To mark International Day for Biological Biodiversity on Saturday (22 May), we’ve compiled a list of tips you can apply to your life to help conserve nature’s biodiversity. Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area of nature — animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria that work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need for survival: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter. It performs vital functions from the pollination of plants; to the filtering of air, water and soil, to protection against floods.
Reduce your consumption of meat
Livestock breeding requires a very large surface area (often replacing forests). Enormous amounts of water and pesticides are used to grow crops to keep and grown animals. Ruminants produce vast quantities of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
Follow Shaun Robertson for tips on how to change to a more plant-based diet.
Every day, hundreds of hectares of forest disappear on our planet. They are cleared to increase areas for cultivation or habitation, or are over-exploited to provide us with wood for construction and furniture.
Follow Greenpop for more information about what you can do to help reforestation in South Africa
Buy clothing that doesn’t need dry cleaning
Most dry-cleaners use perchloroethylene (or tetrachloroethylene). Despite efforts to avoid leakages into the environment, this harmful solvent is found in free groundwater and rivers.
Check care labels before you buy new clothes and avoid fabrics that need to be dry-cleaned.
Limit discharge of medicine into nature
Resistant to treatment at water-purification plants, they turn up in rivers and seas where they act on aquatic flora and fauna. Their effects are not yet well known but it seems that, for example, certain fish exposed to the synthetic oestrogen used in contraceptive pills become hermaphrodites.
Take medicine only when it is really necessary (antibiotics are useless against viral infections) and return any unused or expired medicines to your pharmacy (never throw them into the rubbish or down the toilet).
Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions
Consume local, regional, seasonal, eco- labelled products to the greatest extent possible. Walk, ride a bicycle or share transport, and limit waste.
Compensate for some of the greenhouse gases for which you are responsible by supporting the biodiversity around you and by supporting nature-protection associations and reforestation projects.
Be a mindful gardener
Plant indigenous, water-wise plants and remove alien vegetation. Support the biodiversity around you with a pond, a flowering field, insect hotel, nest boxes… Replace chemical pesticides and fertilisers with ecological equivalents, use mulch and groundcover to limit the growth of undesirable plants and to reduce watering, compost green waste and use the compost to feed the soil in the autumn, don’t till and let some areas of your garden wild.
Use the Candide App for localised gardening information relevant to your area.
Buy fish responsibly
It is urgently recommended that you stop consuming endangered fish species. Give these fish time to rebuild their populations. Eat fish and crustaceans that belong to non-vulnerable species. And buy fish that are caught locally. The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative has a very good guide to follow: they have created a simple traffic-light approach. “When the species is listed as green: go for it! When it is orange: think twice. And red? We recommend you don’t buy it!”
With friends, clean up your neighbourhood. By picking up rubbish you help animals avoid dangers, such as broken glass or mistaking pieces of plastic mistaken for food.
Use planet-friendly sunscreens
Most sun creams contain chemical UV filters that can disrupt the hormonal balance of animals when they end up in the sea, lakes and rivers; and are partially responsible for coral bleaching. Try using mineral sun creams which are a little more difficult to apply and sometimes leave white traces because of their mineral filters, but they are effective and definitely less toxic to you and to nature.
Read this list of sunscreens suggestions that don’t harm the environment.
Use nature-friendly household products
Even after treatment in purification plants, water discharged into rivers contains large quantities of phosphates, solvents, surfactants and other chemical products used in today’s detergents. These compounds, often very polluting, can have serious repercussions for biodiversity – aquatic environments in particular – as well as for our health. What can you do? Choose eco-labelled detergents or, even better, soft soap for cleaning floors, warm vinegar for descaling, and sodium bicarbonate (with or without vinegar) for scouring pots and sinks (and it does not scratch). And, above all, avoid using too much of any cleaning agent – it is much better to have a light hand.
Clean your beauty habits
Most cosmetics sold today contain chemical products (preservatives, synthetic perfumes, surfactants, etc.) which are not biodegradable and are therefore harmful to biodiversity, particularly the aquatic environments into which they are carried by waste water. Use eco-cosmetics: wash with Khween Shebar soap, use shampoo bars, use essential oils to perfume your bath, clean your skin with an extraction of camomile or blueberry, exfoliate it with wheat – or oat bran, nourish it with sunflower or olive oil, etc. You can even make your own toothpaste. It is easy!
Source: European Commission