May 20

As it’s Arkive’s 14th birthday, we thought we would celebrate by sharing 14 ways that you can help save the world! By just doing one of these things you can make a difference, more than one you can make a big difference, and by doing all 14 you are very much on track to save the world!

1)            Eat smart

Why?    Intensive farming methods produce a lot of air and water pollution, and agricultural areas that only contain one crop species, also known as monocultures, have an extreme lack of biodiversity and are hostile habitats for wildlife. Many countries now import a large amount of produce too, catering for our varied diet, however ‘food miles’ – which take into account the energy expenditure of transporting food from one location to another -can in many circumstances, increase the carbon footprint of your food shop significantly.

How?    Question where your food comes from – did it need to travel halfway across the planet or is it grown in nearby farms? Why not support your local economy through locally-sourced, seasonal produce? It’ll probably be fresher and tastier too.

Eat more vegetables. They’re readily available, fill your plate and belly up for less money, and you’ll look and feel better too. Look for organic food, being chemical-free not only helps your health, but that of wildlife around the farm.

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia

2)            Broaden your taste buds

Why?    Many global fisheries are on the verge of collapse and many species, such as bluefin tuna, are now classed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Many fish stocks are in a state of serious decline and overfishing is a great threat to marine wildlife and habitats – 90% of world fish stocks are fully or over exploited from fishing, alongside the pressures from climate change and pollution.

How?    The Marine Conservation Society (MCS UK) has produced a pocket guide and an app that summarises both fish to eat and those to avoid, and the Marine Stewardship Council has a worldwide certification system. Take care with the most common fish bought such as cod, haddock, salmon, and canned tuna as, due to their popularity, there are problems with all these fish and you need to choose wisely.

Consumers can help reduce the strain on certain species by demanding that the fish they eat comes from sustainably managed stocks and is caught or farmed in a way that causes minimal damage to the marine environment and other wildlife.

Avoid shopping in supermarkets or buying brands which are evasive in revealing where or how they source their fish stocks, and celebrate those who source responsibly by giving them your business.

A commercial purse-seine trawler pulling in its nets attracts the attention of scavenging seabirds

3)            Know your labels

Why?    Eco-labels are a form of sustainability measurement directed at consumers, intended to make it easy to take environmental concerns into account when shopping. There is a close relationship between eco-labelling and improving an organisation’s environmental management strategy, so paying attention is worth your time.

How?    Look for sustainability labels: RSPO palm oil certification, animal welfare, dolphin-friendly and so forth, and know what they represent. You should come across a handful fairly regularly on your purchases, make sure you understand those first, and take it from there!

4)            Be travel savvy

Why?    We love exploring the big wide world, but this can often take us to places we’re unfamiliar with, and across practices that you may never support at home. Photos with animals on the street, riding on elephants, buying jewellery with animal products, all often have a very unsustainable, unethical and often illegal background to them.

How?    Research the activities you plan to partake in ahead of time and make alternative plans if needs be. Question what may be on offer…is hugging a tiger a natural interaction?

Use reputable travel and tour operators, and check their accreditations with environmental NGOs or travel watchdogs.

Look at the menu and eat smart by never ordering endangered animals because it seems exotic or claims to be ethically sourced – no matter what the waiter says!

Elephants held for tourism are often mistreated, kept in chains and often with hooks in their ears to be pulled by their trainers

5)            Avoid one-use plastic products

Why?    Plastic debris in the ocean is an ever increasing threat, as it degrades marine habitats and contributes to the deaths of many marine animals. Because floating plastic often resembles food to many marine birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, they can choke on items after eating them or starve because of accumulation of plastic items within their digestive system, which can give them a false sense of being full.

How?    Say no to plastic shopping bags and carry reusable bags or a backpack with you while shopping.

Reusable drinks bottles are better for the planet and your pocket.

Avoid packaging on food products like fruit and vegetables, look for paper bags if you want to package up. Your local grocer should offer this, if not, suggest it.

Try bringing a packed lunch to work – all those sandwich cartons add up.

Refuse plastic drinking straws. We use them for a few minutes, and yet they can take up to 200 years to degrade. Reusable stainless steel, bamboo or glass drinking straws are a much better option.

Trash and plastics floating around in front of one of the fishing villages in Anilao, Batangas

6)            Conserve water at home

Why?    By reducing the amount of water we use and waste, we can prevent droughts from occurring. Even though our need for fresh water sources is always increasing (because of population and industry growth), the supply we have stays constant. Only 3% of all the water on Earth is freshwater, and only 1% is available for drinking. Fresh water availability is predicted to be one of the human race’s biggest environmental issues over the coming decades, so conservation is crucial.

How?    Don’t wash your dishes or brush your teeth with the water running continuously.

Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes.

Consider a low-flow showerhead, and take showers instead of baths.

Try sharing a bath?!

7)            Clean clever

Why?    Chemicals used to wash our bodies, homes, cars and everything else, get washed down the drain or absorbed in the grass, and eventually end up in our water supply. Since most people use heavy-duty chemicals for all sorts of things, chemicals are doing real damage to waterways and aquatic life.

How?    Consider organic shower gels and shampoos, they usually smell great too!

Look for marine friendly brands of laundry detergent, washing up liquid and other cleaning products.

Determine the lowest amount of detergent that can be used for an effective and sanitary result.

Avoid cosmetics containing microbeads, which pollute water systems before working their way into the oceans. These tiny plastic particles work their way into the food chain, all the way up to humans.

8)            Use less energy

Why?    Most energy requires the burning of fossil fuels, a process which creates greenhouse gases – the primary cause of climate change. Increasing CO2 levels have also caused a change in the pH level of the world’s oceans, making them more acidic and causing numerous ecological issues.

How?    Use energy efficient appliances in your home, including light bulbs, TVs and fridges.

Feeling cold? Double glazing and wall insulation greatly improve heat insulation so you can save on heating bills over winter, the cheaper fix is just wearing an extra jumper!

Turn off appliances when they aren’t in use.

Switch off the lights when you leave a room.

Renewable energy systems are becoming more readily available to the homeowner, such as solar panels and mini wind turbines, and can often cause the household to actually generate excess electricity, which can be sent back into the grid.

Forest cleared for coal mining in East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

9)            Leave your car at home

Why?    Getting a vehicle from “A” to “B” involves combustion of fossil fuels, a process that causes air pollution and emits greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide and dioxide, which contribute to global warming.

How?    Walk or ride your bike – simple! The exercise is great, it’s free, and in many cities it’s actually faster too.

Join a carpool to get to work if biking or walking isn’t an option, or if the weather looks awful!

Combine your errands – hit the post office and supermarket in one trip, rather than taking the car out twice.

Use public transport.

Carpooling is a great way to commute to more rural areas!

10)          Recycle

Why?    If we do not recycle our rubbish it is taken to landfill – a big old hole in the ground which has usually been dug out of a natural habitat, at the expense of the wildlife and plants that previously occupied the area. Burying waste in landfill spoils our countryside and is very bad for the environment. Chemicals build up underneath the surface, which can escape and cause damage to plants and wildlife, as well as polluting water.

How?    This one’s easy – most cities will recycle for you, and all you need to do is use the right bin!

Reuse -could you use that takeaway tub as a lunch box?

Choose products you buy based on how much packaging they are contained in, and whether it is recyclable.

11) Compost

Why?    Composting is a great sustainable gardening practice which involves decomposing organic matter, primarily food and garden waste, simply by leaving it to break down over a period of weeks or months. Composting the food and garden waste you produce throughout the year means you’re taking up less space in landfills so your tax money can work somewhere else. Plus, compost makes a great natural fertiliser for your garden.

How?    Composting can be as simple as raking leaves over your garden when you put it to winter bed or taking your kitchen scraps to a bin at the bottom of the garden.

Whether you’re growing vegetables, lawns, flowers and shrubs or fruit trees, composting will bring about vibrant, fortifying change to your gardens, while reducing the amount of waste you produce.

12)          Make a wildlife garden

Why?    All types of animals, from the birds to the bees, have lost habitat to human developments, and it’s an increasing scenario as human population rises. The UK alone has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the Second World War. A variety of habitats is crucial for biodiversity, and biodiversity is crucial for a stable ecosystem upon which we all depend – think of it like a game of Jenga, the more blocks there are, the more stable it is – and your garden can act as one of those blocks!

How?    Plant shrubs, flowers and trees that attract wildlife. Many conservation organisations have guides on which plants are good for species living in your area, look for high pollinating bee-friendly plants specifically.

Put out a bird feeder and bird bath stocked with clean food and water.

Having beneficial snakes, spiders, bees, bats, and other creatures around your garden is a sign your ecosystem is in good health, so welcome them in by creating areas for them. Nest boxes, tall vegetation, rockeries and log piles provide nooks and crannies for creatures to hide or sleep in.

A lot of those creatures you want to welcome into your garden need access, as not all of them can fly! Try cutting a hole in or digging a hole under your fence, or even a mini ramp up a wall, to create an animal highway between gardens. This extends the range and feeding grounds of garden wildlife, take the hedgehog for example – a natural predator of those pesky slugs and snails that eat your flowers!

Avoid chemical pesticides which rarely target just the pest species they’re intended for and can kill other creatures too, such as spiders and aphid-eating bugs.

Consider a manual lawnmower, or just let your garden turn into a meadow!

Bees are the best-known and most significant pollinators in the world and are responsible for the majority of pollination in both natural and cultivated plant communities

13)          Community gardening

Why?    Community farms or gardens are a great way to contribute to your local community. They can strengthen social ties, increase biodiversity, provide free locally-sourced food, engage city-dwellers with outdoor spaces and improve the overall well-being of an area.

A community garden can be any piece of land gardened by a group of people, an individual or shared plots of private or public land.

How?    Contact your local council of you’re having trouble finding a community garden nearby, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Hosting events such as ‘seed swaps’ are good ways to initiate discussions if a community garden isn’t in your neighbourhood. They also can really help engage all ages of the community and are a great way to save money, why pay for a plant from a garden centre when a neighbour will happily give you one for free! Please note: you should never transport fauna, flora or organic matter between countries.

You can’t just set up a community garden anywhere you feel though, as you will need to seek permission from landowners first. A good point of call if on public property is your local council, and if you need extra help getting started, consider if there are any wildlife organisations which operate in your area.

Community gardens also provide space for people and wildlife to escape the hustle and unwind

14)          Vote responsibly

Why?    Electing the right public officials is essential to good environmental policies, for those ‘it’s out of my hands’ topics. Next time you can vote, read as many manifestos as possible, and hold those politicians to their promises!

How?    Do your research and make an informed decision. Exercise your right to vote and stay involved after elections.

Don’t like something that’s happening in your area? Write to your local politician to bring it to their attention, and hopefully onto their agenda.

Apr 12

Jamie Unwin is a conservation photographer, Wildscreen Exchange contributor and zoology student at the University of Exeter. After creating a highly successful film on elephant poaching in Malawi, Jamie enlisted the help of coursemate Hannah Pollock to create their own conservation organisation, Stand Up for Nature (SUN). SUN’s aim is to use education to bring about cultural evolution to conserve wildlife. Their first mission was to use a bicycle-powered cinema designed and constructed by Jamie to take this film to communities that had not yet seen the film.

The pair have just finished their first and very successful bicycle powered cinema project in Malawi, and over 6 weeks they reached over 14,000 people with the film and took 336 children into 6 protected areas to see their country’s wildlife for the very first time.

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Jamie and Hannah have now returned to England and were keen to share their amazing experience with us.

Jamie – what was it like to return to Malawi?

J – Meeting all those people that I had spent many memorable moments with a year ago was special for me, last year was an eye opening experience and it provided me with an introduction as to what was really happening to Africa’s elephants. Tears of joy as well as moments of great sadness were shared with some incredibly inspirational people.

Hannah – what was it like seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time?

H – Having never seen an elephant in the wild before I was somewhat on a similar playing field to the children that we brought into the parks. Unfortunately, my first experience with a wild elephant was under the worst of circumstances, on Christmas day we received word that a poached elephant had been found and so we joined the ranger patrol as they went off to find it and establish a cause of death. As I witnessed my first wild elephant dead at the hands of a poacher it simply reinforced in my mind how important the project was and the true severity of the problem.

Jamie's last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Jamie’s last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Thankfully I had further encounters which were incredible, the most memorable was when we were observing a herd of elephants playing in a lake. As we sat watching, 3 males decided to come and investigate us, we remained quiet and still as they approached so that they wouldn’t be startled. Deciding that we posed no threat and also that in fact we weren’t that interesting they went about stripping the nearby trees of their leaves and had lunch right in front of us.

Jamie – how did you feel when you joined the rangers during a night raid to catch a poacher?

J – No one will ever understand the real brutality of the situation in Africa unless you have worked with one of the rangers. They put their lives at risk day in and day out, to keep Africa’s wildlife safe.

Late one night we had a call from an informer that a poacher had been seen carving up bush meet. The land cruiser was quickly assembled with 10 rangers in full camouflage, I was placed in the back and told to make sure I had nothing that would omit light. I set to work duct taping all parts of my camera to make sure none of the dials or the screen would give any light signal which would alert the poacher of our position. We were dropped a couple miles from the poacher’s location, this is where our back up stayed in case we encountered trouble. We walked quickly and silently with nothing but moonlight guiding the way until Richard, the head ranger, signalled that we were nearly there, he discussed a quick plan with the rest of the men. I joined Richard’s group and we proceeded to walk quickly towards the suspect’s location (a small mud hut with a grass roof), one ranger had unclipped hand cuffs from his belt and held them open and ready.

Sat by a fire was a man cooking the legs of a bush pig, before anyone had time to react and with no exchange of words, the handcuffs were placed on the individual and he was lifted onto his feet and walked back the way we came. The rangers had already called for backup and as we reached the main track the land cruiser arrived and we swiftly piled into the back, poacher and evidence included. We then drove back to camp the interrogation began the following morning.

Hannah – due to the time constraints incurred by running the project over your Christmas holidays, was it fun to have a 19hour working day? Describe what an average day would involve?

H – We certainly worked long hours out in Malawi but this was essential as there was a lot to get done. A typical day would involve us waking up around 5am so that we arose with the sun ready to start the day. Daily activities included visiting schools to show the film and leading discussions, meetings and interviews with a variety of organisation representatives and figureheads, bringing the children into the parks, shadowing individuals and learning what work was being done by those at the forefront of wildlife protection and of course lots and lots of driving as we covered an extraordinary distance, most of which was off-road.

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Most of our evenings over the six weeks were spent showing the film to communities – we would arrive around 6pm as the sun was setting and set up the bicycle powered projector then begin as soon as it became dark. The community showings tended to last longer as more people got involved and we kept them going for as long as there were questions/comments. By the time we returned to wherever we were staying that night and had cooked and eaten dinner it was usually nearing midnight.

From the second we arrived in Malawi we had every moment scheduled, we had one afternoon scheduled off in Mzuzu for travelling but upon being asked by a school student to show the film at his youth club we couldn’t say no. Seeing the response we got, the smiles on the children’s faces as they saw the wildlife and experiencing first-hand the warmth of the Malawian people was incredible. Malawi truly is the ‘warm heart of Africa’. I can safely say we all slept very well on the aeroplane home!

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Hannah and Jamie – it’s sad to see so many conservation projects end once the project leaders have left the country, was this the case with yours?

H & J – The last thing we wanted was to just turn up in Malawi, stay for six weeks and then just disappear again with no long term plan in place, that wouldn’t have helped anything. In order to avoid this, we worked with local educators throughout Malawi, giving the communities a lasting figure head once we had gone. A wildlife guardian network was established, a proportion of which is being managed by ‘Children in the Wilderness’ and various ‘Wildlife Clubs’ of the Department of Parks. The story book ‘The Elephant and the Mountain’ was also given out to children to remind them of the wildlife they had seen. Most importantly the project has now been handed over to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, the British High Commission have funded a similar bicycle powered cinema to stay in Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust will be continuing to visit communities and schools to show the film alongside their outreach work. We hope to return in the future to see the project flourishing.

So what’s next?

H – Kenya! Jamie is already in Kenya filming for the next project and we aim to run the bicycle powered cinema across Kenya in August 2016!

Jamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for NatureJamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for Nature

Jamie and Hannah – founders of Stand Up for Nature

The film can be viewed here.

Find out more about Stand Up for Nature on their website.

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