4. Recycle and dispose of trash responsibly (don’t litter–I’m looking at you careless beach goers!). Trash disposed of improperly can pollute wildlife habitats and even end up being accidentally ingested by unsuspecting animals. Another consequence of garbage is that it attracts animals, which can lead to human-animal conflict, but there’s another unintended consequence that you may be surprised to hear. Take the Roseate Tern, which is listed as an endangered species where I live in Rhode Island. There are several factors contributing to their decline, and one factor is predation due to predators finding their nests after being attracted to garbage left behind by beach goers. This further highlights the fact that all of our actions can have significant consequences.
5. Visit and support your local state parks, wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, and open spaces. If the community is active in supporting and visiting local open spaces, the more likely it will be seen as valuable and an asset leading to more funding or conservation opportunities.
Apart from being beautiful spaces to connect with nature and see local wildlife, and provide educational opportunities to young people, these places provide space for wildlife to nest, breed, and eat. They also might be important stopovers for migratory animals. For example, I am lucky enough to have the Sachuest Wildlife Refuge very close to where I live. My husband and I enjoy taking morning walks along their trails on summer mornings where we can see native flora and fauna set against beautiful cobblestone beaches. These cobble beaches provide nesting areas for the migrating birds of RI, in addition to providing critical breeding habitat for the endangered Piping Plover.
Often when we think of endangered species we might, by default, think of the charismatic megafauna like tigers and elephants who we know to be endangered.
But, threatened and endangered species come in all shapes and sizes and range anywhere from a small humble beetle, to a tropical tree, or to a tiny amphibian. Every living thing has a role in the Earth’s ecosystem and any loss due to the actions of mankind is tragic. I encourage you to become familiar with the endangered species local to your area. Knowing this will help you make better choices and be more impactful in making a difference.
Where I live, in Rhode Island, there are several threatened and endangered species including the Piping Plover, Roseate Tern, the New England Cottontail Rabbit, and the Small-Whorled Pogonia (a rare orchid). The endangered orchid is threatened due to invasive species, logging, urban development, and the fact that, like many other orchids, it is collected for personal use. Historically, the New England cottontail was found throughout New England, but their numbers have been decreasing due to urban development and competition with the introduced eastern cottontail. The N.E. cottontail is no longer found in Vermont.
6. Remove animal products from your diet. Go Vegan! What we eat is a sensitive topic. I’ve learned this very well since having gone vegan a few years ago. People tend to take it very personally or get defensive when they believe they’ve been made to feel “badly” about the food they like to eat. This usually only presents itself as a problem or becomes uncomfortable when someone who isn’t genuinely interested in hearing my personal reasons for being vegan asks me why I no longer eat meat, eggs, or dairy. I’ve learned the hard way that those types of conversations are intended to back me into a corner or make some sort of joke about plants having feelings or about bacon. Those conversations are not effective and don’t lead anywhere positive. But when someone asks me because they sincerely want to know, then there is an opportunity to be open and empathetic in your explanation and educate them about topics they may never have connected with what’s on their plate.
Whatever one’s personal views about the moral or ethical implications of eating animals may be, one simply cannot deny the scientific, evidence-based case for adopting a plant-based diet for the health of the planet. Going plant based is the single most impactful action you can take to reduce your carbon footprint every single day.
Although the notion that adopting a plant-based diet to mitigate global warming and other environmental and social issues (i.e. worldwide hunger) has been gaining traction and coverage in some media outlets, most mainstream reporting focuses on the transportation sector when discussing carbon emissions. Many reports indicate that the livestock industry is responsible for more gas emissions than the transportation sector. From the report, Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,”
The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gasemissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport. The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. Livestock are responsible for much larger shares of some gases with far higher potential to warm the atmosphere.
Eating plant-based foods reduces your personal carbon footprint because you are not supporting the animal agriculture industry. As with some of the other measures you can take, this is another example of where voting with your dollar comes into play. Reducing demand for meat, dairy, and other animal products will reduce carbon emissions and the use of other important resources like water, which has a direct impact on the health of the planet. Do your best to purchase locally sourced food whenever possible, as the packing and transport of food also contributes to one’s carbon footprint.
Did we miss anything? Are there any other ways to help protect endangered and threatened species?
Also by Stephanie: 5 Ideas for a Greener Wedding
Related: 7 Vegan and Palm-Free Beauty Brands
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Photo: Cristy Zinn via Unsplash, Norman Bird Sanctuary