7 Ways to Help Animals Beyond Earth Day
Use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic
I bet you’ve seen those reusable grocery bags, and thought, hmm, should I buy one? From plain and simple ones to super-stylish bags, you have many options available. Some stores, including Target and Whole Foods, give discounts for bringing your own bag. But the best part? You’re helping to save the earth. Too many marine turtles, seals, sea lions, and other wildlife get entangled in or swallow plastic bags, which causes choking, drowning, and unnecessary, tragic deaths. Plastic is so ubiquitous it has created massive garbage patch gyres in the oceans. Even if you think yours will end up getting recycled, sometimes they fly out of the garbage (or recycling) trucks, float in the air, into the waterways, and out to the oceans. My advice? Just buy one (or two or three), already. It will cost you a couple bucks, and it may take a few times to remember them from your car to the grocery store – but this simple step feels really good. Before long, you'll start cringing when you see other folks using so many plastic bags!
Adopt a pet from a shelter
If you crave a new addition to your family, and you have the resources to care for the animal now and well into the future, consider adopting a dog, cat, or other animal from a local shelter. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), half of the 6-8 million cats and dogs entering shelters every year get adopted, and the rest end up euthanized. Help turn the tide the other way, so more get adopted into loving homes. And make sure fewer enter shelters in the first place: take care of your pets, and get them spayed or neutered! Check out HSUS' Top 5 Reasons to Adopt.
'Adopt' wildlife online
Wildlife lovers around the world can help to save their favorite species by adopting one online. By paying a small fee, you directly support the animals, their care, and conservation of their habitat. Some groups send you a plush toy, or a certificate, or information about the animal. You can adopt a cute red panda through Red Panda Network, a whale or dolphin with Whale or Dolphin Conservation Society, a wolf (and several other species) through Defenders of Wildlife or you can Friend a Gorilla in Uganda. You can adopt and follow the movements of a radio-tagged sea turtle. Or if you’re a Steve Irwin fan (Crikey! Who isn’t?) you can adopt one of the Australia Zoo’s crocs, koalas, Tasmanian devils or other critters. And Jane Goodall has a fantastic chimp guardian sponsorship program.
Think about water
Fresh, clean water comes right out of your faucet, free and clear, right? Not so fast. Freshwater is a precious resource. A full 98% of our blue planet’s water is locked up in the oceans. Of the remaining 2% of fresh water, 1.6% is locked up in glaciers or polar ice caps (although in our warming world, these are rapidly melting into the sea). That remaining percentage of freshwater – just 0.036 percent in rivers, lakes and creeks – is precious. We require it to drink, to water crops, and for livestock. But native wildlife also need fresh water to survive and thrive. This includes land animals, most of which must drink, as well as riverine and aquatic animals. When it comes to keeping local rivers and creeks healthy (and the fish, frogs, crayfish and so on that live there), think twice about putting chemical pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn. Try natural options. Pull weeds, for example, or create a native plant xeriscape that requires less water or herbicide in the first place. Also, by using less water, it saves you money, and helps keep water flowing in the creeks and rivers, which ultimately run into estuaries at the edge of the sea – important breeding grounds for many commercially and recreationally important fish, shrimp, oysters, and other species.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Stepping lightly on the earth makes a difference in more ways than one. By turning off lights when not in use, recycling everything you can, replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluoresecents, use reusable shopping bags (see above) and other simple steps to reduce your energy use, you not only save yourself money on your electric bill, you help curb global warming. The planet’s warming temperature is melting glaciers in the Himalayas, threatening rare wildlife such as the red panda, Himalayan black bear, and snow leopard. Warming ocean temperatures cause the bleaching of once pristine coral reefs, and cause the oceans to acidify, threatening to turn the entire marine ecosystem topsy-turvy. And although stemming the massive impact of a warming world is going to require international cooperation and national policy action, every little bit helps.
Even conservation-minded folks occasionally toss orange or banana peels out their car window, not realizing that even biodegradeable food attracts animals to the roadside, which leads to...roadkill (not to mention being a safety hazard. Think of all the car accidents or incidents from hitting the animals, or swerving to avoid them). And if you think throwing cigarette butts out your window is harmless, think again. Those butts are one of the most common and ubiquitous pieces of trash in the environment now – trillions of them end up as litter every year. The core is made of cellulose acetate, which can take up to ten years to decompose. Think that's not so bad? They also contain tar and all the toxins in the tobacco that the filter is there to keep from going into lungs. And where does it end up? In our waterways, which ultimately poisons the well, so to speak.
Go Vegetarian, even for one day a week
As I’ve blogged about before, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 18% of global warming gas emissions come from meat production. Tropical rainforest gets cleared in the Amazon to make room for cattle, and rainforests are notoriously challenging to replant or restore. Livestock also consumes five times as much grain as people do, which replaces natural habitat with monoculture cropland. And the conditions of factory farms have drawn much attention lately, As actress Natalie Portman wrote after reading Eating Animals, “Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.” Sir Paul McCartney challenges everyone to try at least one day a week without meat, Meat-free Monday, it’s called across the pond, and over here we have Meatless Monday. It can help improve your health too!Photo Credits: Jupiter Images/Thinkstock (2) | iStockphoto/Thinkstock | Martin Poole/Thinkstock | Jupiter Images/Thinkstock |