This year for Earth Day, we turn our attention to endangered species — and what you can do to help protect them. Human Nature tapped five Conservation International experts for their best tips to help endangered species, whether you’re rustling up a mid-afternoon snack or shopping for new clothes.
Let’s jump in.
- Embrace meatless Mondays
“If you have easy access to food options, stop eating meat — or at least limit your consumption and choose locally sourced meat. Research shows that the rising consumption of animal-based proteins is one of the biggest drivers of the destruction of terrestrial ecosystems and the loss of species. Raising and feeding livestock also contributes to climate change, consumes tremendous water resources and generates pollution. The bonus to eating less meat? Many people in economically developed countries consume much more protein than they need — switching to a more plant-based diet would actually improve their health!” – Olivier Langrand, executive director, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
- Get thrifty
“So many of the things we purchase and use — food, clothing, coffee, furniture — come from places around the world where rare and threatened species live. To help reduce your impact, be aware of where products are sourced before purchasing them, and buy used instead of new. Buying at used clothing and furniture stores helps ensure that we aren’t contributing to additional habitat destruction. Instead of replacing furniture or clothing, reuse, repair or repurpose it. Whenever possible, choose sustainable, reclaimed or used wood furniture instead of particle board and buy clothing made from sustainable cotton, wool and silk. In the long run, buying used goods made of high quality, sustainable materials is just as affordable as buying new, cheap furniture or fast-fashion.” – Rachel Neugarten, director of conservation priority setting, Conservation International
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- Watch your (carbon) footprint
“Be mindful of your energy consumption — we consume 30 percent more resources annually than Earth can replenish. If you look at the threats most endangered species face, a huge factor is habitat loss or conflict with humans over resources. Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle by reducing your carbon footprint is the single most important thing a person can do to conserve species. A few simple ways to do that: Turn off lights to conserve electricity, use public transportation, recycle and use sustainably produced products.” – Matthew Lewis, regional director of wildlife trafficking and enforcement, Conservation International Kenya
- Seek out sustainability
“Always check labels for sustainability certifications before you buy. Endangered terrestrial species mainly lose their habitat because of the demand of unsustainable agricultural products that increase deforestation. Reduce or eliminate your consumption of these products and buy from companies that have implemented sustainable agricultural practices, such as zero deforestation. Buying sustainably sourced food is vital in protecting endangered species.” – Jorge Ahumada, senior wildlife conservation scientist, Conservation International
- Background-check your pet
“There is growing concern around the exotic pet trade that many of the species being purchased by unwitting folk are actually illegally traded. This is accelerating the decline of key species such as reptiles, amphibians, aquarium species (such as fish) and birds. Consumers need to be aware of this in order to make informed decisions when it comes to buying pets. By doing a little digging and asking questions as to the origin of the animal, people can encourage greater accountability in the wildlife trade. – Keith Roberts, executive director, Wildlife Program, Conservation International Kenya
Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.
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