Every day we make choices in our lives that affect the environment, climate and other species. From what we eat to how many children we decide to have, there’s a lot we can do to “choose nature” and reduce our environmental footprint to make more room for plants and wildlife.
1. Think twice before shopping.
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” may sound retro, but it’s just as important today as it was when the phrase was first coined. Every product we buy has an environmental footprint, from the materials used to create it to the pollution emitted during manufacturing and the packaging that goes to landfills. So before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it. If you do, carefully consider buying used rather than new and look for minimal packaging and shipping.
2. Make sure your big purchases have big environmental benefits.
Not everyone can run out and trade in their old gas-guzzling junkyard for the latest eco-friendly hybrid car. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; making new cars also requires a lot of resources. But if you’re looking for a new car, look for a fuel-efficient model – you’ll save thousands of dollars on gas and reduce your carbon footprint over the years. If you’re buying a new refrigerator, washer or dryer, look for the label Energy Star to find the most efficient home appliances. Need a new water heater? Consider upgrading to solar.
3. Go to #PlasticFree.
Plastic never goes away. Today, billions of pounds can be found at rotating convergences that make up about 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces. Every year, thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed after ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in it. You can start to reduce plastic waste in a few simple steps: use reusable bags when shopping, dispose of disposable water bottles, bags and straws, and avoid products made from or wrapped in plastic whenever possible (for example, select unwrapped products at supermarket, local store, cut out on online shopping).
4. Boycott wildlife-threatening products.
Products made from animals on the endangered species list are illegal to buy, sell, import, but if a plant or animal has not yet been listed, they can still be harmed for someone else’s profit. In addition, some products harm endangered species, threatening their habitat, from cutting down old-growth forests to depleting the water that riparian species need to survive. To avoid contributing to wildlife hazards, shop carefully and look for products made from sustainable materials like bamboo and dine in restaurants that refuse to serve endangered species like tuna.
5. Pay attention to labels.
From coffee to fruit and clothing, the number of options available can be overwhelming – but there are some clear leaders when it comes to minimizing your impact on wildlife and the planet. If you’re a coffee drinker, look for “shade grown” coffee, which is grown while keeping forest habitats intact for migratory birds and other species. Choose Fair Trade Certified products when possible to support companies dedicated to sustainable production and paying workers a fair wage. Buy organic food whenever possible; it may cost a little more, but it keeps harmful pesticides out of our land and water, protecting farm workers, wildlife and their families.
6. Be wise about water.
Avoid bottled water. Bottled water companies try to give tap water a bad name, even though their tap water is practically free and much of the city’s water has passed quality and taste tests with branded water. And the extraction of water and production of all these plastic bottles is notoriously harmful to communities and wildlife. Water conservation is also critical, especially as our growing population increases demand on the country’s water sources and we face unprecedented droughts. You can save water by taking shorter showers, fixing leaks in toilets, and choosing low-flow, low-water appliance options. Also, consider xeriscape your yard, a landscaping technique that uses drought-adapted native plants that require less water and maintenance over time and provide habitat and food for birds and bees.
7. Drive less, drive green.
Changing your driving habits can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Walk, ride a bike, share rides or use public transport whenever possible. Combine tasks to make less travel. Join or start car-free days in your community. It’s also important to keep your car in shape with regular adjustments and tire inflation. Tweaks can increase fuel efficiency by 4% to 40%, and if every American kept their tires inflated, nationwide gasoline use would decrease by 2%.
8. Make your home greener.
Just as keeping your car in shape improves your fuel efficiency, keeping your home in shape improves your energy efficiency. Make sure your home has adequate insulation and energy-saving windows, and use a programmable thermostat for more efficient heating and cooling – and, of course, energy-saving lamps for more efficient lighting. Many states now offer incentives to help you make your home or rental greener at a low or free cost. Call your energy provider to find out if they offer free energy audits or if they know a company that does.
9. Choose Wild Energy.
Quitting the fossil fuel habit is critical to saving wildlife, slowing climate change, and protecting our lands and waters. If your state allows you to choose your electricity supplier, use a Green-e certified company that generates at least half of its energy from wind, solar and other clean sources. Also explore options – and tax credits – for installing roof solar panels or solar water heating in your home. Depending on your productivity, you can even add clean energy to the grid, further offsetting your carbon footprint.
10. Remove the extinction from your plate.
A produção de carne é uma das indústrias mais destrutivas do planeta, responsável por grandes quantidades de uso de água, poluição, emissões de gases de efeito estufa e destruição de habitats. You have three chances a day to improve the health of the planet – by reducing meat consumption, you can reduce your environmental footprint. Furthermore, nearly 40% of edible food in the United States goes to waste – wasting all the natural resources used to produce it. Avoid food waste with smart, planned purchases and creative ways to consume what you buy.
11. Choose to have a smaller family.
With more than 7.5 billion people in the world, and more every day, our demands for food, water, land and fossil fuels are driving other species to extinction. We can reach an ecologically sustainable population in ways that promote human rights; reduce poverty and overcrowding; raise our standard of living; and allow plants, animals and ecosystems to thrive. It’s time to talk about the runaway human population growth, the species extinction crisis and what kind of future we want for wildlife, the planet and ourselves.
12. Use your voice and your vote.
One of the best things you can do for wildlife and the planet, today and in the future, is to get involved politically in your community and on a national level. Vote for candidates with strong environmental platforms. Urge your representatives to enact stronger policies to limit greenhouse gases, combat climate change, protect our wildlife and public lands, and support access to reproductive health services. Better education and access to family planning services reduce family size and our overall carbon footprint, helping children and wildlife to thrive. Sign and share action alerts, participate in events, and talk to your friends about protecting endangered species and the need to address human population growth and overconsumption.