Reduce the impact of your lifestyle on our planet
Often we don't realize how our actions indirectly affect the environment and do unintended harm to habitats and species. The interconnectedness of the entire web of life must be considered if we are to be successful in conserving global biodiversity. The following are actions which you can take to reduce your impact on our planet:
- Dispose of persistent toxic chemicals appropriately: Toxic substances may kill species directly through exposure or by contaminating their habitat. Check with your local waste management facilities to learn about proper disposal methods for toxic household wastes such as paint, paint thinner and car fluids.
- Use environmentally preferable household cleaning products: For ideas visit the EcoLogo Program.
- Recycle Old Electronics: Every year we bury or cremate 158,000 tons of dead and obsolete computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, TVs, mobile phones and similar products. In aggregate, these objects contain significant quantities of pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and polybrominated flame retardants, some of which eventually leach into our water systems. They also contain recyclable materials such as copper, steel, aluminum and plastic. Donate electronics that you no longer need to Computers for Schools or contact your local waste management facilities for an electronics recycler in your area.
- Minimize your consumption of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas): Petrochemicals are everywhere - in food preservatives, chemical fertilizers, make-up, water bottles and even our clothes (polyester) - and oil is their main component. The combustion of fossil fuels is a significant factor in global warming, temperature changes which are causing habitat degradation and resulting in species loss.
- Reduce your automobile usage: Current forms of transportation require the burning of fossil fuels and are the single largest source of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane, for example) and air pollution. Of all the various modes of transportation, automobiles are the biggest contributors, accounting for about a third of global oil use. Aquatic environments are adversely affected by the oils, gas, and other pollutants which wash off roadways and make their way into the water system. Eliminating your car entirely is the ideal option; if that is not possible, purchase a fuel efficient model which suits your needs and avoid gas guzzling sport utility vehicles. Use alternative modes of transportation such as walking, biking, buses and carpooling whenever you can.
By minimizing your car use, you will also reduce the need for roads and parking lots. Lands that used to be farms, wetlands and forests are being destroyed by urban sprawl and the accompanying expansion of the transportation network. In addition to directly destroying habitat, sprawl segments the landscape, destroying natural corridors through which species travel to meet their food, water, shelter, breeding, and migratory needs. Urge your city to expand transit and other alternatives, make city operations more energy efficient and encourage infill development instead of sprawl.
- Eat fewer processed foods & buy in bulk: Processed foods are highly overpackaged in materials that are generally composed of non-degradable substances which pollute the environment, use toxic chemicals, and consume vast amounts of fossil fuels in their production. By buying in bulk you reduce the amount of packaging per unit item, especially if you can reuse containers and bags. This minimizes the amount of plastic waste polluting our environment.
- Minimize your paper use: Reduce your use of paper products by replacing them with reusable items (Kleenex with handkerchiefs, paper napkins and towels with cloth, paper coffee cups with mugs, etc.). When using paper, buy recycled, non-chlorinated bleached products and recycle them after using. When purchasing wood and paper products look for the Forest Stewardship Council logo, a symbol which guarantees that the product has come from a sustainably managed forest. Organic hemp, which is very durable, is another alternative to wood and cotton products.
- Buy food products produced in a sustainable manner.
- Don't release exotic (non-native) animals into the wild: Most household pets and live fish market species (such as Asian bighead carp) are not native to Canada; as such, they should not be released into the environment where they may pose a threat to native species. If you need to find a new home for an animal contact your local humane society or pet store.
- Don't buy endangered species souvenirs: It is illegal to transport live specimens and products from endangered species across international borders. When traveling, know what species are endangered so that you do not purchase items that will perpetuate the trade in such species.