly, the fish and birds.

Specific Actions Related to Your Feline Friend

Keep your kitty inside and make sure you spay or neuter her/him! Reducing the number of cats outdoors and lowering the population of cats in need of homes directly protects wildlife. An article in Nature found that every year in the US, free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3 - 4.0 billion birds and 6.3 - 22.3 billion mammals. Unowned cats cause the majority of the damage, which emphasizes the importance of spaying and neutering and reporting any strays to your local ASPCA or Humane Society (or equivalent).

Don’t forget about OUR OCEANS when buying your cat food! Healthy oceans are vital to the planet’s overall health, but they are under threat like never before. Overfishing and illegal fishing with the use of slave labor have been directly tied to the market that fuels the pet food industry. Check out this excellent article in The New York Times that exposed the issue.

Choose a responsible cat food: The average pet cat in the United States eats 30 pounds of fish per year, about double that of a typical American. Currently, 30% of global fish stocks are overfished and nearly 60% are fully exploited, meaning the food oceans can provide is being stretched to its limits.

  • Brands like Fancy Feast, Purina and Mars all found that the fish in their pet food was unethically sourced, though they are trying to make strides to improve it. Mars, Inc. has been the most proactive in the fight, and “has already replaced fishmeal in some of its pet food and will continue in that direction. By 2020, the company plans to use only non-threatened fish caught legally or raised on farms and certified by third-party auditors as not being linked to forced labor.”
  • Seafood traceability is tough, so really try to read those labels carefully and make informed choices. Try swapping out fish-based cat food for a can of Wild Planet products as a once-in-a-while treat and choose other animal protein based foods.

Now, I realize this is a LONG laundry list of items that may seem overwhelming. Taken all at once it IS overwhelming. However, just start with some baby steps. What’s important is to just do your best and not get TOO caught up in all the details. I myself have been there -- start with small adjustments and little by little your small changes will amount to a big positive impact for the outdoors and wildlife.

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 1 Here

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