While caring for and considering the other creatures that share our planet should be something we think about every day, it seems fitting to share these tips for protecting endangered species on World Elephant Day (which happens to be today).
With the Endangered Species Act ( ESA) getting butchered more and more by the minute, it’s entirely up to us to find new ways to protect our Earthly co-inhabitants, especially since, for the most part, it’s US from whom they need protection! Out of all the animals on this planet, we’re the only one capable of wreaking complete and utter havoc on the world around us, and 99% of animals on the list are there solely because of us.
Saving the planet from ourselves isn’t easy. If it was, we wouldn’t be facing the possibility of total ecological meltdown by 2050. We tend to be a bit on the selfish side as a species, with short attention spans that we use to spend more time looking for “hacks” to save time rather than the planet. I’m not standing on a soapbox looking down on you from my almighty perch of perfection. I do a better job of protecting the planet than some, but I know I’m just as many others and probably far worse than a few.
In other words, this is a judgement-free zone…for the most part. If you’re all for the destruction of the ESA and could not care less about protecting endangered animals…well a) I’m totally judging you and b) what the heck are you doing reading this post in the first place??? Seriously, if that’s you, move along. You’re not my target audience.
Still here? Good! I’m so glad! Now, let’s look at simple things that every one of us can do to help protect endangered species.
What You Can Do Today (and Everyday) to Protect Endangered Species
I promise to keep these tips both actionable and simple. Like I said, we tend to be a “take the path of least resistance” species, so telling you to go remodel your entire house with earth-friendly materials, switch to solar energy, stop driving a car, and stop eating meat just isn’t realistic for most of you. Heck, aside from not eating mammals, most of that isn’t realistic for me!
FYI, this post does contain a few affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I get a tiny commission at no extra charge to you. Thanks! I’ve also included some useful videos to help you on your journey to becoming a better friend to the animals around you!
1. Educate yourself and your kids
Educating yourself & your family about endangered species doesn’t have to mean spending all of your free time reading EMagazine (which is actually pretty great) or articles on WWF.org (also fantastic). In fact, it doesn’t even mean reading up on the latest laws affecting elephants on the other side of the world.
In fact, if you have to choose between learning about the plight of the Bonobo in the Congo and the Piping Plover in your own backyard, choose to stay local. I’m not in any way discouraging you from learning about & helping animals across the globe who need help but your immediate actions have a much greater impact in your own backyard.
2. Grow local, shop local
In a perfect world, we’d grow all our own food & cultivate a beautiful garden filled with local foliage. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even keep an aloe plant alive (not that aloe is a local plant anyway). My mom does her part (and mine) by growing plenty of veggies in our backyard during the summer, which cuts down on the amount we buy from the store. If more people grew their own stuff, less fruits, veggies & plants would have to be trucked in from elsewhere.
If you’re like me and can’t grow a plant to save your life, then at least do as much of your shopping as possible at a local farmer’s market. That way, you’re supporting local farmers who actually can grow things and reducing your overall carbon footprint. Since other animals have to breathe the air that we’re ruining, this alone can go a long way toward protecting endangered species, especially if more people do it.
3. Make “sustainable” a larger part of your vocabulary (and your shopping list)
Look, I know it’s hard to completely cut out your plastic consumption. I have crap water that tastes like rotten eggs so I buy way more bottled water than I should. I do try to ease my burden on the planet by reusing gallon jugs and filling up at the little water station outside the grocery store (it’s cheaper anyway) but we still end up buying a lot of smaller bottles, too.
If you have good water, though, ditch the plastic bottles and buy yourself a nice reusable sustainable water bottle, then fill it up with tap water (toss on a filter if you’re worried about your water quality). The same goes for other items that end up in landfills.
- Read magazines & newspapers online (by all means, subscribe to them and support journalism as a whole, but go ahead and cancel your print copies).
- Stick to buying print copies of books only for your favorite authors (I have a few that I collect) and opt for the Kindle version for the rest.
- Buy more products made from recycled materials and always opt for minimal packaging (versus products that are the size of a pea but are packaged in boxes the size of your fridge!).
- Switch to organic fair-trade coffee grown in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance (I promise you can find plenty of great varieties & brands that don’t cost a fortune)
In general, just try to focus on more “sustainable” items overall.
4. Reuse, repurpose, recycle!
We covered the “reduce” part of the 4 Rs above. For those items you can’t reduce or times that you can’t buy sustainable, make sure you reuse what you can & recycle what you can’t. All of these things help keep garbage out of our oceans. Considering there’s over 5 trillion pieces of trash littering our oceans, every single little bit helps!
It’s worth it to keep things like this from happening (the video is a little upsetting so I won’t judge if you decide to skip it, as I’m very sensitive to animals in pain myself).
5.Visit local wildlife preserves & environmental education centers
We have a few “environmental education centers” in the Poconos, but I’m not sure if that’s a local thing or something every area does. If you have one, definitely plan a few visits! You’ll learn so much about your local ecology and endangered animals. Many of them offer free guided tours for both kids and adults. If you do have extra cash, try to at least donate a few bucks to help out, even if the tours are free.
If you don’t have one, check for other wildlife preserves in your area (or in places you’ll be visiting, which is a great way to broaden your knowledge beyond your own backyard). If your kids love zoos, opt for those that act as preservationists versus just cruddy little places filled with animals in tiny cages. Think San Diego or National Zoo (the latter of which is free, by the way) versus Joe’s Cagey Animal Farm. I made that one up, so I really hope there isn’t a great preservation zoo out there named that.
6. Support business that support wildlife
Try to buy products from brands that focus on sustainability, fair trade, organic farming and other animal-friendly practices. It’s harder than I thought it would be to find you a list. Your best bet is to look up the “ecofriendly X” and go from there, replacing the X with the product you’re trying to buy. For example, “ecofriendly coffee” brings up a few results, including this post from Ecowatch with the top 10 most earth-friendly brands.
You can also buy gifts from conservation companies. The World Wildlife Fund has some adorable stuff on their website. If you prefer to shop on Amazon, National Geographic has their own storefront. I have this book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals, that supports endangered species as well as educates us about them. Plus, it’s just a beautiful book!
On the flip side, don’t support brands that could clearly not care less about wildlife and the environment. These include brands owned by (or that donate to) the man responsible for butchering the ESA; companies that have no regard for the rain forest; cosmetic brands that still participate in the barbaric & unnecessary practice of testing on animals, and so on. Again, do your homework.
7. Leave wildlife in the wild
Whether on vacation or in your own backyard, leave wildlife where it belongs: in the wild. When you’re on vacation, pay attention to local laws that prohibit removing certain natural resources. For example, most of us have gone to the beach and left with a bag full of seashells, but did you know that it’s actually illegal on many beaches?
I’ve also visited places where taking something as seemingly simple as a pinecone was against the law. Not the rules, the law. As in, you can get a steep fine. That shell or pinecone isn’t looking so good now, is it? Think that’s just stupid? While your theft of a few shells or stones isn’t going to collapse the local ecosystem, thousands of people removing thousand of them every week definitely will cause a good amount of harm!
Okay, so I’m not really going to judge you if you snag a stone. I’ve had friends bring me dirt back from all over the globe so I’m in no position to judge. However, I will think poorly of you if you decide to buy ivory, real turtle shell products, gorilla hands (yep, it happens) or other items made from local endangered species. In fact, if you buy something as horrific as gorilla hands, I don’t even want to know you. Bottom line, leave the wild in the wild.
8. Open your eyes!
Now here’s something that everyone can do anytime anywhere and without spending a single penny. In fact, it’s something we should all be doing anyway! What is this magical simple way to protect endangered species, you ask? Open your eyes while driving! Yep, that’s it. Just pay attention and be alert for local wildlife. The Dodo estimates that 1.3 million animals are killed every single day by cars alone. While not all of them are on the endangered list, that’s still a lot of animals getting hit by cars.
9. Join in on “movements”
No, I don’t mean that you have to pack your bags and head out to a national “march” or anything quite so expensive (if you want to, then definitely go for it, though). As much as I’d love to spend all of my time marching to support a cause, I’m a single mom trying to survive on a low income. I can’t take the time off to be as active as I’d like in person. However, I can do things like turn off the lights & electronics for Earth Hour, or ditch plastic for Plastic Free Day (or write about protecting endangered species on World Elephant Day).
See, it may sound silly to have these single hours or days, but when millions of people join it, it makes a massive impact. See, these things don’t just reduce our impact on the planet for those few hours, they send a message to legislators that we really do care about environmental issues. If you can’t even be bothered to turn the lights off for an hour, then you can’t expect lawmakers to take you seriously when you ask them to create laws protecting the planet.
10. Write, call, speak up & speak out
Last, but far from least, use your voice (or your pen) and speak up for endangered species. Write letters to Congress, call local legislators, sign petitions (real ones, not just those online petitions that really never actually change anything). Educate friends and families. Share great new sustainable products. Talk about the issue with your kids. Just use your voice, because not to sound trite or cliche, the creatures you’re trying to protect don’t have one. Well, they do, but it’s not one we can understand. Make sense?
I hope you found at least a few practical and easy things that you personally can feasibly do to help protect endangered animals! I tried to choose things that anyone can do, not only because we’re creatures of convenience, but also because I know not all of us have the money for grand gestures. 🙂