Birds are affected by our “carbon footprints” —the amount of carbon pollution we put into the air through our energy and lifestyle choices. Carbon traps the sun’s heat around the Earth like a blanket. An overheated Earth has more extreme weather—more hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and floods. It’s like we’re putting big, hot, dirty feet into the sky.
Climate shifts cause plant and animal extinctions, as creatures can’t keep up with the changes. When plants or insects that birds eat don’t survive, then neither do the birds. When plants or insects that birds eat do survive but hatch or bloom at a different time than in the past, some birds don’t successfully adapt their migrations to the new schedule. They arrive at the wrong time for getting needed food. And when violent storms hit them, birds are at risk again. When forest fires destroy habitats, birds suffer.
If everyone helps, we can make a difference. Start simply with lifestyle changes, gradually adding more. Many of the suggestions below involve reducing your energy usage, since most of the energy we use releases carbon into the air. Reducing your energy usage will SAVE YOU MONEY. So a “win” for the birds is also a “win” for your budget!
—Drive less. Instead, walk, bike, or use public transportation. If you do drive, do errands together near each other; avoid extra driving.
—Eat less beef and dairy. Raising cows creates a lot of gasses that trap heat around the Earth.
—Waste less food. Rotting food in landfills releases carbon.
—Trees absorb and lock away carbon. Take care of trees and teach children to care for them.
—Help people donate to pro-tree organizations. Set up a Facebook fundraiser, or convince your boss to donate a percentage of her/his profits, or have a bake sale. It’s especially helpful to save large, old-growth trees.
—Lower the temperature of your hot water heater to use less energy. You’ll save on energy bills.
—Do your laundry less often. If something’s gross, of course wash it—but first ask yourself: is this item truly dirty, or did I just throw it in the wash automatically? If you only wore a shirt for a little while, or you’ve only used a towel once, it probably doesn’t need to be washed yet. Also, wash things in COLD water, and hang up as much as you can to dry instead of using a clothes dryer (you’ll save money).
—Turn off lights and TVs you’re not using. You’ll save money!
—“Buy dry” as much as you can—such as powdered detergent instead of liquid detergent, powdered cleaning products instead of wet ones, etc. It takes less energy for companies to truck dry products to stores than wet ones.
—Keep your home no higher than 67° in winter and no lower than 76° in summer. In winter, wear warmer clothes and add blankets to your beds. Your ancestors managed that; you can too. In summer, at home use a fan and hang out in your bathing suit. Make our region famous for a beachy summer style!
—Don’t let precious heat in winter or coolness in summer escape your home. Cover up cracks in window sills or doors where air comes in from outside. You’ll save on energy bills.
—Vote for candidates who care about climate change. Politicians can create laws and policies that really help!
—Contact politicians—tell them you care about climate change and want better energy solutions in our society. Find out how to write or call here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
—Tell your family, friends, and co-workers about the carbon problem and how they can help. Be an influencer!
—Contact companies you buy from, asking them to use cleaner energy. Let them know this matters to you!
After all, it all matters to the birds—a lot.
By Christine Du Bois-Buxbaum
Photo Bird Footprints in the Snow, by Christine Matthews, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0