Don't be afraid OF sharks; be afraid FOR them. There are more misunderstandings and untruths about sharks than almost any other group of animals on the planet. While many people fear sharks, it is the sharks who should be fearing us.
According to the shark attack file, maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History, on average 5 people die worldwide from shark attacks. Research published in 2006 found that up to 70 million sharks are killed by humans each year, mostly for their fins. This is a devastating death toll for a long-living species that is as slow to reproduce as sharks.
Sharks have roamed the oceans far longer than most land animals have been here. They were here before many of the dinosaurs and have outlasted them. But an international assessment of sharks undertaken by the World Conservation Union reveals that their future is in doubt.
Of 546 shark species assessed, 111 species were at significant risk of global extinction. Twenty species are listed as critically endangered and 25 as endangered. A study published in the journal Science concluded that some shark species have lost 80% of their populations just in the past 40 years including hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and porbeagle sharks. While hammerhead shark is a name familiar to most, most people have never heard of porbeagle sharks...some of the lesser known sharks are in even greater danger.
Sharks can range from being just inches in length (like the tiny cookie cutter shark) to being larger than a school bus (like the giant plankton-eating whale shark). Though sharks perform the same role in the ocean ecosystem that is performed by well-known predators such as lions, tigers and cheetahs on land, the fact that they live in such an alien world makes it hard for us to know about their lives. What we do know is pretty fascinating.
Sharks shed their teeth. A single shark may lose thousands of teeth over its life and this accounts for the many shark teeth found by beach combers throughout the world. Their teeth are connected to a membrane in their mouth that is constantly being pushed forward as new teeth form. New teeth are generally slightly larger than the ones before. This allows the size of the shark's teeth to keep pace with the growth of the rest of the body.
Sharks are picky eaters. Some sharks eat only plankton, others eat small fish or squid, and still others eat large fish and marine mammals. The type of teeth a shark has will show you what it eats. Great white sharks have teeth with serrated edges for slicing off pieces from larger prey, the teeth of mako sharks are thin and pointed for grabbing onto slippery fish. Nurse sharks and other bottom dwellers tend to have thicker teeth for crushing shellfish. No matter the tooth shape, sharks never chew their food.
You're more likely to die as a result of being electrocuted by lighting than being attacked by a shark. More deadly than shark attacks each year are crocodile attacks, hippo attacks, and even attacks by pigs.
Many sharks are warm blooded. Unlike the rest of the fishy world, many large sharks can maintain their body temperature higher than the ocean temperature around them.
Some sharks lay eggs, but others give birth to live young and may not be sexually mature until they are over the age of 10.
We don't know whether sharks sleep. Sometimes they seem to rest, but their eyes don't close and if they sleep, they certainly don't sleep the way that mammals can.
There is a lot we don't know about sharks, but we DO know that if we don't act soon to stop overfishing, some of the most ancient and magnificent animals on the planet may soon disappear.
Water is a precious resource in our environment. Growing populations and ongoing droughts are squeezing our water resources dry, causing natural habitat degredation and impacting our everyday use of water. We have no choice but to pay more attention to how we are using water, and how we may be wasting it. We must bridge the gap between our understanding of how important water is to our survival and what we can do to ensure that we have an adequate supply of clean water for years to come. Below is a list of the many simple ways you can take action and conserve water, both inside and outside our homes.
YOU'RE IN CONTROL
Try to do one thing each day to save water. Don't worry if the savings are minimal. Every drop counts, and every person can make a difference. Be aware of and follow all water conservation and water shortage rules and restrictions that may be in effect in your area. Make sure your children are aware of the need to conserve water.
WATER WASTERS IN THE KITCHEN & BATH
Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded, or bent parts. Consider purchasing LowFlow toilets that can reduce indoor water use by 20%. Install a toilet dam or displacement device such as a bag or bottle to cut down on the amount of water needed for each flushing. Be sure installation does not interfere with operating parts. Avoid unnecessary flushing. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet. If the toilet flush handle frequently sticks in the flush position, letting water run constantly, replace or adjust it.
Replace your showerhead with an ultra low-flow version, saving up to 2.5 gallons per minute. Take shorter showers. Try a "Navy" shower; get wet, turn off the water, soap and scrub, then turn the water on to rinse. In the shower, instead of increasing the hot or cold water flow to adjust the water temperature, try decreasing the flow to achieve a comfortable water temperature. Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/3 full. The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later. Don't let the water run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.
Minimize the use of kitchen sink disposals; they require a lot of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste. Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run to get a cool glass of water. Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator, or by using the defrost setting on your microwave. Consider installing an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don't have to let the water run while it heats up. This will reduce heating costs for your household.
When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow stream of water from the faucet. Use the dirty water to run your sink disposal if necessary. Fully load automatic dishwashers; they use the same amount of water no matter how much is in them. Buy dishwashers with water and energy saving options.
OTHER WATER WASTERS IN YOUR HOME
Unlike your dishwasher, the amount of water your washing machine uses is adjustable; adjust according to load size. Look for water saving washing machines and buy them. Horizontal loading machines use less water than top-loading machines. Install a hot water recirculation device. By recirculating the water that would otherwise go down the drain, you can save 2-3 gallons of water for each shower taken or 16,500 gallons a year per household. This may mean an average annual savings of $50 on your water bill and $40 on your energy bill. Install an air-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system. Air-to-air models are just as efficient as water-to-air models and do not waste water. Install water-softening systems only when necessary. Save water and salt by running the minimum amount of regeneration necessary to maintain water softness. Turn softeners off while on vacation.
Divert From the Drain
Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.
Verify that your home is leak free, because many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. Retrofit all wasteful household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors. Insulate your water pipes. You'll get hot water faster and avoid wasting water. Check your pump. If you have a well at your home, listen to see if the pump turns on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.
OUTDOOR WATER WASTERS
Watering the Lawn
Don't overwater your lawn. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every 5 to 7 days in the summer. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for as long as two weeks. Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation. Don't water your street, driveway, or sidewalk. Position your sprinklers so that your water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not the paved areas. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use such as micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses. Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly. Teach your family how to shut off automatic systems so they can turn them off when storms are approaching. Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn the water off.
Raise your lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture better than closely-clipped lawns. Avoid overfertilizing your lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water and is a source of water pollution.
Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching also helps to control weeds that compete with plants for water. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Check with your local nursery for advice. Group plants together based on similar water needs. Outfit your hose with a shut-off nozzle which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks. Minimize the grass areas in your yard because less grass means less water. Buy a rain gauge to determine how much rain or irrigation your yard has received.
Other Outdoor Water Wasters
Avoid hosing down your driveway or sidewalk; use a broom instead and save hundreds of gallons of drinkable water. Check all hoses, connectors, and spigots regularly. Replace or add washers if you find leaks. Avoid the installation of ornamental water features unless the water is recycled. If you have a pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single backflushing with a traditional filter uses from 180 to 250 gallons of water. Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park it on the grass, use a bucket with soapy water, turn off the water while soaping, and use a hose with a pressure nozzle to decrease rinsing time. Create an awareness of the need for water conservation among your children. Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
AT WORK & AROUND TOWN
Encourage your employer to promote water conservation at the workplace. Suggest that water conservation tips be put in the employee orientation manual and training program. Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses. Promote water conservation in community newsletters, on bulletin boards, and by example. Patronize businesses that practice and promote water conservation. Report all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, misdirected sprinklers, abandoned or free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities, or your water management district. Encourage your school system and local government to promote a water conservation ethic among school children and adults. Support efforts and programs to create a concern for water conservation among tourists and visitors to your state. Make sure your visitors understand the need for, and benefits of, water conservation. Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. Don't waste water just because someone else is footing the bill, such as when you are staying at a hotel.
Growing your own food is just smart and a great way to not have to rely on the stores to have what you want. Just because you live in an apartment or don't have much land doesn't mean you can't grow your own food. There are plenty of vegetables that do great in containers, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, spinach, beets, and of course many herbs.
Take into consideration how big the plant gets and plant accordingly into the right size pot. Make sure it has a drainage hole or two, and never let your veggies dry out. Over-watering can be just as dangerous. A good rule of thumb to avoid over-watering is to plunge a popsicle stick into the soil. If soil sticks to it, it doesn't need watered.
If you have a spot in the yard at least 4x4 feet, you can have a great little raised garden bed and plant a variety of veggies.
Keep in mind that plants have friends and neighbor well with some better than others. This is called Companion Planting. An example of this is tomatoes like to be planted near carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers. Do not plant corn or potatoes near your tomatoes. Beans do well with celery, corn, cucumbers, radish, strawberries and summer savory, but will not do well with garlic and onions. Planting mint near your cabbage will enhance the flavor of your cabbage. Marigolds near your tomatoes will deter tomato Aphids.
If you are new to gardening, container and small, raised bed gardening are great ways to start. Try an online search for Companion Gardening and Container Gardening...there is an entire world of information out there. Remember to start with non GMO seeds so you can save your seeds for next year's planting.
Teach your kids everything you learn; pass it on to them so they, too, can one day be self sustainable. Also, try canning to preserve your hard work and enjoy it in the winter.
Reducing waste does not mean you have to reduce what you buy, it means shopping with the environment in mind. Consider the environmental impact of each product before you buy it. Make a list of what you need before you go shopping; this will reduce impulse buying. Buy in bulk. It is cheaper and eliminates small containers and excess packaging, which accounts for 50 percent of our domestic trash. You have bought your laundry soap like this for years. Think about what else you can buy in bulk!
Avoid buying throwaways that can't be recycled. For instance, carry a camera but if you need to use a disposable camera make sure that it can be recycled when you get the film developed. Some companies that make one-time use cameras reuse and recycle up to 90 percent of the parts of their cameras when consumers send them in for developing. Installing low-flow shower heads and faucets can save a family of four 280 gallons of water per month. Seldom used items, such as appliances and party supplies, often collect dust, rust and take up valuable storage space. Consider renting or borrowing them the next time they're needed. Remember, every time you make a purchase you cast your vote to protect the environment.
Learning to reuse is easy, and after a little practice it will become second nature. Here are some great ways to reuse our precious resources. Reuse shopping bags or buy canvas bags and use them when you shop. Buy durable high quality goods for a longer life outside the landfill. Although durable goods may cost a little more at first, they will save you money and help save the environment in the long run.
Before throwing anything away, think about how each item can be reused. Be sure to use both sides of a piece of paper before recycling it. Donate clothing, furniture and appliances to charity. Hospitals and nursing homes often accept old magazines and schools reuse many items in their art and theater classes. Almost all glass, plastic and metal containers can be reused for storage in the kitchen or the garage. Think before you toss.
If you want to reduce and reuse at the same time, take a two liter pop bottle and fill it with water. Add a few stones to weigh it down, place it in the tank of your toilet, and you will have reused a pop bottle and reduced two liters of water every time you flush.
Reducing is the best way to protect the environment. However, if you can't reduce something, reuse it, and if you can't reuse it, recycle it. Recycling means collecting, processing, marketing, and ultimately using materials that were once discarded. For example, this morning's newspaper can be recycled into insulation, packing material, wrapping paper and more newspaper. Plastic pop and milk jugs are recycled into lumber that is used for making durable playground equipment and park benches.
Many different materials can be recycled. Among these are aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars, plastics, tin cans, steel cans, brass, copper, car batteries, computer paper, office paper, corugated cardboard, motor oil, scrap iron and steel and tires.
Separate aluminum, steel and tin cans from other metals. If you aren't sure whether a can is aluminum or steel, check with a magnet. A magnet will stick to steel and tin but will not stick to aluminum. Wipe or lightly rinse all cans and make sure they are dry before recycling them. Prepare newspapers by folding them into brown paper bags or bundle with string into one foot stacks. Prepare glass by rinsing and removing metal or plastic rims and lids. Sort by color: brown, green and clear. Prepare plastics by rinsing and separating by numbers. If plastic is recyclable, it will have a number on the bottom of the container. Break down corrugated cardboard boxes. Separate office paper into white, colored and glossy stacks. Be careful to remove sticky tabs and paper clips. Motor oil should be collected in no larger than five gallon containers and be free of contaminants. Tires are accepted from individuals no more than five per year.
The fur ads we see in magazines and commercials portray fur coats as a symbol of elegance. But these ads fail to show how the original owners of these coats met their gruesome deaths. Approximately 3.5 million furbearing animals -- raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, opossums, nutria, beavers, muskrats, otters, and others -- are killed each year by trappers in the United States. Another 2.7 million animals are raised on fur "farms." Despite the fur industry's attempts to downplay the role of trapping in fur "production," it is estimated that more than half of all fur garments come from trapped animals.
RANCH RAISED FUR
Some people believe that animals raised in captivity on fur "ranches" do not suffer. This is not the case. Trapping and "ranching" have both similar and disparate cruelties involved, and neither is humane. "Ranched" animals, mostly minks and foxes, spend their entire lives in appalling conditions, only to be killed by painful and primitive methods.
Approximately one half of the fur coats made in the United States and Canada come from captive animals bred, born and raised on fur farms. These operations range from family-owned businesses with 50 animals to large operations with thousands of animals. But regardless of their size or location, "the manner in which minks (and other furbearers) are bred is remarkably uniform over the whole world," according to one study. As with other intensive-confinement animal farms, the methods used on fur farms are designed to maximize profits, always at the expense of the animals' welfare and comfort, and always at the expense of their lives.
In the United States there are approximately 500 fur farms. About 90% of all ranched fur bearers are minks. Foxes, rabbits and chinchillas account for most of the remainder, though fur farmers have recently diversified into lynx, bobcats, wolves, wolverines, coyotes and beavers. All of these animals live only a fraction of their natural lifespans; minks are killed at about five months of age, and foxes are killed when they are about nine months old. Breeding females live somewhat longer. The animals' short lives are filled with fear, stress, disease, parasites and other physical and psychological hardships, all for the sake of an industry that makes huge profits from its $648 million-a-year sales.
Foxes are kept in cages only 2.5 feet square, with one to four animals per cage. Minks and other species are generally kept in cages only one by three feet, again with up to four animals per cage. This extreme crowding and confinement is especially damaging to minks, who are by nature solitary animals. A large portion of ranched minks develop self-mutilating behaviors, including pelt and tail biting, and abnormalities called "stereotypes" such as pacing in ritualized patterns. Foxes kept in close confinement sometimes cannibalize each other.
Minks, foxes and chinchillas are fed meat and fish by-products so vile that they are unfit even for the pet food industry. These animals are also fed minced offal, which endangers their health because of bacterial contamination. Newly weaned kits and pups are especially vulnerable to the food poisoning this diet can cause. Water on fur farms is provided by a nipple system from which the animals can drink at will...except, of course, when the system freezes in the winter.
As with other caged and confined animals, animals on fur farms are much more susceptible to diseases than their free-roaming counterparts. Contagious diseases such as Aleutian disease, viral enteritis and pneumonia are passed from cage to cage, and sometimes kill entire populations. Bladder and urinary ailments (wet belly disease) and nursing sickness (which kills up to 80 percent of all animals it infects, if not treated in time) are common. Animals are often infested with fleas, ticks, lice, and mites, and disease-carrying flies are a particularly severe problem because they are attracted to the piles of excrement that remain under the cages for months.
Fur farm cages are typically kept in open sheds that provide little protection from wind, cold and heat. The animals' fur helps keep them warm in winter, but summer is very hard on minks because they lack the ability to cool their bodies without bathing in water. Free-roaming minks spend 60 to 70 percent of their time in water, and without it their salivation, respiration and body temperature increase greatly. When minks learn to shower themselves by pressing on their drinking water supply nipples, mink farmers have been known to modify the nipples to cut off even this meager water supply.
No humane slaughter law protects animals on fur farms, and killing methods are gruesome. Because the fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but which result in severe suffering for the animals still quite attached to the pelts. Small animals can be shoved up to 20 at a time into boxes, where they are poisoned with hot, unfiltered engine exhaust pumped in by hose from the fur farmer's truck. Engine exhaust is not always 100 percent lethal, and some animals "wake up" while being skinned. Larger animals, including foxes, often have clamps attached to their lips while rods are inserted into their anuses, and are then very painfully electrocuted. Other animals are poisoned with strychnine, which actually suffocates them by paralyzing their muscles in painful rigid cramps. Gassing, decompression chambers and neck snapping are other common fur farm slaughter methods.
An archaic device used for centuries, the steel-jaw leghold trap is the most commonly used trap in the U.S. by commercial and recreational fur trappers today. Triggered by a pan-tension device, the weight of an animal stepping between the jaws of the trap causes the jaws to slam shut on the victim's leg, or other body part, in a vice-like grip. Most animals react to the instant pain by frantically pulling against the trap in a desperate attempt to free themselves, enduring fractures, ripped tendons, edema, blood loss, amputations, tooth and mouth damage (from chewing and biting at the trap), and starvation. Some animals will even chew or twist their limbs off, so common that trappers have termed this occurrence as "wring-off," which for them means the loss of a marketable pelt. To the animal left crippled on three legs, "wring-off" means certain death from starvation, gangrene or attack from other predators.
On land, leghold traps are most frequently set for coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon, skunk and other furbearing animals. However, leghold traps are inherently indiscriminate and will trap any unsuspecting animal that steps foot into the trap jaws, including companion animals, threatened and endangered species, and even humans. Trappers admit that for every "target" animal trapped, at least two other "non-target" animals, including dogs and cats, are trapped.
Aquatic leghold traps are most often set for muskrat, otter, mink and beaver. Most animals trapped in water will either try to surface to gasp for air or will drag the trap under water in an attempt to reach land. Usually they die a slow, agonizing death by drowning, which can take up to 20 minutes for some species. Death by drowning has been deemed inhumane by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
More than 80 countries have banned leghold traps, as well as several states. But most states continue to allow them, and some states still allow the use of teeth on leghold traps. An estimated 80% of the total number of trapped animals in the U.S. are taken by steel-jaw leghold traps, followed by wire snares and Conibear traps.
In November 1995, the European Union banned the use of leghold traps in all 15-member nations.
Many veterinary associations, including the World Veterinary Association and the American Animal Hospital Association, have policy statements opposing the use of leghold traps. In 1993, the Executive Board of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) declared, "The AVMA considers the steel-jaw leghold trap to be inhumane."
A national poll showed that 74% of Americans believe leghold traps should be banned.
Trapping proponents argue that traps used today in the U.S. are humane, touting the "padded" leghold trap as a commonly used humane alternative to the steel jaw version. However, the only distinctive difference between the two traps is that the padded leghold trap has a thin strip of rubber attached to the trap jaws. Not only do these traps cause significant injuries to animals, but research indicates that fewer than 5% of trappers even own padded leghold traps in the U.S. Only a few states require that padded leghold traps be used, and this provision only applies to leghold traps set on land. Numerous studies have shown that padded traps can cause severe injuries to their victims.
Snares are categorized as either body/neck or foot snares. Like leghold traps, they are a primitive device, simple in design and vicious in action. They are generally made of light wire cable looped through a locking device or of small nylon cord tied so that it will tighten as the animal pulls against it. The more a snared animal struggles, the tighter the noose becomes, the tighter the noose, the greater the animal's struggle and suffering. The body snare is used primarily on coyotes and is often set where animals crawl under a fence or some other narrow passageway. The body snare is designed to kill the animal by strangulation or crushing of vital organs. However, snares do not discriminate between victims and will capture any animal around any body part.
While some small animals are thought to become unconscious in about six minutes when neck snared, larger animals can suffer for days on end. Trappers even have a term -- "jellyhead" -- that refers to the thick, bloody lymph fluid which swells the heads and necks of neck-snared canids. Snares frequently have to be replaced after each capture due to twisting and strain on the snare cable that results from animals struggling to free themselves.
Set on land and in water, snares are considered even more indiscriminate than the leghold trap. Because they are cheap and easy to set, trappers will often saturate an area with dozens of snares to catch as many animals as possible. Called "saturation snaring," this practice is common in Alaska where trappers attempt to target entire wolf packs through this reprehensible practice.
Even the Federal Provincial Committee for Humane Trapping has deemed the snare to cause too many injuries to be considered a "quick killing device."
The Conibear trap, named after its inventor Frank Conibear, consists of two metal rectangles hinged together midway on the long side to open and close like scissors. One jaw has a trigger that can be baited. The opposite jaw has a catch or "dog" that holds the trap open. Originally intended to be an "instant killing" device, the Conibear trap is designed to snap shut in a scissor-like fashion on an animal's spinal column at the base of the skull. However, because it is impossible to control the size, species and direction of the animal entering the trap, most animals do not die quickly in the Conibear trap...instead enduring prolonged suffering as the clamping force of the trap draws the jaws closer and closer together, crushing the animal's abdomen, head or other body part.
Domestic animals are frequent victims of this indiscriminate trap, especially the size 220 (7") Conibear. Numerous veterinary reports indicate that dogs and cats may be found dead or alive by their owners in these traps after suffering for days. However, because it is extremely difficult to open the trap jaws, most people are not able to free their companions in time.
Manufactured in three standard sizes, Conibear traps are frequently used in water sets to trap muskrat and beaver. In addition, they are used on land to trap raccoon, pine marten, opossum and other furbearers. Numerous research studies have shown that this trap does not kill instantly.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Every fur coat represents the intense suffering of up to several dozen animals, whether they were trapped or ranched. These cruelties will end only when the public refuses to buy or wear fur products and rejects the propaganda of trappers, ranchers and furriers whose monetary motives cause unjustifiable misery and death. Those who learn the facts about furs must help educate others, for the sake of the animals and for the sake of decency.
You've recently learned about animal issues. Or you're concerned about endangered species. Or you've been concerned about the environment for many years and have decided it's time to educate society about the issues. You may be timid or think you do not speak well in public. Perhaps you've never been involved in an activist group and you do not know the first thing about them. You may feel that you are all alone. But as an individual you can educate hundreds of people in your community and affect their often unwittingly exploitative attitudes and lifestyles.
Earth and animal activists are people who see the need for change and devote their time to doing something about it. They are driven by passion and a vision for a better future for animals and the environment. Whatever your reason for wanting to become an earth and animal activist, you have the ability to do so no matter your age, your means or your background. It's people like you, people who believe they have the power to make a difference, who end up bringing remarkable change for the planet and its animals.
Perhaps there are no animal or environmental groups in your area. But there is one animal advocate/environmentalist person—you. Anyone can be an earth and animal activist. It does not take any special skills or superhuman abilities. You just need to care enough about animals to want to help them.
Earth and animal activists are passionate enough to believe they can make change happen if they work hard enough to find a solution. While many people might become stalled when faced with the question, "How much good can one individual do?", activists believe that one dedicated and persistent person can make a difference for the earth and its animals.
Practice earth and animal activism at home, at work and in your community. Making a difference for the earth and animals can be as easy as posting messages on Facebook and blogs and participating in conversations relevant to your passion. Use your particular talents to bring positive changes for the planet and its animals.
Write to producers and networks of television programs in which animals are abused or ridiculed.
Write to thank producers and publishers for animal-friendly messages in print and on television.
Write letters to companies that conduct animal experiments.
Write letters to companies that use real wild and exotic animals in their commercials.
Write letters to the editor on earth and animal issues.
Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper that allows ads for fur, circuses or rodeos.
Write and call legislators to ask them to support animal-friendly legislation and thank them for past support.
Call the sponsors of upcoming entertainment events that use animals and ask them not to sponsor animal entertainment.
Encourage radio and television talk shows to discuss animal issues.
Record a pro animal/environment message on your voice mail.
Include a flyer or fact sheet with every bill you pay.
Ask your child’s teacher to stop keeping animals in the classroom.
Ask your child's school to stop requiring students to dissect animals.
Offer to walk a tethered neighbor dog and provide the dog with food, fresh water and toys.
Turn your backyard into a wildlife sanctuary.
Deal with wildlife problems humanely.
I.D. your companion animals and encourage others to do the same.
Prepare disaster kits for your companion animals.
Post flyers and fact sheets on work bulletin boards.
Donate to organizations that legitimately help animals and the environment. Expose greenwash organizations to coworkers so they can make more informed decisions regarding their donations.
Encourage coworkers to donate to organizations that do not test on animals.
Make cruelty-free and environmentally responsible investments.
Buy cruelty-free and green supplies for your office.
Use a coffee mug with a pro animal or pro earth message at work.
Take vegan dishes to office parties.
Encourage your workplace to implement dog-friendly policies.
Hold a volunteer work party to write letters, help out at an animal shelter, or make banners or signs for a demonstration.
IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Donate pro earth and animal books to your local library.
Setup a library display with a poster, flyers and appropriate books.
Donate pro earth and animal DVDs to your local video rental store.
Wear clothes and buttons with earth and animal statements.
Post and distribute WAF flyers and fact sheets around your town.
Setup an information table in a busy area of town to distribute flyers and fact sheets.
Offer to show videos and host seminars.
Take vegan meals to community functions and share the recipes.
Show your hairdresser products that aren’t tested on animals.
Encourage local pet stores to stop selling animals and to work with local animal groups to offer adoptions instead.
Organize a low cost spay and neuter event in your community.
Work to get local universities and schools to stop requiring dissection and to add vegan options to their menu.
Help feral cats in your neighborhood with Trap-Neuter-Return.
Ask for vegan options at local restaurants and grocery stores.
Suggest an earth or animal themed book for your next book club meeting.
Work to engage your place of worship with animal and environmental issues.
Register to vote.
Determine which elected officials represent you at local, state and federal levels.
Encourage local officials to find long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to conflicts with wildlife.
Attend town meetings to urge officials to support animal and environmental issues.
Work for the passage of local ordinances in your community.
Engage kids and teens with humane education activities and lesson plans.
Learn what animal and environmental legislation is now pending in Congress, and contact your federal and state legislators.
Organize a demonstration to help the earth and animals - holding posters and passing out flyers.
Promote earth and animal issues on cable-access television.
Speak at your club or church about earth and animal issues.
Host an earth and animal dinner party.
Teach a college or community education course on earth and animal issues.
Speak, or sponsor a speaker, at local schools, universities and civic clubs.
Find a local wildlife rescuer to help stop cruel trapping and killing of animals in your community.
Find free advertising space in your town for earth and animal issues.
Organize a litter cleanup in your town.
Follow World Animal Foundation on social media. Help spread the word about animal issues by sharing our posts, links and photos.
Include a link to WorldAnimalFoundation.org in your e-mail signature.
Add a link to WorldAnimalFoundation.org to your website, blog or social networking page.
Sign online earth and animal petitions.
Place earth and animal banners on your blog or website.
Host a fundraising party at home to raise donations for WAF.
Host a fundraising event in your community to raise donations for WAF.
Make a personal annual or monthly donation to WAF.
Donate a percentage of your online sales to WAF.
Donate a percentage of your business profits to WAF.
Make a memorial gift in honor of a friend or companion animal.
Include WAF as a beneficiary in your will.
Adopt an animal from a local animal shelter or rescue group.
Purchase eco-friendly and cruelty-free cosmetics, clothing and household products.
Provide for your animals’ future in case you can’t care for them.
Wear pro earth and pro animal t-shirts.
Display a bumper sticker on your car.
Display earth and animal stickers and magnets on yourself and your stuff.
Reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet.
About half the air pollution comes from cars and trucks. Two important ways to reduce air pollution are to drive less -- even a little less -- and to drive smart. Taking fewer trips in your car or truck helps cut air pollution. And adopting smart driving habits reduces your car's emissions. Driving less doesn't mean you have to stay home. Try combining driving with alternative modes of transportation:
Walk or ride a bicycle
Shop by phone or mail
Ride public transit
Driving smart keeps pollution at a minimum:
Use cruise control on the highway
Obey the speed limit
Combine your errands into one trip
Keep your car tuned and support the smog check program
Don't top off at the gas pumps
Replace your car's air filter
Keep your tires properly inflated
That's not all. When shopping for your next car...
Look for the most efficient, lowest polluting model--or even use either a non-polluting car or zero emission vehicle. (Check out ARB's Guide to Cleaner Cars) If you must drive on days with unhealthy air, drive your newest car. Newer cars generally pollute less than older models.
CHOOSE AIR-FRIENDLY PRODUCTS
Many products you use in your home, in the yard, or at the office are made with smog-forming chemicals that escape into the air. Here are a few ways to put a lid on products that pollute:
Select products that are water-based or have low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Use water-based paints. Look for paints labeled "zero-VOC"
Paint with a brush, not a sprayer
Store solvents in air-tight containers
Use a push or electric lawn mower
Start your barbecue briquettes with an electric probe, or use a propane or natural gas barbecue
Saving energy helps reduce air pollution. Whenever you burn fossil fuel, you pollute the air. Use less gasoline, natural gas, and electricity (power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity):
Turn off the lights when you leave a room
Replace energy hungry incandescent lights with fluorescent lighting
Check with your utility company for energy conservation tips, like purchasing energy saving appliances
Use a thermostat that automatically turns off the air conditioner or heater when you don't need them
Add insulation to your home
Use a fan instead of air conditioning
Use an EPA-approved wood burning stove or fireplace insert
Heat small meals in a microwave oven
Insulate your water heater
Install low flow showerheads
Dry your clothes on a clothesline
It takes energy to make and sell the products we use. Here are ways to cut energy use, reduce air pollution, and save money:
Choose recycled products
Choose products with recyclable packaging
Reuse paper bags
Recycle paper, plastics, and metals
Print and photocopy on both sides of the paper
WATCH OUT FOR THE SMALL STUFF
When you breathe, very small particles -- such as dust, soot, and acid droplets -- can slip past your lung's natural defense system. These particles get stuck deep in your lungs and may cause problems -- more asthma attacks, bronchitis and other lung diseases, decreased resistance to infections, and even premature death for the elderly or sick. Here are a few things you can do to reduce particulate matter pollution and protect yourself:
Don't use your wood stove or fireplace on days with unhealthy air
Avoid using leaf blowers and other types of equipment that raise a lot of dust - use a rake or broom instead
Drive slowly on unpaved roads
Drive less, particularly on days with unhealthy air
Avoid vigorous physical activity on days with unhealthy air
KNOW THE INSIDE STORY
Air pollution is a problem indoors and out. Most people spend at least 80 percent of their lives indoors. Here are some ways you can reduce pollution in your home, office or school:
Send smokers outside
Products such as cleaning agents, paints, and glues often contain harmful chemicals - use them outdoors or with plenty of ventilation indoors
Use safer products, such as baking soda instead of harsher chemical cleaners
Don't heat your home with a gas cooking stove
Have your gas appliances and heater regularly inspected and maintained
Clean frequently to remove dust and molds
SPEAK UP FOR CLEAN AIR
Do what you can to reduce air pollution. It will make a difference. Use your civic influence to improve regional and national air pollution standards:
Write to your local newspaper
Support action for healthy air
Let your elected representative know you support action for clean air
Both orcas (commonly known as killer whales) and dolphins are members of the dolphin family Delphinidae -- orcas are the largest members. More than 500 orcas, dolphins and other members of the dolphin family are held in captivity in the United States. Before the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was passed in 1972, some 1,133 dolphins were captured in U.S. waters. Since 1961, 134 orcas have been captured worldwide for aquariums; of those only 28 are still alive, when a normal lifespan in the wild is 50 years. While the MMPA made it more difficult to capture marine mammals from the wild, aquariums can still apply for permits or import animals caught in other countries. Whether wild caught or captive born, orcas and dolphins in captivity are sentenced to a life of confinement deprived of normal social and environmental interaction.
The following are some of the myths surrounding captive marine mammals.
MYTH: The needs of orcas and dolphins are met in captivity.
Orcas and dolphins are extremely social, intelligent, and active animals. In the wild they are perpetually mentally and physically challenged by their life in the ocean and are almost always on the move. Orcas and dolphins in aquariums do not have a constantly changing aquatic environment to challenge them and their small tanks are comparable in size to human prison cells.
In the wild, dolphin populations are comprised of females and calves. Adult and sub-adult male dolphins form separate groups and form strong bonds in pairs or trios lasting up to ten years. Orcas live in maternal groups or pods consisting of family members including related adult males. No orca has yet been seen to transfer permanently from one pod to another. Studies of acoustical recordings show that each pod retains a unique dialect of vocalizations used in communication. Even after decades in captivity, orcas continue to produce the sounds of their natal pod.
In captivity these social organizations are restricted or nonexistent, as family members are traded and sold to other aquariums. In some cases calves have been removed from their mothers when they were only 6 months of age. When calves are separated from their mothers, it ensures that the normal social structure will never be developed.
MYTH: Marine mammals live longer in captivity.
Current research shows that there is no significant difference between the longevity of captive orcas and dolphins and wild orcas and dolphins. Despite the controlled environment, routine veterinary care and medications including anti-depressants, captive dolphins and orcas do not outlive their wild counterparts.
Looking at the bigger picture, the insistence on relying on mortality as a barometer of health of species is a distraction, taking attention away from the real issue of quality of life for the unfortunate animals who are forced to live in small barren enclosures for their entire lives.
MYTH: Marine parks conserve orcas and dolphins through breeding.
The marine mammals most commonly bred in captivity are not threatened or endangered species, so continued breeding in captivity exists to produce the next generation of park entertainers and to ensure continued profits. Aquariums have no intention of returning captive-bred animals to the wild. In fact, they claim that the success of such an endeavor would be unlikely and vehemently oppose release efforts.
Real conservation efforts focus on protecting habitat and the animals' place in that habitat.
MYTH: Aquarium research helps us understand and protect wild whales and dolphins.
Much of the research done at marine parks focuses around reproduction and maintaining the health of captive animals to ensure the perpetuation of profits for the industry. Results of studies conducted in captivity may not be adequately extrapolated to wild animals for several reasons:
Captive marine mammals live in small, sterile enclosures and are deprived of their natural activity level, social groups, and interactions with their natural environment.
Many captive marine mammals develop stereotypic behavior and/or aggression not known to occur in the wild.
What we have learned from captive research is that orcas and dolphins are more intelligent than previously imagined, providing more evidence that a life in captivity is inhumane.
MYTH: Marine parks provide valuable education and teach people respect for nature.
The principal education component at these parks comes from the "shows" where the animals perform tricks and stunts much like circus clowns. The education offered is often inaccurate, incomplete and misleading. Marine mammals cannot behave normally in a situation that deprives them of their natural habitat and social structure. Patrons witness and learn about abnormal animal behavior. The real message conveyed is not one of respect, but rather that it's all right to abuse nature.
MYTH: Most people feel marine parks are doing the right thing.
In a current national survey, almost all respondents indicated captive marine mammals should be kept under the most natural conditions possible, even if it meant the animals were more difficult to observe. Three-quarters of the American public further expressed a preference for marine mammals displaying natural behaviors rather than perform "tricks and stunts." Four-fifths of the national sample believed zoos and aquariums should not be permitted to display marine mammals unless major educational and/or scientific benefits resulted. Three-fifths objected to capturing wild dolphins and whales for display in zoos and aquariums. Three-quarters disapproved of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity if it resulted in significantly shortened lifespans.
A tremendous amount of money and public support was raised around the efforts to rehabilitate and release Keiko, the star of the movie Free Willy. This would not have been possible if people believed that aquariums were the right place for orcas.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Do not patronize any form of entertainment that uses animals. Tell your friends and family to boycott all aquariums that hold captive marine mammals for entertainment. Support only those aquariums involved solely in the rehabilitation and release of marine mammals, or the care of animals that cannot be released.
Support legislation to protect captive and wild marine mammals. If you witness a wild marine mammal being harassed or poached, contact the National Marine Fisheries Service. The national toll-free phone number for the enforcement division is 1-800-853-1964.
If you witness a captive marine mammal being neglected or mistreated at a marine park, contact the national headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
Plants have been the main source of substances for pharmaceutical use for millennia. The majority of medicines have a natural origin before they are fortified with synthetic substances by the pharmaceutical industry. You can avoid the intermediary process and produce your own pharmaceutical plants in your own backyard. Fresh herbs are cheap, can be grown easily, can help with a wide array of symptoms, and cause relatively fewer adverse effects than drugs. Avoid running to your pharmacist whenever you have a minor ailment; go to your garden instead. Populate your pharmaceutical garden with the following potent medicinal plants.
Basil may be a common element of Italian food, but it also has great medicinal properties. This fantastic herb can help transform both you and your garden. It is very rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for good vision, cell development, and immune health. Basil oil is rich in a compound named eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can comfort painful bones and joints just like over-the-counter ibuprofen. What’s more, it exhibits potent antibacterial properties and is effective even against antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family, which explains its beautiful aroma. It has been traditionally used for hundreds of years as a sleeping and anti-anxiety remedy, to facilitate digestion, and to treat cold sores and lesions. It has been scientifically proven that lemon balm helps fight herpes lesions around the lips and the genitals. Eugenol, which is also present in lemon balm, has antibacterial properties and is also used in dentistry, as a topical agent for cavities. You can use dried leaves of lemon balm to decorate your salads, or to make hot tea.
Marigolds are yellow and orange flowers that are common in gardens and backyards. They are rich in antioxidant substances that scavenge free radicals, extremely reactive particles that can damage cells and genetic material and cause cancer. Research has shown that lutein, a substance with antioxidant properties that is present in marigold extract, has tumor-fighting properties. What’s more, marigolds fight inflammation, making them useful in the treatment of burns, scrapes, and irritated skin. Finally, they are useful in fighting pests, as insects are paralyzed within seconds after consuming it.
Sage is a native Mediterranean plant that can grow anywhere in the world, notorious for its multi-color appearance, with its purple, blue, pink and white flowers and leaves. With strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, sage strengthens the immune system and is particularly helpful against fungal infections. It is also traditionally known as a treatment for indigestion, mental issues, and muscular spasms. Moreover, it has been successfully used to treat hot flashes and menstrual cramps in women. There is some evidence that sage extract may positively affect cognition, making it a good candidate for an Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Finally, the plant itself adds a beautiful touch to any garden and can also be used as a potent additive to any cuisine.
Comfrey, as its name suggest, is comforting in numerous ways. Its drooping flowers and bristly hairs are its distinctive characteristic. It was widely used in Ancient Greece to treat open wounds and broken bones, a use that continues to this day. These claims have been vindicated by science. The main ingredient of this herb is allantoin, a compound with moisturizing properties – hence its use in several products for the skin. It has been scientifically proven that comfrey is useful against ulcers, dermatitis, and swollen ankles. However, caution should be exercised, as comfrey also contains minute concentrations of alkaloids that have cancer-causing properties. This is why it is often recommended only to use comfrey externally.
Thyme is a member of Thymus, a genus indigenous to Asia and Europe. It has been typically used as a decoration element, while bees make honey from its pollen. Thyme exhibits strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Research has shown that thyme can be valuable in antimicrobial resistance, and is more effective in treating acne than many prescription topical preparations. It is also used to ease gastrointestinal and respiratory issues, arthritis and sore throat. In general, it is a great addition to your garden, and can also be used as a flavor-enhancing herb in your kitchen.
Echinacea is a famous herb, known for its use by Native Americans as a means of treating wounds and fighting off infections. Because it is resilient to drought, Echinacea can be cultivated very easily. During mid-summer, it blossoms into a gorgeous coneflower. Today it is widely used to shorten the course of common colds and infections of the sinuses. Also, many herbalists use it to treat bee stings, migraines, and urinary tract infections. During the summer, you can make Echinacea ice tea.
Nettle has been used for centuries to treat gout, arthritis, insect bites, allergies and infections of the urinary system. What’s more, nettle has a great taste and valuable cleansing properties with many uses in the kitchen. You can recognize it by its stinging hairs. Although they sting anything they touch, they surprisingly sooth already irritated skin.
Greek mythology holds Achilles, the legendary warrior king, used yarrow for the treatment of open battle wounds. Yarrow is easy to cultivate and has an effect on almost every bodily function, with the liver, spleen, kidneys and bladder among others. Exhibiting potent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, this panacea has a marvelous effect on a wealth of conditions, ranging from open wounds to indigestion. It has been successfully used to treat fever, rashes, and hypertension. In addition, its alkaloids can soothe menstruation pain as well. Collect yarrow from your garden to treat minor ailments and also fortify your soups, salads, and stir-fries.
Chinese yam is a vine with great fame surrounding its medicinal properties. It has been used in the past for the treatment of diarrhea and sore throat, and also for controlling blood glucose and to counter weight gain. It has potent stomach and spleen-strengthening properties. Rich in vitamin B6, it shields against heart disease by removing homocysteine from circulation, an amino-acid that can harm the walls of veins and arteries. You can even eat this cinnamon-scented herb raw.
Gardens can be so much more than a pleasing sight; they can provide food, pharmaceutical herbs, and life. If you grow your own pharmaceutical herbs, you can save money and improve your well-being.
When news reports tally the casualties of war, or when monuments are erected to honor soldiers, the other-than-human victims of war--the animals whose bodies are shot, burned, poisoned, and otherwise tortured in tests to create even more ways to kill people--are never recognized, nor is their suffering well known.
The U.S. military inflicts the pains of war on hundreds of thousands of animals each year in experiments. The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) together are the federal government's second largest user of animals (after the National Institutes of Health). They account for nearly half of over one-and-a-half million dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, primates, rats, mice and "wild animals" used, as reported to Congress each year. Because these figures don't include experiments that were contracted out to non-governmental laboratories, or the many sheep, goats, and pigs often shot in wound experiments, the actual total of animal victims is probably much higher.
Military testing is classified "Top Secret," and it is very hard to get current information. From published research, we know that armed forces facilities all over the United States test all manner of weaponry on animals, from Soviet AK-47 rifles to biological and chemical warfare agents to nuclear blasts. Military experiments can be acutely painful, repetitive, costly and unreliable, and they are particularly wasteful because most of the effects they study can be, or have already been, observed in humans, or the results cannot be extrapolated to human experience.
In 1946, near the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific, 4,000 sheep, goats, and other animals loaded onto a boat and set adrift were killed or severely burned by an atomic blast detonated above them in the experiment "The Atomic Ark." At the Army's Fort Sam Houston, live rats were immersed in boiling water for 10 seconds, and a group of them were then infected on parts of their burned bodies. In 1987, at the Naval Medical Institute in Maryland, rats' backs were shaved, covered with ethanol, and then "flamed" for 10 seconds. In 1988, at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico, sheep were placed in a loose net sling against a reflecting plate, and an explosive device was detonated 19 meters away. In two of the experiments, 48 sheep were blasted: the first group to test the value of a vest worn during the blast, and the second to see if chemical markers aided in the diagnosis of blast injury (they did not).
At the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Maryland, nine rhesus monkeys were strapped in chairs and exposed to total-body irradiation. Within two hours, six of the nine were vomiting, hypersalivating, and chewing. In another experiment, 17 beagles were exposed to total-body irradiation, studied for one to seven days, and then killed. The experimenter concluded that radiation affects the gallbladder.
At Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, rhesus monkeys were strapped to a B52 flight simulator (the "Primate Equilibrium Platform"). After being prodded with painful electric shocks to learn to "fly" the device, the monkeys were irradiated with gamma rays to see if they could hold out "for the 10 hours it would take to bomb an imaginary Moscow." Those hit with the heaviest doses vomited violently and became extremely lethargic before being killed.
To evaluate the effect of temperature on the transmission of the Dengue 2 virus, a mosquito-transmitted disease that causes fever, muscle pain, and rash, experiments conducted by the U.S. Army at Fort Detrick, Md., involved shaving the stomachs of adult rhesus monkeys and then attaching cartons of mosquitoes to their bodies to allow the mosquitoes to feed. Experimenters at Fort Detrick have also invented a rabbit restraining device that consists of a small cage that pins the rabbits down with steel rods while mosquitoes feast on their bodies.
The Department of Defense has operated "wound labs" since 1957. At these sites, conscious or semiconscious animals are suspended from slings and shot with high-powered weapons to inflict battlelike injuries for military surgical practice. In 1983, in response to public pressure, Congress limited the use of dogs in these labs, but countless goats, pigs, and sheep are still being shot, and at least one laboratory continues to shoot cats. At the Army's Fort Sam Houston "Goat Lab," goats are hung upside down and shot in their hind legs. After physicians practice excising the wounds, any goat who survives is killed.
Other forms of military experiments include subjecting animals to decompression sickness, weightlessness, drugs and alcohol, smoke inhalation and pure oxygen inhalation. The Armed Forces conscript various animals into intelligence and combat service, sending them on "missions" that endanger their lives and well-being. The Marine Corps teaches dogs "mauling, snarling, sniffing, and other suitable skills" needed to search for bombs and drugs.
Thousands of animals also fall victim to military operations and even military fashion. A series of Navy tests of underwater explosives in the Chesapeake Bay in 1987 killed more than 3,000 fish, and habitats for hundreds of species have been destroyed by nuclear tests in the South Pacific and the American Southwest.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Urge government officials to stop animal testing in the military. Educate others on the issue so they can advocate for animals in the military also.
If you are planning a balloon release for a special occasion, understand that the moment or two of delight the balloons provide can have deadly consequences for the environment. When you release balloons you are littering and your litter creates numerous threats to wildlife. Before you plan a balloon release ask yourself, “What happens to the balloons? Where do they go?”
While some balloons burst, others gradually deflate and fall back to earth where they can have cruel consequences for wildlife. Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal, unless rescued, will die from the balloon blocking its digestive tract. Unable to take in any nutrients, the animal slowly starves to death. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies and balloons can easily be mistaken for this prey. Wildlife of all kinds can become entangled in a deflated balloon and/or its ribbon, leaving the animal unable to move or eat.
Surveys of beach litter show that the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on beaches has tripled in the past 10 years and those balloons can take years to break down. The balloon industry has set “standards” for themselves claiming that releasing balloons that are hand-tied, made of “biodegradable” latex, and without ribbons are environmentally friendly. Natural latex may be biodegradable, but after adding chemicals, plasticizers and artificial dyes it is no longer “natural”. It may degrade after several years, but it can do a lot of harm during those years. The ribbons or strings that are tied to the balloons also last years and can entangle any animal that comes in contact with them.
Many defenders of balloon releases are in the balloon business. They profit from the sale of balloons and many encourage people to disregard everything scientists, wildlife rehabilitators and conservationists are reporting about the impact balloons have on animals and the environment. Mass balloon releases bring in big profits. Conservationists are finding many more of the so-called “biodegradable” latex balloons, because the balloon industry has promoted this “alternative” with false information. But it should fall on the consumer to act responsibly and not risk wildlife just to mark an occasion.
Some states and countries have enacted laws regarding the release of balloons. The Balloon Council, and other balloon industry entities, spend millions of dollars lobbying to keep balloon releases legal. This multi-billion dollar industry, by promoting their product, actually encourages consumers to litter. Releasing balloons should be included in already existing litter laws. The practice is, by all definitions, littering.
Sky lanterns also return to earth as litter, and are also often marketed as “biodegradable” or “earth- friendly”. Both claims are untrue. Sky lanterns are made with treated paper, wires and/or a bamboo ring. They can travel for miles and always come down as dangerous litter. Sky lanterns have caused huge losses of property by starting structure fires and wildfires. This flaming aerial trash has also caused serious burns to humans and has killed animals that eat them or become entangled in their fallen remains.
Entire countries have banned the use of sky lanterns, including Austria, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Spain, Germany and parts of Canada. In the USA, bans include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Other states, including Kansas and Missouri and the New York Division of Fire Prevention and Control are also looking into adopting changes to fire codes to regulate the use of sky lanterns.
The FAA has raised concerns over the use of floating lanterns as they can be sucked into aircraft engines. And there are even more consequences to this practice. In a report out of the UK, “Chinese Lanterns Report for Defra by WFU”, the Women’s Food and Farming Union determined: “The results were staggering, all over the country farmers had discovered them in their fields; loss of livestock, horses, and cattle was reported as well as fires and machinery damage. Worries about the metal being cut into small needles and then incorporated into hay or silage were uppermost in many farmers’ thoughts and so the WFU undertook to provide enough evidence to obtain a total ban on their use throughout the UK.”
There are many environmentally and animal friendly alternatives to balloon releases. If the occasion calls for a remembrance, why not plant a memory garden or just one tree? Though certainly not in keeping with a “reduce, reuse and recycle” lifestyle, there are pinwheels and streamers that can still offer a lovely display. Be certain that none are discarded at the site or beyond, as the purpose of not littering will be defeated.
Other alternatives to a balloon release are:
Blow bubbles (Collect all empty bubble bottles and wands.)
Light candles (Use safety precautions and collect all spent candles.)
Float flowers or flower petals (Many people feel a sense of peace and of letting go when they watch the flowers float away on a stream or lake.)
Fly a kite (Never near trees or lines where a kite could become entangled and harm birds.)
But never choose to release butterflies. They promote the breeding and exploitation of animals. A butterfly’s life is short. Not a minute should be spent in a container. Many of these beautiful creatures do not survive to fly away. And Lepidopterists warn that butterfly releases are not good for the environment, often introducing one species where it may not belong.
Consumers have huge environmental impact. We like to blame the government or industries for the Earth's problems, but what we buy makes a big difference.
The world's workshop – China – surpassed the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on Earth in 2007. But if you consider that nearly all of the products that China produces, from iPhones to tee-shirts, are exported to the rest of the world, the picture looks very different.
"If you look at China's per capita consumption-based (environmental) footprint, it is small," says Diana Ivanova, a PhD candidate at Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Industrial Ecology Programme. "They produce a lot of products but they export them. It's different if you put the responsibility for those impacts on the consumer, as opposed to the producer."
That's exactly what Ivanova and her colleagues did when they looked at the environmental impact from a consumer perspective in 43 different countries and 5 rest-of-the-world regions. Their analysis showed that consumers are responsible for more than 60 percent of the globe's greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80 percent of the world's water use.
"We all like to put the blame on someone else, the government, or businesses," Ivanova says. "But between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption. If we change our consumption habits, this would have a drastic effect on our environmental footprint as well."
Consumers are directly responsible for 20 percent of all carbon impacts, which result from when people drive their cars and heat their homes. But even more surprising is that four-fifths of the impacts that can be attributed to consumers are not direct impacts, like the fuel we burn when we drive our cars, but are what are called secondary impacts, or the environmental effects from actually producing the goods and products that we buy.
A good example of this is water use. When you think about cutting your individual water use, you might think about using your dishwasher very efficiently, or taking shorter showers. Those aren't bad ideas on their own, but if you look deeper you'll find that much of the water use on the planet is gulped up by producing the things that you buy.
Consider beef. Producing beef requires lots of water because cows eat grains that need water to grow. But because cows are relatively inefficient in converting grains into the meat that we eat, it takes on average about 15,415 liters of water to produce one kilo of beef.
Dairy products require similarly large amounts of water to produce. When a group of Dutch researchers looked at the difference in producing a liter of soy milk with soybeans grown in Belgium compared to producing a liter of cow's milk, they found it took 297 liters of water to make the soy milk (with 62 percent of that from actually growing the soybeans) versus a global average of 1050 liters of water to produce a liter of cow's milk.
Processed foods, like that frozen pizza you bought for dinner last night, are also disproportionately high in water consumption. Making processed foods requires energy, materials and water to grow the raw materials, ship them to the processor, produce the processed food items and then package the final product.
This is particularly bad news when it comes to chocolate, which is one of the most water-intensive products we can buy. It takes a shocking 17,000 liters to produce a kilo of chocolate.
Researchers have also looked at environmental impacts on a per-capita, country-by-country basis. While the information is sometimes surprising – Luxembourg has a per capita carbon footprint that is nearly the same as the United States – it mostly follows a predictable pattern. The richer a country is, the more its inhabitants consume. The more an individual consumes, the bigger that person's impact on the planet.
But the differences between individual countries are extremely high. The countries with the highest consumption have about a 5.5 times higher environmental impact over the world average.
The United States is the overall worst performer when it comes to per capita greenhouse gas emissions, with a per capita carbon footprint of 18.6 tons CO2 equivalent, the unit used by researchers to express the sum of the impacts of different greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride.
The US is followed closely by Luxembourg, with 18.5 tons CO2 equivalent, and Australia, with 17.7 tons CO2 equivalent. For comparison, China's per capita carbon footprint is just 1.8 tons CO2 equivalent. Norway, at 10.3 tons CO2 equivalent per capita, is three times the global average of 3.4 tons CO2 equivalent per capita.
The results for individual countries also reflect the effects of the electricity mix, or the fuel source that countries rely on for electric power. The prevalence of nuclear or hydroelectric power in countries such as Sweden, France, Japan and Norway means that these countries have lower carbon footprints than countries with similar incomes but with more fossil fuels in their energy mix.
For this reason, a significant portion of household impacts from Sweden and France come from imports (65 and 51 percent respectively), because the products that are imported are mostly produced with fossil fuels.
The advantage of identifying the effects of individual consumer choices on the different environmental measures is that it pinpoints where consumers in different countries can cut back on their impacts.
Households have a relatively large degree of control over their consumption, but they often lack accurate and actionable information on how to improve their own environmental performance. The two best, and easy, ways to cut your environmental impact are to stop eating meat and cut back on your purchases.
Leave No Trace encourages people to get outdoors to enjoy nature, while doing so in a responsible manner. It refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It is built on seven principles: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Other Visitors. The seven principles have been adapted to different activities, ecosystems and environments.
Leave No Trace provides a framework for outdoor recreation decision making, which is summarized in the following seven principles. Originally developed for the "backcountry", there are now also seven "frontcountry" principles as well:
Backcountry guidelines are guidelines for sparsely inhabited rural areas; wilderness.
Plan Ahead and Prepare: Poorly prepared people, when presented with unexpected situations, often resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put themselves at risk. Proper planning leads to less impact.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.
Dispose of Waste Properly: Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter are primarily social impacts which can greatly detract from the naturalness of an area. Further, backcountry users create body waste and waste water which requires proper disposal.
Leave What You Find: Minimize site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs and removing items.
Minimize Campfire Impacts: Because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires, seek alternatives to fires or use low-impact fires.
Respect Wildlife: Minimize impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users.
Frontcountry guidelines are guidelines for day-use areas like parks and trails.
Plan Ahead: Know the local rules and regulations. Remember to bring food, water, and appropriate clothing. Bring a map so you don’t get lost. Bring a bag to pack out your trash. Don’t forget a leash for your animal. Take the time to learn about the area.
Stick to Trails: Stay on the trails as they are marked if you can. Try not to disturb wildflowers and other plants. Don’t trespass on private property.
Manage Your Companion Animal: Keep your animal on a leash at all times. Use a plastic bag to pack out their waste. Do not let your companion animal chase wildlife.
Leave What You Find: Don’t pick wildflowers. Leave rocks and other objects where they are. Do not mark or carve into living plants.
Respect Other Visitors: Be courteous to others on trails when biking or running. Make room for others on trails and be cautious when passing. Don’t disturb others by making lots of noise or playing loud music. Respect “No Trespassing” and “Do Not Enter” signs.
Trash Your Trash: Remove any trash you bring with you. Make sure it is put in a receptical or take it with you. Even natural materials, like bits of fruit, should not be thrown on the ground. They attract pests and detract from the natural beauty of an area.
BEYOND LEAVE NO TRACE
In a world of global capital circulation where the goods we produce and consume in order to enjoy the outdoors can have long-term and far-reaching social and environmental ramifications, it is important to also think beyond the Leave No Trace principals. Consider the environment when making purchases of outdoor gear, food and clothing...and respect the ecosystems you visit. Most importantly, practice environmental ethics wherever you go and with all daily choices you make.
Educate yourself and others about the places you visit
Purchase only the equipment and clothing you need
Take care of the equipment and clothing you have
Make conscientious food, equipment and clothing consumption choices
Minimize waste production
Reduce energy consumption
Get involved by conserving and restoring the places you visit
Since 1994, Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics, a non-profit organization also known as Leave No Trace, exists to educate people about their recreational impact on nature as well as the principles of Leave No Trace to prevent and minimize such impacts. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has partnerships with the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and nearly 400 other partners such as colleges, universities, outfitter/guide services, small businesses, non-profits and youth serving organizations.
It is unethical and absolutely unnecessary to submit animals to testing for the development of cosmetics or other household products. If you want to help animals, you have the power as a consumer to do so with your buying choices.
Using animals during product development and testing is largely a consumer issue. It is not going to stop unless caring consumers stand up for animal rights and leverage their purchasing power. It is possible to stop the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals every year by putting an end to animal product testing through the adoption of informed, humane practices.
If you are against animal testing, you can make a substantial difference by boycotting companies that engage in animal testing. Opting to use cruelty-free products instead is a means of putting pressure on the marketplace itself, besides an ethical choice. If more and more people stop buying the products of companies that support animal testing, we substantially hurt their sales, and therefore it’s more likely that those companies will reconsider their practices.
Cruelty-free shopping is about buying products that have not been used on animals for testing purposes, and products that do not contain animal byproducts. But this process doesn’t come without challenges, and the biggest challenge is how to distinguish such products. Luckily, considerable work has been done by animal rights groups who have compiled lists of companies outlining their animal testing practices. Moreover, they provide logos for companies to use in order to certify that their products are cruelty-free so customers can identify them more easily.
If you wish to buy such products that conform to a higher standard, you can keep an eye out for such cruelty-free logos. The most trusted of these is the Leaping Bunny. For a product to hold this logo, a number of rigid requirements and standards must be met as defined by CCIC, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. This organization acts as a federation of multiple animal rights groups.
To earn the CCIC certification, a company must conform to the following:
It doesn’t do animal testing on any of its products.
It doesn’t use ingredients that underwent animal testing after the date of CCIC certification.
It abstains from selling their products to countries that require testing on animals.
Their entire supplier chain, ranging from producers of ingredients to those of finished products, declare in writing that they don’t test their products on animals.
A CCIC-appointed firm conducts independent auditing of the company to ensure that all suppliers conform to their statement.
The Leaping Bunny logo appears on certified companies’ products and is an internationally respected sign of reliable, animal-friendly products.
The Leaping Bunny Logo is just one way to distinguish animal-friendly products. There are also online registries of all the animal-friendly certified companies. To view these lists, you can visit their website at leapingbunny.org.
These registries are particularly useful when you are doing online shopping of personal care products. If you are not sure about a company, you can cross-check with the Leaping Bunny Approved Brands lists and validate them.
Some companies haven't acquired a license for the logo, but you still can do a quick online background check on companies lacking the logo. The Leaping Bunny program offers a relevant app, and you can also get a wallet-sized guide in the mail for free. You can even download the guide and print it, or keep it in your smartphone in digital form.
You can also support the animal-friendly notion by making your own cleaning and personal care products. By doing so, you have the highest assurance that no animal testing was conducted, as well as assuring that your products contain no toxic chemicals. A wide variety of products can be made at home using natural substances: shower gel, shampoo, lotion, conditioner, toothpaste, bathroom cleaner, window cleaner, and much more. Chances are that you already have most of the ingredients you’ll need. Additionally, many of the products you make at home have multiple uses. You can learn how to make homemade natural products for cleaning and personal care on the Internet.
By adopting animal-friendly consuming habits, you both support companies that adhere to ethical practices and apply pressure to other companies to do the same. If you prefer to make your own products, you not only help animals but also the environment. Simple lifestyle choices, activism, and animal-friendly shopping can positively affect the lives of animals worldwide.
Over 87,000 man-made chemicals are currently in use. Virtually all have not been tested for threats to wildlife and humans.
Wildlife populations are constantly confronted with a massive array of pollutants released into the environment. In the last 80 years, the world chemical output has grown 500-fold, contaminating entire landscapes, accumulating in bodies of animals and plants, and altering and disrupting the DNA of wildlife in those places.
You can help save the planet and its animals by reducing your use of toxic chemicals.
Buy products that say "biodegradable" and "non-toxic" on the label
Use natural alternative to pestisides
Don't use chlorine bleach
Avoid products with EDTA, NTA, phosphates, sodium hypochlorite or chlorine bleach
Use rechargeable or mercury-free batteries
Plant disease and pest-resistant plants in your garden
Use environmentally friendly cleaning and hygiene products
Use compost and mulch to improve your soil instead of pesticides and fertilizers
Use only lawn companies that use ecologically sound Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Recycle your kitchen scraps and reduce your grocery bills by growing fruits and vegetables from the scraps you usually throw away. It's simple, easy and you can do it indoors.
Potatoes: Potatoes can be grown from scraps. Allow a potato scrap with 1 to 2 eyes to dry thoroughly. Plant it in a small container and cover with a few inches of soil. As more roots appear, cover with additional soil.
Romaine lettuce: Place roots in a dish of water without fully submerging the entire plant. Place in the sun and spray with water once a week. You don’t need to put romaine lettuce in soil, but if you do the leaves will grow to twice the size.
Celery: Place celery in water with the stalks cut back to about an inch above the roots. Add sun and spritz with water once or twice a week.
Cabbage: Place cabbage roots in water with standing water kept away from the rest of the plant. Place in a sunny location and water twice a week.
Garlic: Plant a garlic clove with its root facing down. As it grows, cut back its shoots to end up with a fresh, new garlic bulb.
Lemongrass: Lemongrass stalk bottoms are too tough to use in cooking, but you can avoid throwing out half the plant by placing the stalks in water. Once roots develop, plant the lemongrass in soil and place in a sunny location.
Onions: Cover an onion root with soil and place it in a sunny location. Water as needed.
Pineapple: For those with patience, a pineapple can be grown from scraps in 2 to 3 years. While you’re waiting, you’ll have a unique indoor plant. Remove all fruit and green stalks from the top of the plant. Cut sections horizontally from the crown until you see the root buds. Leave about an inch of leaves at the base and plant in a warm place. Water often until established, then once a week.
Basil: Basil can be grown from basil cuttings by simply placing them in water. Change the water often to keep the plants from getting slimy.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms are one of the more difficult produce to re-grow. Mix soil and compost in a pot. Remove the head of the mushroom and plant the stalk in the soil with only the top exposed. Place in an area with filtered light by day and cool temperature by night.
Fruit trees can offer more return on effort than anything else in the garden. A single apple tree can produce up to 500 apples each season. Several fruit trees can offer 8 months of fruit for your family. Growing your own fruit saves you money, and ensures your fruit isn't laced with toxic chemicals.
Fruit trees can be planted in early spring or in fall and are available in two options: bare-root and in containers. Bare-root trees are common through online and mail-order sources. They are usually less expensive, and there is a greater variety available then containerized trees from a local nursery. When ordered, they are lifted from the ground at the nursery, the soil washed from the roots, then wrapped in moist peat or a similar material to keep them from drying out. Bare-root trees must be planted while dormant in late winter or early spring.
Containerized trees, usually purchased from local nurseries, are fully rooted in a pot and are available for a greater period of time spring through summer. Only the most popular varieties are usually available. Being established, they are easier to grow.
Fruit trees do best in full sun. Most need well-drained soil, though apples, plums and pears are more tolerant of poor drainage. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating, others require another variety to pollinate. Ask the nursery about the pollinating requirements for your trees.
Plant bare-root trees as soon as possible. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting. Keep containerized trees well watered until planted. Dig holes twice as wide as the roots to help roots grow easily. The depth of the hole should be as deep, but not deeper, than the roots. Compost can be mixed into the hole if the soil is poor, but don't fertilize new fruit trees. Spread the roots out in the hole and tamp the soil around them firmly. Water thoroughly when first planted, then whenever the top 2 inches of soil are dry.
Fruit trees need an open shape to receive sufficient sunlight. They can be pruned when first planted, and each year in late winter before new growth begins. Remove any crossing, dead or diseased branches to create an open tree. Bare-root trees are usually pruned before you receive them, sometimes with all branches removed.
When fruit begins to appear, remove some of the fruit to ensure larger, better fruit growth. In early and late spring, each year, you can fertilize established fruit trees...though if they are doing well on their own, fertilizing may not be necessary.
Many gardeners grow perennial plants and flowers, enjoying their ornamental beauty year after year. But did you know there are a variety of perennial vegetables that can also be planted once and enjoyed for years to come? They are also among the healthiest veggies and are an inexpensive, one-time purchase.
Easy-to-grow perennial vegetables offer a healthy food source that comes back year after year. Here are 10 perennial veggies:
Scarlet Runner Beans: Scarlet runner beans are grown as ornamentals and are also edible as green beans and dried beans. The flowers are edible too, when cooked.
Sea Kale: Sea Kale is ornamental and the shoots, young leaves and flowers are edible.
Sorrel: Sorrel is an herb with tart, lemon-flavored leaves used in salads, soups, and sauces.
Jerusalem Artichoke: Jerusalem artichoke underground tubers can be eaten raw or cooked like potatoes.
Groundnut: Groundnut is a 6-foot vine with high-protein tubers that taste like nuttyflavored potatoes.
Bunching or Egyptian Onions: These onions continue to produce new onions even after being harvested.
Ostrich Fern: Ostrich ferns are ornamental and delicious.
Ramps or Wild Leeks: Ramps are an onion with edible leaves and bulbs.
Daylilies: Daylilies are primarily grown as ornamentals, and are common in the wild, but the flowers are also delicious in salads or battered and fried.
Good King Henry: Good King Henry is a European spinach with tasty shoots, leaves and flowers.
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
All composting requires three basic ingredients:
- Browns: This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
- Greens: This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water: Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.
Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.
What To Compost
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Wood chips
- Cotton and Wool Rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
What Not To Compost & Why
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants
Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils*
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Meat or fish bones and scraps*
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Animal wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)*
Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
- Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
Might kill beneficial composting organisms
* Check with your local composting or recycling coordinator to see if these organics are accepted by your community curbside or drop-off composting program.
Benefits Of Composting
- Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
How To Compost At Home
There are many different ways to make a compost pile. Helpful tools include pitchforks, square-point shovels or machetes, and water hoses with a spray head. Regular mixing or turning of the compost and some water will help maintain the compost.
- Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
- Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
- Moisten dry materials as they are added.
- Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.
Optional: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.
If you do not have space for an outdoor compost pile, you can compost materials indoors using a special type of bin, which you can buy at a local hardware store, gardening supplies store, or make yourself. Remember to tend your pile and keep track of what you throw in. A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad. Your compost should be ready in two to five weeks.