Dr. Cheryl Morris, vice president of conservation at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, is asked every day what people can do to help the environment.
Many think one individual’s actions don’t make an impact. But Morris said that’s not true.
“That’s what I find so inspiring — what people can do,’’ she said. “We can make choices every single day to help our natural world.’’
Morris said everyone is intimately connected with the natural environment and conservation. We just don’t recognize it on a daily basis.
Our behaviors and choices have a consequence, she said. Some directly impact the environment.
Reducing our use of plastics, for example, affects the health of our oceans. Recycling cell phones and gaming devices means less mining of resources in Africa, which can, in turn, hurt animals there.
Planting flowers with nectar that supply food for bees and butterflies directly affects those populations. So does cutting back on pesticides.
“All of those are simple choices we make every single day,’’ Morris said.
More Earth Day tips from the zoo staff and Momaha editors
Take a cue from our Swedish friends and go plogging. Set out on a walk to get some fresh air, pick up litter and make your community a cleaner place. Take your usual stroll through your neighborhood, swing by a nearby park or check out new hiking trails — just don’t forget to grab your trash bag.
Plant a pollinator-friendly garden and reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides. Most people know about planting milkweed for monarch butterflies. But go to xerces.org and discover the perfect pollinator plants, trees and shrubs for this part of the country. The Northern Plains list provides blooming time, color and water needs for each.
Build a compost pile — good for the environment and great for your garden. Simply set aside a corner of your yard for a pile of yard waste, mulched leaves, vegetable and fruit scraps or buy a composter. For low-cost compost, check out the City of Omaha’s popular OmaGro.com program.
Skip plastic straws if you don’t need them. Each year, an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans from coastal regions. That’s about equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash piled up on every foot of coastline on the planet.
Practice sustainable food shopping by purchasing sustainable palm oil products and seafood. Palm oil production is responsible for world deforestation, which contributes to climate change. Some fish species are threatened by over fishing; get the latest by downloading the Seafood Watch app.
Recycle your old smart phone, iPod or gaming device to cut down on the need to mine coltan from gorilla habitats in Africa. It’s as easy as a trip to the zoo. Bring electronics to the Guest Services area for recycling. There are also dropoffs at Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion, the elevator building that takes guests down to gorillas and near the orangutans.
Practice responsible tourism by respecting wildlife and their habitats, purchasing responsible souvenirs and knowing the conservation issues faced in the areas you are visiting so you don’t contribute to them.
Research your favorite animal and the threats that species faces. Create awareness by hosting a fundraiser for a conservation organization. Check out groups like Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council.