Many people are searching for ways to help animals, after hearing distressing news about mass extinctions, declining biodiversity, and the malpractice of various industries from energy to fashion. Beyond the obvious switch of leaving meat off your plate, there are many ways you can make a difference. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. Only your imagination and personal limits keep you from doing more and being a true hero to animals!
Reduce or eliminate single-use plastics
Everyone has seen the horrifying imagery of plastic-covered beaches and marine animals strangled by 6-pack rings. Our culture of instant gratification and consumerism have allowed packaging to be a disposable product, overturning millennia of more sustainable human behaviours. Cloth, baskets, wooden chests or glassware have been the standard for packaging until the plastic revolution of the 1960s.
In the efforts to reduce your plastic use, there are a few simply behaviour changes you can implement. The planet and the animals will thank you! Try bringing a reusable water bottle and coffee mug with you when you go out. Include a few simple items like chopsticks, cutlery, and containers for anytime you might eat food on-the-go. Opt for a reusable or cloth bag for groceries and decline plastic bags wherever possible. The changes may seem daunting at first, but you’ll feel great knowing that your actions make a considerable impact and prevent animal suffering.
Be mindful of cleaning products
Along with the ubiquitous presence of plastics, synthetic chemicals have become a mainstay in Western markets and households. We are subject to countless marketing messages that insist chemical cleaning products are the only way to go, and ensure your countertops are “free from 99.9% of bacteria”. Although they may be effective at removing whatever dirt or grime is plaguing your home, they are also “effective” at poisoning marine life, contaminating water systems, and disrupting ecological stability.
The better option is to search for natural cleaning products that are biodegradable and septic-safe, or even make cleaners yourself. Here is a simple all-purpose cleaner that will save money while cleaning your home! https://www.thespruce.com/diy-all-purpose-vinegar-spray-4158625
Plant a tree
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this piece of advice, and it certainly won’t be the last. Given current trends of deforestation and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, maintaining a healthy level of trees is more important than ever. By planting a tree, you can provide a habitat for squirrels, birds, and beavers, potentially food for yourself and animals, and help reduce air and noise pollution.
Cut out palm oil
The harvest of palm oil is connected to rainforest deforestation and is quickly depleting the remaining habitats for orangutans. As palm oil is currently used in products ranging from shampoo to candy, overturning this habit is a difficult but worthwhile endeavour. Try reading the ingredients on any product you want to buy, and if palm oil is on the list, try to find a more sustainable alternative. There should be few cases where the option won’t exist.
Adopt, don’t shop
There’s no doubt about it, Vancouverites love their “fur babies”. Nevertheless, the number of homeless animals is staggering. Cat shelters are almost always at capacity, and countless animals are regularly surrendered due to strict no-pet guidelines for most apartments in the city. While it may feel nicer to buy a pet, we could alternatively save an animal’s life while working towards reducing animal homelessness.
Separate entertainment from exploitation
From horse drawn carriage rides to zoo visits or circus shows, many popular activities are notorious for exploiting animals. We force animals to perform repetitive tasks or tricks, confine them away from their natural habitats, separate them from their families, and repress natural behaviours. We play god over these creatures, forgetting that they feel pain and emotion just like ourselves.
Rest assured that it is still possible to enjoy your vacation or field trip without the animals paying for it. Trade zoo visits for sanctuaries. Ride bikes, not horses or elephants. Circus animals should be replaced by robots or holograms, as has recently been introduced at the German circus Roncalli.
Support rescue and conservation organizations
If you are feeling generous and looking for a worthy cause to support, Vancouver has a plethora of worthy conservation organizations. Given the climate crisis and accelerated rates of habitat loss, it is more important than ever to protect remaining ecosystems and support the growth of new ones.
A few of these vital organizations that you may consider supporting are Wildlife Rescue Association, the BCSPCA, the BC Wildlife Federation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Nature Trust BC, and the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society.
Buy from brands that don’t test on animals
This may be a no-brainer for some conscious consumers, but the degree of popular brands that still test on animals is astounding. Research the companies you frequently buy from – it’s worth knowing what cruelty your money may be supporting. Lush is a great local brand that is known for its cruelty-free message, and as a bonus they also support the package-free movement. For makeup, consider brands like KatVonD, Desert Essence, elf, Jason, NYX or The Body Shop, which are all committed to eradicating cosmetic testing on animals.
Avoid pesticides and bug sprays
Although often considered a cheap and easy fix for pest problems, these chemical aerosols take a toll on the environment. When applied in gardens or fields, pesticides that kill off the intended intruder often doom beneficial pollinators like bees and birds as well.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is a proven insect repellent, so don’t hesitate to swap out your bug spray for this natural alternative. For gardens, reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides by mulching the soil, companion planting, introducing natural predators like ladybugs, and sprinkling diatomaceous earth powder around your plants.
Plant a pollinator garden
We all know by now the scary news about declining bee populations. Careless use of pesticides and urban development have wrecked the habitats of bees all over the world. Although we are fortunate in British Columbia to enjoy abundant green spaces, urban sprawl and agriculture has nevertheless affected pollinator levels. One easy way to combat this trend while beautifying your space is to plant native flowers like fawn lilies, red columbines, coastal strawberry and camas.