Starting small: Five ways to support biodiversity this summer

With warmer weather here, most of us are spending more time enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Sunny days, birds chirping, bees buzzing, flowers in full bloom – it’s no wonder that summer is one of the most anticipated times of the year!

But did you know that approximately one-third of wildlife species in the United States are at increased risk of extinction? And while advocates and organizations like the National Wildlife Federation are working towards protecting wildlife, there are also actions that you can take to contribute to healthy ecosystems while enjoying your summer. Making changes in our lives and behavior can help raise awareness around the biodiversity crisis while contributing to greater change. Grab a friend and start small with these tips below! 

1. Plant native plants 

If you’re thinking of starting or adding to your garden this summer, consider growing plants that are native to your region. Native plants offer food, habitats, and other vital resources for native bees, monarchs, birds, and various wildlife. These creatures are essential for a healthy ecosystem, which is important for our own wellbeing! Garden for Wildlife has a handy Native Plant Finder where you can find plants that are native to your region and available to purchase. 

2. Be mindful during outdoor recreation

As you’re enjoying public lands and wildlife, it’s important to respectfully interact with animals and plants. When deciding which outdoor activities you want to partake in, think about what kind of impacts it will have on the local ecology. Ask yourself: how will this impact local animals or plants? Is there a less harmful alternative? 

Be sure to follow marked trails, clean up after yourself, and not approach or provoke animals. Disregarding these precautions can lead to harm to the animal and human, disrupt wildlife habitats, or contribute to soil and water contamination. 

3. Limit pesticide use 

Warmer weather means you’re not the only one enjoying the season. Insects and other pests might make an appearance on your garden flowers or picnics, but, as tempting as it is, try to limit your use of pesticides and find ones that have the lowest risk of damage to reduce their presence.

Too much pesticide use can have unintended impacts in your local ecosystem, like damaging nearby trees and plants or reducing the amount of food for pollinators. Instead, try to incorporate diverse pest management practices to keep pests at bay without harming wildlife.

Cut tree branches stacked on top one another.
Photo credit: Waldemar Andrzejewski

4. Purchase responsibly sourced goods

Summer is prime time for moving, meaning many people are in the market for new furniture. While buying used is the most sustainable way to furnish your new place, another option is buying furniture from companies that are invested in forest management practices to limit biodiversity loss. For a list of businesses with sustainable sourcing practices, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s annual Wood Furniture Scorecard, created in partnership with the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

And the same idea applies to chocolate! Whether you’re a baker or just have a sweet tooth, you might be interested in knowing that cocoa farming can have devastating impacts on people, wildlife habitats, and migratory pathways for birds. To counter this, consider purchasing your next sweet from a brand that requires use of proven sustainable farming practices. Visit The Chocolate Scorecard, an initiative led by international universities and non-profit organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, for a list of chocolate brands that support sustainable sourcing practices.

5. Stay informed and exercise civic action

Lifestyle changes can be helpful for raising awareness and consciousness around the ongoing impact of biodiversity loss on our lives. When large groups of people make these changes, this can absolutely create a drastic shift towards restoring ecosystems. 

Two people holding cell phones.
Photo credit: Dean Moriarty

However, these changes are ideally paired with strong civic action to enact positive change on a grander scale. Stay informed about local legislation and news (or lack thereof!) regarding public land use, wildlife statuses, and ecosystem health, and consider submitting federal public comments, attending city council meetings, or writing letters to your local newspaper – these are a few ways that we can encourage attention towards protecting biodiversity in our communities. 

Honestly, the biodiversity crisis can feel overwhelming to combat. It will require many of us, especially those of us living in the United States, to transition to unfamiliar practices that might initially feel like a bother. However, starting small and staying informed is an important phase towards fully incorporating sustainable practices in your life and advocating for legislative protections for wildlife. Even if this list doesn’t apply to your lifestyle, being curious and researching ways to support biodiversity in your everyday life can be the first steps towards contributing to a healthy ecosystem.