Need a good excuse to spend some quality time together as a family? Well, how about some yard work while helping the environment at the same time?
It's important for parents to set a good example for their children by showing them conservation is not only important, but also doable. Real solutions can literally start in your own backyard:
- Make your own wetland. Believe it or not, you can create your own ecosystem with just eighteen inches of water and a little sunshine. A small, shallow pond in a sunny spot will support water lilies, birds, dragonflies, and frogs. So grab a shovel!
- Put away the lawnmower. What teenager doesn't want to hear that? The fact is, there's something to be said for letting at least part of your yard run wild. Eliminating lawn maintenance saves water and reduces chemical use, and you'll be helping to preserve native plant and animal species. Besides, when done right, a backyard filled with native wildflowers and other diverse flora is far more beautiful than a green carpet of cut grass. However, going native isn't quite as simple as just "letting it go."
- How does your garden grow? If you like a landscaped look, you can still create a small garden that doubles as a healthy habitat. Just remember that animals need the same things you do: food, shelter, and water. Plant native fruit-, seed-, and nut-producing plants, plant shrubs for protection, and install a birdbath.
- Pay attention! Don't assume that all you'll attract to your own backyard are the most common species. In 1972, naturalist Jennifer Owen started counting plant and animal species in her midsize English garden. She tallied more than 3,000 different species (mostly insects), including thirteen wasps never found in Britain and two new wasp species altogether. Your family can create its own sighting list and work together to identify wildlife.
Leave your own backyard and take advantage of local resources. Take family trips to the zoo, aquarium, or botanical gardens – many of which also offer adopt-an-animal programs or features, such as the Conservation Parking Meters by the Center for Ecosystem Survival, which use specially outfitted parking meters to collect donations to help endangered wildlife.
Think you can't make a difference on the other side of the world? Sure you can.
Save the rain forests. Or save the temperate forests, or something else. You and your kids really can do this. Donations from kids in twenty-two countries helped establish the Children's Eternal Rainforest in Costa Rica, where more than 40,000 acres have been preserved since 1989. Talk to people at your local zoo or botanical gardens to learn about similar programs.
TAKE ACTION: Protect an Acre of Forest.
Overall, something that families can always do together is learn more. In fact, you could browse just about any of the audiences in this section for more conservation ideas. If parents drive to work and a child drives to school, you're all commuters. If you own your home you can make eco-friendly choices. And always watch your local paper and community centers for opportunities to join a clean-up event or to contribute to bettering your own environment in some other way.
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