What You Can Do

Everyone has a role to play in meeting the challenges of the biodiversity crisis, i.e., the accelerated loss of animals, plants, and habitats caused primarily by human activities. Even our everyday choices and purchases — things we might not give a second thought to — affect biodiversity. For example, the production and transport involved in a cup of coffee impacts myriad species, from invertebrates to birds to fish. However, it’s not necessary to turn your life upside down to make a difference. If we all commit to just one or two lifestyle choices that are more sustainable, over time this will have a cumulative and positive impact on the Earth’s biodiversity.



Freshwater is a precious, finite resource. Conserving water not only helps to preserve this irreplaceable natural resource, but also helps reduce the strain on urban wastewater management systems, saving money and energy. There are many, easy ways to conserve our water resources into the future. To learn more about using water wisely visit the Water H2O=Life exhibit.

Bottled water may be a healthy and increasingly common alternative to soft drinks, but the plastic bottle has a hidden dark side: energy consumption, waste disposal, and other environmental concerns. As bottled water grows in popularity, these problems also proliferate. Easy solution: if you want to carry water with you, why not get a reusable bottle and refill it at the tap? 

Studies show that for most uses antibacterial soaps aren't any better than ordinary soap at preventing common illnesses. There is also growing concern among scientists that the chemicals commonly used in antibacterial soaps — triclosan and triclocarban — pose serious health and environmental concerns, especially because they persist in the environment and can contaminate our lakes, rivers, and water sources.




Visit farmers' markets and stock up on food in-season or join a community-supported agriculture group. Supporting local agriculture helps conserve farmland, bolsters the economy, provides fresh food to people, and reduces the pollution and energy use related to transporting food over great distances.

Increased use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, irrigation, and fossil fuels have caused pollution of our waterways and degradation of habit. Studies have shown that agricultural chemicals can be replaced by alternatives that are friendlier to biodiversity. Choosing organically grown food supports the demand for such food and will help lessen the impacts of synthetic chemicals on the environment.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Reducing our meat consumption and making wise choices can encourage more sustainable livestock management. Check out Local Harvest or the Eat Well Guide to find nearby sources of sustainable meat, poultry, and dairy (US and Canada).
Graphic that reads, choose seafood wisely.

All seafood is not the same! Many fish and shellfish species have been severely overharvested, and some fish farming practices are polluting, or, paradoxically, unsustainable through feeding the farmed fish meal made from wild fish. To make informed choices, consult one of these sustainable seafood guides: Blue Ocean InstituteMonterey Bay AquariumEnvironmental Defense.

Biologists report finding many fewer bird species in newer, sunny coffee fields than in the traditional shaded farms they replaced. Coffee grown in the shade also requires few or no chemical inputs — the leaf litter replenishes the soil nutrients and birds discourage pests.



Calculate your "carbon footprint."

Energy conservation — at home, at work, at school, and while traveling — reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency's emissions calculator gives you an estimate of your personal greenhouse gas emissions (or your family's). Then see if you can shrink your "carbon footprint"! Visit the Climate Change exhibit to learn more about climate change and what you can do to make a difference today .

Green power is supplied in whole or in part from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, and hydropower, all of which come with fewer negative environmental impacts. For more information on choosing green power, visit the Green Power Network on how to by green power, part of U.S. Department of Energy 's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Sign with the advice for saving energy "Adjust two degrees"

Moving your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up just two degrees in summer adds up to real energy savings over time. If possible, program your thermostat for downtimes when the home is empty.

When it comes time to replace household appliances — televisions, refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters — choose items with the Energy Star label — they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy.
Wash and dry efficiently

Since about 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water, you can drastically cut energy by using cooler water. ENERGY STAR washers use 50% less energy than standard washers, and about half the water! Also consider lines outside or racks indoors for drying.

Chargers for your cell phone, iPod, digital camera, and computer can all use significant amounts of power even when they’re not charging the devices. Use power strips to switch off televisions, home theater equipment, and stereos when you’re not using them, as these products waste energy even when you think they are turned “off.” Consider investing in a solar-powered charger for your electronic digital devices.

The new compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are widely available, fit most standard fixtures, and use a fraction of the electricity that incandescent lamps use (and last seven to ten times longer). Visit Earth911.com to see why we should always recycle CFLs.



A tote bag next to text that reads, "Paper or plastic? Neither!"

Plastic bags are everywhere — they get caught in trees and they clog our waterways. Paper bags come with a significant environmental impact as well, made out of tree pulp and utilizing energy to produce. Best is to bring a cloth bag instead of plastic or paper... or choose no bag!

Start your day by breaking free of the disposable habit. Using a refillable mug reduces waste and energy consumption — even recycled paper cups utilize energy and resources to produce. Many coffee shops and employee cafeterias offer discounts for those that refill their mugs.

While almost all US municipalities accept plastic bottles for recycling, many require that the cap be removed, as it is a different kind of plastic. This does not mean the caps can't be recycled! Many schools and girl and boy scout troops have bottle cap collection drives. Visit Earth911.com for newest updates on cities and chain stores that recycles bottle caps!

Many things we throw away can be turned into compost, which you can use on houseplants or on plants outside. To learn more about composting, read the article "Confessions of a Master Composter" by CBC's Fiona Brady. 




Landscaping with native plants requires minimal maintenance and enhances wildlife habitat. Contact your local botanical garden, arboretum, or native plant nursery for information about what grows best in your area and the habitat requirements of different plant species.

Controlling non-native predators such as domestic cats is an important part of maintaining or creating native habitat. Free-roaming domestic cats are responsible for killing perhaps hundreds of millions of birds each year. Many groups stress that keeping your cat inside makes for a healthier and happier feline as well.

Life on Earth has evolved over the millennia in response to predictable day-night cycles. Artificial night lighting interferes with these adaptations and can affect animal navigation, reproduction, and courtship, as well as plant germination and flowering. Conserve energy and protect plants and animals from the disorienting (and often harmful) effects of light pollution.

They are not proven effective against pests and end up killing beneficial insects. The most important thing you can do to prevent mosquitos in your yard is to find and eliminate all sources of standing water.




A festive and magical time for children and adults alike, the holidays can also be stressful, involving excessive spending on presents, decorations, and parties, resulting in greater resource use and waste. For tips on sustainable holiday activities, visit our Green Holidays page.