“Human beings depend for their sustenance, health, well-being, and enjoyment of life on biodiversity. We derive all of our food and many medicines and industrial products from the wild and domesticated components of biological diversity.” – Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment
There are several ways Australian’s can be environmentally responsible, here are 10 simple steps you can take to help protect Australia’s Biodiversity.
1. Plant a wildlife habitat in your backyard
Even a small garden can have a big impact on boosting biodiversity.
Planting a wildlife habitat in your backyard can play a crucial role in the survival of native species. Research plants that are native to your region and create a backyard sanctuary. Plant trees to provide habitat and food for animals. As trees grow they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Planting trees can help reduce the impacts of climate change in your local area.
- Take the children out to maintain local areas of bushland. Wildlife gardening strengthens community engagement, builds a connection to nature and boosts biodiversity.
- Join a volunteer organisation devoted to caring for the environment, such as landcare
- build a pond, set up a bird bath, build nesting boxes or insect houses. To find our how, see Backyard Buddies website
The Backyard Habitat Planting Guide states “In natural bushland there are five main structural layers (or storeys) where wildlife feed, shelter or breed. Four of the layers comprise vegetation cover and the fifth is the leaf litter, logs and rocks found on the ground. When developing your garden, try to mimic these different layers.”
To find out more and to obtain free resources join Lake Macquarie’s Backyard Habitat for Wildlife program
2. Remove weeds
A weed is a plant that has detrimental effects on the environment, economy, or human health.
Weeds can seem like a harmless plant but if they enter our bushland they can easily turn into a noxious weed, they can reproduce and aggressively invade natural habitats and threaten native plants by taking the food, water and space native species need to grow.
Common weeds in Lake Macquarie are Asparagus Fern, Lantana, Madeira Vine, Morning Glory, Privet and Blackberry. See the Weeds Australia website to find out what else may be considered an invasive weed in Australia
3. Be a responsible pet owner
Wires suggest “Keep domestic animals indoors as much as possible or safely contained, particularly at night”
Domestic cats are one of the number one killers of native species, responsible for killing millions of small mammals, birds, and reptiles each year. By keeping your cat inside or in a cat run, you are not only protecting them from harm but helping to protect native species.
Off-leash dogs can often disturb or attack native species, always keep your dog on a leash when in natural areas and always clean up their mess.
If you are unable to keep your pet do not release it into the wild, this includes flushing pet fish down the toilet or releasing them into local streams. Try to find a loving home for your pet, there are several pet rescue organisations willing to help.
4. Be waste wise
“Australians produce 540kg of household waste per person, each year. That’s more than 10kg for every single person, every single week. In the year to June 2017 Australia generated an estimated 67 million tonnes of waste. Only 37% of this was recycled.”
“It’s estimated about 130,000 tonnes of Australian plastic ends up in our waterways and oceans each year.” – Clean up Australia
- Avoid single-use plastics
- BYO reusable water bottles, shopping bags, cutlery, straws, lunch containers, and coffee cups
- Support bulk food stores and use your own reusable containers to put your purchases in
- Make your own lunches and pack in reusable containers
- Buy fruit and vegetables loose
- BYO reusable containers to the deli
- Visit Plastic Free July for more plastic-free ideas.
Fun ideas for schools ‘Trash-free Tuesday’ ‘Waste-free Wednesday’
Sustainably managed timber products can benefit biodiversity. Forest Management Certification (FSC) confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves biological diversity and benefits the lives of local people and workers, while ensuring it sustains economic viability, but unfortunately some forests managed in Australia are not FSC certified.
When buying paper or timber products look for the FSC logo, buy FSC certified or recycled toilet and printing paper.
Reduce paper consumption by printing double sided and only what is necessary, repurpose paper for wrapping presents, making cards or decorations, turn paper into mulch for your garden, or add newspaper to your compost.
5. Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle
Look at ways you can reduce the amount of waste that makes it way into landfill. Many things which may be ‘trash’ to you are ‘treasures’ to others. The Sustainable Play Preschool Waste Hierarchy pyramid below is a great guide for considering appropriate actions to take when getting rid of unwanted items
- Before obtaining a new item, consider its lifecycle, is there a better more sustainable alternative that can be use?
- Before disposing of an item, consider if you can reuse it? Can you repurpose it? Can someone else reuse it? Platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are great for finding people who will ‘treasure’ your ‘trash’
- Before replacing an item, consider is it repairable for reuse?
- Before throwing items into the general waste bin, consider can it be composted? Can it be recycled? Planet Ark – recycling near you will connect you with a suitable recycling station for specific materials.
6. Start your own compost
Organic matter such as vegetable peels and grass clippings often unnecessarily end up in landfill.
“Approximately 50% of the rubbish Australians put in the everyday mixed-waste ‘garbage bin’ could be put to better use in the garden as compost and mulch or could be returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality” – Compost Week
Creating your own compost at home will not only reduce landfill and improve the soil quality but it will support plant growth in your backyard. Follow this step by step guide on How to make a great compost – Gardening Australia
7. Only water down the drain
Flushing and rinsing the wrong type of items can block your drains, overload and damage the wastewater system or create environmental damage that affects animals and plants living in streams and rivers.
Only flush toilet paper. Items like paper towel, tissues, sanitary products or wipes don’t break down properly and cause blockages in the sewerage system. These items can cause overflows into waterways.
Hunter Water recommended that the following items are not disposed of down the drain, fruit and vegetable waste, cooking oils ad fats, dairy products, pills and medication, household paints and cleaners, chemicals, pesticides, motor oils, stormwater and yard drainage, cosmetics and cotton buds.
When cleaning consider alternatives to harsh chemicals, e.g. white vinegar and bicarb soda or eco-friendly cleaning products
8. Clean up Australia
Litter is everywhere people are, it’s on the roadside, car parks, parks, school grounds, bushland, rivers, and the ocean. Wildlife and litter don’t mix.
- Animals can get their heads stuck in jars, cups and other containers causing them to suffocate or starve to death.
- Broken glass and cans can cut animals causing injuries that could be fatal or lead to infection.
- Plastic six-pack rings can trap animal heads or limbs making it difficult for them to move or fly.
- Household waste and cleaning chemicals can be toxic causing illness to death in animals.
- Animals can mistake plastic or latex such as balloons as food which can cause illness or block their digestive tract causing starvation.
- Animals can get caught or tangled in plastic, string, rope or netting making them unable to free themselves or cause suffocation.
Therefore it is extremely important to dispose of your waste appropriately.
Participate in programs such as Take 3 for the Sea when you visit the beach or in community clean ups like the annual Clean Up Australia Day which is now the nation’s largest community-based environmental event.
- Hold yourself accountable – reduce energy consumption by switching to energy-efficient light globes, offsetting carbon emissions by investing in clean and renewable energy, such as solar panels.
- Switch off – make sure appliances are switched off at the wall when not in use, turn off lights, air conditioners, fans, and heaters when not in the room.
- Travel smarter – traveling by car or airplane contributes heavily to our shared carbon footprint. Carpool, catch public transit, ride a bike, or walk when possible.
- Climate action, one bite at a time.
- Shop smarter – support companies driven by sustainability, use thoughtful purchasing to minimise waste, consider reused and pre-loved items to take part in the circular economy.
- Organise – action taken in groups is far more impactful then the actions of individuals. Register, participate and be an advocate in community for days such as, Clean up Australia Day, Earth hour, International Composting Awareness Week, etc. See the Australian Governments Departments of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Environmental Day’s Calendar
“Around the globe, food production, distribution, consumption and waste threaten wildlife, water resources and climate stability. The world’s 7.6 billion people currently consume more than 1.7 times what the Earth can supply sustainably and we will need to produce 70% more food to feed an estimated 9.8 billion people by 2050.” – WWF
Whenever possible, shop more ethically, choose locally grown food. When shopping look for the WWF logo for sustainably produced food and when eating out ask about the source and sustainability of your meal’s key ingredients. Create your own veggie garden at home, school, workplace or participate in community gardening. Did you know that vegetarian meals are better for the environment? Farming cattle and sheep are big contributors not just to deforestation but also global warming, if reductions in red meat consumption were substantial, it would have a huge impact on biodiversity. You could start by trying to implement ‘Meat-free Monday’.