Our daily actions and purchases can affect wildlife and habitats all over the world. You can personally help protect wildlife by doing earth-friendly activities as part of your daily life. If you want to get deeply involved with helping the environment, think about joining a conservation organization, volunteering your time to conservation projects or writing your legislators when you have an opinion about pending legislation on environmental, land use and other issues.
Government agencies, corporations, school districts and communities conduct energy audits to save money and resources. You can, too! Here are some things you should look for in your household:
Finding Forest-Friendly Products
Hundreds of animals worldwide are in danger of extinction because we are destroying their forest homes faster than the forests can regrow. One of the best ways to preserve forests--and the animals that make them their home-- is to reduce the demand for unnecessary wood products. There are many simple ways you can reduce your own consumption of wood products at home, school or work by using alternative products. Ask for recycled, reclaimed, salvaged, and Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products. If you are looking for even more opportunities to save forests, you can join local organizations that rally to convince large organizations to reduce their demand for unnecessary wood products.
Helping Pollinators in Your Backyard
Our daily actions can affect wildlife, especially outside our own homes. Many animals you see every day – like bees, flies, butterflies, birds, bats and lizards – are pollinators and are especially important for our environment. Here are easy actions that can help your local wildlife.
Why are these animals important?
Our world would be a lot less colorful and flavorful without pollinators! Of the estimated 1,330 crop plants grown worldwide for food, beverages, fibers, condiments, spices medicines, approximately 75% are pollinated by animals. In the U.S., honey bee and native bee pollination accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of crop production. Native bees also help maintain plant communities that provide food and shelter for other animals. About 25% of birds and many mammals from grizzly bears to squirrels feed on fruits and seeds that depend upon pollinators to produce.
The Problem with Palm Oil
Orangutans are in trouble in the wild. Their forest homes are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil plantations are responsible for the clearing of hundreds of thousands of acres of orangutan habitat.
Palm oil is the most widely produced edible vegetable oil. It is harvested from the African oil palm tree, a tree that flourishes wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. It is mostly grown in Indonesian and Malaysia - the only places on earth where wild orangutans live - although this crop is expanding into Africa and South America.
Palm oil plantations are NOT a natural part of the rainforest. Palm oil is an introduced agricultural crop. Over 30 million tons of palm oil are produced in Indonesia and Malaysia per year. This demand is increasing rapidly due to recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development.
Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all-time high. Millions of acres of rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra are cut down each year to plant African oil palm trees. Instead of using already cleared land, some companies choose to cut down healthy rainforest and use the profits to fund the planting of new plantations. After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land or peat swamp. In 1997, a devastating fire killed almost 8,000 orangutans in Borneo.
The increased demand for palm oil is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Estimates show that if something isn't done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that house these orangutans, they will be extinct in ten to 15 years.
Boycotting palm oil is a choice consumers can make to try and help orangutans and other wildlife in Indonesia and Malaysia. However, using certified sustainable palm oil is a more effective and responsible choice.
Oil palms are the most productive type of all the edible oil plants. Oil palms produce five to ten-times more oil per acre than other crops like soy or canola. If grown sustainably, palm oil can be a more environmentally friendly oil because less land has to be cleared to get the same amount of product.
Certified sustainable palm oil isn't just any palm oil. It comes from a plantation that has made a commitment to produce palm oil in a way that minimizes its impact on wildlife, indigenous people and the planet.
Palm oil is a huge industry, employing millions of people. Native people often lose their land and livelihoods to large palm oil companies. Most of the money from non-sustainably produced palm oil does not trickle down to local people. On certified sustainable plantations and mills, the workers have decent housing and wages as well as schools and health clinics. At plantations and mills that are NOT certified, conditions for workers and their families are not regulated.
Palm oil plantations and mills that are certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have met many criteria to achieve certification. Palm oil plantations and mills that are NOT certified as sustainable by the RSPO do not have to adhere to RSPO regulations. Therefore, consumers can't be sure whether or not the palm oil coming from non-RSPO producers has harmed native wildlife, violated the rights of indigenous people or had other negative environmental impacts.
The RSPO was formed in 2004 in response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil. The main objective of the RSPO is to promote the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products.
Companies who are members of the RSPO are required to abide by RSPO principles and guidelines. In November 2007, the RSPO launched a certification system, establishing a definition and criteria for certified sustainable palm oil.
We believe it is critical for consumers to support the RSPO's efforts, and show consumer preference for products made by RSPO members, and ultimately demand certified sustainable palm oil.
- Download the PalmOil Scan app, launched by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The app allows users to scan a product’s barcode and learn if the company that makes that product is committed to sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.
- Support companies that have joined the RSPO.
- Write to your favorite companies and restaurants; ask them to use sustainable palm oil in their products and to join the RSPO if they haven't done so already.
- Use recycled paper products like paper towels, bathroom tissue, notebooks, stationary and printer paper. Ask for FSC-(Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and lumber products.
Many saltwater and freshwater fish populations around the world are declining for a host of reasons, from over-fishing to habitat destruction. That's why it's important that the seafood you consume comes from suppliers that farm or fish in ways that will ensure the long-term health of the world's oceans, rivers and lakes.
If you support fisheries and fish farms that are healthy for ocean wildlife and for the environment, YOU can make a huge difference.
Do you know which seafood are good choices for your dinner plate?
The Saint Louis Zoo is proud to partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation in support of their Seafood Watch® Program. Download their Consumer Guide and explore their resources for a list of recommended seafood choices (and those that are not recommended). Seafood Watch® is a registered servicemark of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation.
The Seafood Watch program provides suggestions for sustainable types of fish and other seafood you can purchase in the Midwest and in other regions of the U.S. Use it every time you buy seafood in a store or restaurant to choose seafood that is good for both you and the oceans.
And next time you're in the mood for seafood, make a difference!