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15 Simple Ways to Help Endangered Animals Without Leaving Your Home

Endangered Species Day is May 15—but you can help animals all year round, even while practicing social distancing.

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Green sea turtleGeorgette Douwma/Getty Images

Learn about endangered species

First things first: It’s time to get informed. Before you can make a difference, you’ll need to understand which animals need protection and what’s being done to help them. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature have plenty of educational resources to get you started, or you can try streaming nature documentaries (Planet Earth, anyone?). Once you’re fired up, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can help you learn more about the species in your area. You can even join the Endangered Species Coalition Activist Network to receive action alerts. And don’t forget to share your new knowledge with family and friends! Read more about 14 wild animal species you never knew were endangered.

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Cropped image of man holding credit while shopping online through laptop at homeHalfdark/Getty Images

Donate money

There are lots of national parks, wildlife refuges, and animal-focused nonprofits doing great work out there, and they depend on donations to keep it up. Charity Navigator can help you pinpoint a group that’ll use the funds appropriately. Some organizations also let donors participate in symbolic adoptions, which are a perfect way to get kids involved in your conservation effort. Can’t afford to give? Consider launching a Facebook or social media fundraiser. At the very least, you’ll help spread the word about your favorite organization or sanctuary—and you just might end up reaching your fundraising goal while you’re at it. These are the charities where your donations go the farthest.

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Father and son mowing lawn in backyardKeith Berson/Getty Images

Ditch harmful lawn chemicals

We all want our front yards to look nice, but hazardous pollutants are not the answer. Pesticides and herbicides poison all sorts of animals, from small creatures like amphibians to large predators such as hawks and coyotes. (Not to mention that pesticides can also be quite dangerous for children and pets.) Instead, consider natural pest controls; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suggestions for making your lawn environmentally-friendly. By adopting green practices in your yard, you’ll help species in your area survive. Here are 11 endangered baby animals that made a comeback.

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Senior couple working in garden togetherOliver Rossi/Getty Images

Add native plants to your yard

Instead of putting exotic blooms in your garden, find flowers and plants that naturally grow in your area. They’ll provide essential food and shelter to insects, butterflies, birds, and more. Plants that haven’t adapted to the climate may look nice, but they don’t provide those same benefits for wildlife. Bonus: Native plants also require less water and are more likely to flourish. To learn more about your local plants, visit the National Wildlife Federation or the U.S. Plants Database. You should also consider planting these flowers that attract bees in your garden.

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Young man in the city crossing the streetWestend61/Getty Images

Walk instead of drive

A silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic: Many of us are on the road less frequently, so we’re using less fuel and decreasing the amount of pollution we put into the air. But no matter what’s going on in the world, it’s always important to consider your most environmentally-friendly transportation options before a trip. Could you walk or bike to where you need to go? Sometimes, driving a car is unavoidable; when that’s the case, driving a little slower can save the lives of any creatures that might be trying to cross the road. Find out the 14 majestic animals could disappear in your lifetime.

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Young woman using reusable shopping bag in storealdomurillo/Getty Images

Shop smarter

The most eco-conscious thing you can do is to buy fewer items overall. But if you must buy something, look for reusable products over single-use ones, and try to purchase goods that are made from recycled or sustainable materials. (Hint: Seals from trusted third parties—such as Fair Trade Certified or GreenGuard Certified—can help you narrow down which items are truly making a difference.) Don’t forget to recycle the product when you’re done!

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Path in an oil palm plantation, near Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, IndonesiaAntoine Boureau/Getty Images

Look for sustainable palm oil

Palm oil is used in everything from chocolate to cosmetics—so even if you don’t cook with it, you’re probably still consuming it regularly. Unfortunately, palm oil comes from rainforests, many of which are being rapidly cleared in order to make more of the product. That leads to widespread destruction of the habitats of many species, including tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos. But don’t panic: You don’t have to give up palm oil entirely, according to experts. Some companies have begun trying to improve the situation, and it’s important to support their efforts. Plus, palm oil uses less land to produce than other vegetable oils. So instead, keep an eye out for the RSPO label, which is given to palm oil that was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. These endangered tigers will thank you.

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Volunteer man collecting trash on the beach. Ecology conceptInside Creative House/Getty Images

Pick up trash

This one may seem obvious, but it’s still crucial. Animals can easily be injured or killed by soda cans, plastic bags, old gum, and other pieces of garbage on the ground. You can help by keeping the streets near your home litter-free. Round up your family members, grab some gloves and reusable bags, and pick up every piece of trash you can find. When you get home, recycle whatever you can and dispose of the rest safely. You’ll be doing the environment a solid—and it’s a great way to get out of the house when you’ve been cooped up a little too long. Find out 10 things that other countries recycle but the United States doesn’t.

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Cropped Hand Of Woman Putting Plastic Bag In DustbinNattapong Wongloungud / EyeEm/Getty Images

Dispose of waste properly

When you’re getting things done around the house, it might seem quickest to dump substances like paint, furniture polish, or antifreeze down the drain or toss them in the trash. But those items are actually harmful to both humans and wildlife. Check out the EPA’s guide to handling hazardous household waste to ensure that you’re getting rid of products safely. You might end up helping animals you didn’t even know existed.

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Midsection of woman folding napkins while standing at wooden table in kitchenMaskot/Getty Images

Use less paper

Whenever possible, try to avoid wasteful usage of paper. Some ways to start: make cloth napkins, opt for digital bank statements, start printing double-sided, and avoid using single-use paper plates and cups. You can also contact companies that send junk mail to get your name off their lists. (Another perk: Fewer pieces of unwanted mail clogging up your mailbox!) And, of course, recycle whatever you can. Recycling one ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water, three cubic yards of landfill space, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the World Wildlife Fund. By saving trees, you’re protecting habitats and the species that live in them.

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Close-Up Of Water Falling From Shower In Bathroom At HomeMatthias Nitsch / EyeEm/Getty Images

Reduce your water consumption

Sometimes when you’re taking a nice hot shower, it can be so hard to hurry yourself along. (We’ve all been there.) Luckily, there are simple ways to make water conservation easier. By installing a new low-flow showerhead, for example, a family of four can save about 20,000 gallons of water a year. You can easily turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face. It can make a bigger difference than you realize, as letting the faucet run for just five minutes uses as much energy as a 60-watt light bulb consumes in 14 hours. Hundreds of species have already gone extinct, but having more clean water can help protect those that remain.

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Making compost from vegetable leftoverssvetikd/Getty Images

Consider composting

Been cooking a lot while you’re stuck at home? Food waste like coffee grounds, vegetables, and fruit can all be turned into compost, a natural fertilizer that will enrich your soil. It’s a great way to dispose of food scraps without leaving them to rot in landfills. Whether you’ve got a huge garden or just a tiny apartment, read more about how to get started on composting ASAP.

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Washing machine door with rotating garments insideiso_petrov/Getty Images

Wash your clothes more efficiently

You’re probably washing your clothes more than you need to. (Levi’s CEO, after all, says his jeans never see the inside of a washing machine.) But when you absolutely do need to clean your clothes, choose a cold water setting, which can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. And if you’ve got an old washing machine at home, it may be worth considering a replacement, as the average machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load, compared to the 28 gallons per load used by high-efficiency models. While you’re at it, check out other expert tips for doing your laundry.

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Woman changing lightbulbFloresco Productions/Getty Images

Light it up

So you already turn off the lights when you leave a room. That’s a good start—but you could be doing even more to save energy. By replacing one standard incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light (CFL), you can save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. CFLs create the same amount of light as standard bulbs, but they use one-third of the electricity and can last 10 times as long, according to the World Wildlife Fund. That means you’ll save money in the long run. Try these 40 simple ideas to reduce your own carbon footprint.

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Butterfly on the leafJaysonPhotography/Getty Images

Create a butterfly garden

Butterflies are beautiful to watch, but they also help pollinate flowers and plants. Building a special space that attracts these creatures strengthens their ecosystem—and also adds some color and life to your home. The North American Butterfly Association has advice on how to set one up. Hint: You may also want to add a birdbath for extra entertainment. These are some of the most majestic birds found in nature.

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Woman using laptop at table at homeWestend61/Getty Images

Speak up

You’ve made lots of small changes to ensure that your daily life is more environmentally-conscious. Great work! But it’s also crucial that society as a whole develops more sustainable habits. Using all your newfound knowledge, write to your local lawmakers to explain why endangered species need our help. (Defenders of Wildlife have tips and sample templates.) You can also sign petitions, promote nonprofits on social media, and speak with family and friends about why we need to protect endangered species. Perhaps if we all work together, we can bring back more animals from the brink of extinction.

Chrisanne Grisé
Chrisanne Grisé covers culture for Reader’s Digest. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Upfront, Martha Stewart Weddings, Food Network, Fitness, and Parents, among other publications. She earned a BS in journalism from Emerson College. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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