Today is World Nature Conservation Day—and this year, we need all hands on deck. Conservation is all about ridding ourselves of wasteful tendencies, or, in National Geographic‘s words, the act of protecting Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations. Conservation can apply to efforts around animals, the environment, or your day-to-day use of resources. More often than not, it all intersects.
Conservation work is not an exclusive act: Anyone can engage to help improve the health of our planet. Direct impact may vary in magnitude, but small actions met with community engagement and larger projects can result in major change.
Looking for a way to celebrate? Read on for 10 ways to channel your inner conservationist. A tip: Choose the option (or options) that you’ll want to continue well beyond World Nature Conservation Day.
How to Help the Planet on World Nature Conservation Day
1. Have a Low-Consumption Day
Use this opportunity to take stock of how much you truly use within a day in an effort to decrease your use of natural resources. Once you have an understanding of your habits, try to set some new parameters to help lessen your global impact—even if it’s just for one day. Don’t know where to start? Avoid buying anything new today, and instead find creative ways to use what you already have onhand.
This is a great exercise for those looking to better understand their patterns of consumption, the better to implement meaningful changes that will stick. Use today as an exercise in discerning need from want—and reduce your environmental footprint in the process.
2. Donate to Conservation Efforts
There are numerous foundations and non-profits already out in the world doing the work, and they need your help. You probably have a certain animal, cause, or area of impact that really has become special to you, so why not start there? Do a bit of research and see what kind of groups, goals, and projects are defining that space.
Don’t forget to evaluate the platforms you donate to for their validity, track record of effectiveness, and how much their plans align with what is truly needed. It can seem a little daunting to vet organizations, but directing your dollar toward strategic impact is well worth it.
Speaking of your dollar, don’t worry about the amount donated. A little often goes a long way, and this is about creating a sustainable habit. Sign up for updates and consider contributing on a regular basis or as you’re able.
3. Host a Trash Clean-Up
Grab a friend, head to a public space (a park or a beach), and go pick up some trash. Enjoy the time spent outdoors while helping out your local ecosystem.
Removing trash is a small act that your neighbors will be immensely grateful for—and who knows, you may inspire some onlookers to follow suit! A community cleanup is a good way for locals to band together for a common cause, both to beautify shared spaces and improve general environmental health.
Be sure to wear gloves! If this becomes a regular undertaking, consider investing in a trash picker, like this option from Brightly’s Swap Shop.
4. Go Paperless
Paper falls into a category of wood products that results in 10% of deforestation—an unsurprising fact, given our staggering usage. The World Wildlife Fund details the various issues with our current reliance on an output of paper, including the pulp companies that disrupt the land of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil and Sumatra and the process of creation that affects endangered animals like orangutans and tigers.
If you’re looking for ways to curb your paper habit, start with digital bookkeeping. All of those emails asking if you would like to go paperless? Answer them! Often, minimizing your physical document diet is as easy as a simple click. If you’re a student, consider implementing a digital note-taking system that works for you. As for receipts, always go for the email option.
5. Purchase Local Goods
One of the best things you can do for the environment if you are able is to build up local agriculture and step away from engaging with widespread industrial agriculture.
Depending on where you live, getting your food from local farms and producers offers an excellent (and delicious) means of helping the environment. The issues in industrialized ag run deep and include fertilizer runoff into waterways, methane and carbon emissions, long transportation routes, and loss of touch with seasonality.
It may be challenging to separate yourself entirely, as we have built convenient structures that center on securing food from all over the planet, but today is the day to take a small step in a more sustainable direction. Start by checking out a local farmer’s market for some fresh-picked eats. If that’s not an option, source ingredients from locally-owned shops, or check out that new sustainable restaurant—your server may have some tips.
6. Go Plastic-Free for a Day
Plastic-free—for a day! Plastic is so pervasive in our lives, not just in its single-use form but even in areas not often thought of, like the synthetic materials that make up our clothing. Given that it’s still Plastic-Free July, now is an ideal time to partake in the movement and shift your purchasing power away from plastics.
Simply showing up to a protest or event is a fantastic way to promote change. By demonstrating strength in issue numbers, you can show those in charge that this is truly an their constituents are focused on and want to see improvement in, and find your community in the process. You may even get the chance to hear from some wonderful speakers who help inspire you on your sustainability journey.
More general community events provide opportunities to participate, as well. Check out what’s on offer at your local community or garden center. Learn the basics of how to garden from a seasoned pro, or help create an artistic mural that increases awareness for climate change. It may take some digging, or even some initiative to start a community project of your own, but the end result will be a rewarding experience.
8. Learn About Your Local Ecosystems
Learning is a forever kind of thing. Head to your local library and grab a couple of reference books—the more local the focus, the better! If the library is not an option, look up information about invasive and native species in your area online.
After that, head out to a park or walking trail and see what you can identify (or what new things you notice) with your newfound knowledge. You’ll be surprised what new things you can find with fresh eyes If this undertaking resonates, consider birding or foraging as a means of getting in touch with, and better understanding, nature.
9. Contact Your Representatives
Though not the most fun, this option is likely the quickest and easiest to do—and it can make a meaningful impact. First, track down your local reps and contact info. Next, give your chosen representative a phone call, shoot an email, or even postmark a physical letter. You may even be able to arrange a meeting with those representatives on a more local level.
Vocalize whatever concerns about the climate you hold closest and what sort of change you’d like to see implemented. If you’re looking for a more templated approach, this letter-writing guide from Citizens’ Climate Lobby will help you get started.
10. Turn Your Yard Into an Eco-Paradise
Transform your yard into a welcoming place for local wildlife. Make sure your landscaping and gardens are comprised of options that be native plants, and supplement with will attract and nourishes, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
If you want to take your little ecosystem a step further, install a birdbath to help your local winged friends cool down. And if you’re really all-in when it comes to making an impact and lessening your natural resource usage for the sake of conservation, you can even opt for an overhaul with some lawn alternatives!
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