Terrible Home & Life Habits That Are Harming The Wildlife Around You

Monica Gray - December 6, 2023
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It can feel difficult to keep up with home habits that keep the environment and wildlife around your home as healthy as possible, especially when it might not be the first thing on your mind. With a little effort, you can completely change your home habits to keep the wildlife as healthy and happy as possible. Next time you want to throw something away, it’s a good idea to stop and think about the effects of the animals around you. Because when the wildlife around you is happy and healthy, you’ll have a better chance at spotting adorable, healthy critters in and around your home!

Bad environmental behavior goes beyond overpopulation, pollution, deforestation, and burning fossil fuels. These alone have triggered climate change, undrinkable water, poor air quality, and soil erosion, in addition to a few terrible home habits that harm the wildlife around you.

Rubicon

Improper Waste Disposal

This might seem obvious, but improperly disposing of your waste causes bigger issues than you think. When you improperly dispose of trash, it can attract wildlife for the wrong reasons, which in turn can lead to the ingestion of harmful materials. The wildlife can also become entangled in debris. One solution to this is to use proper disposal methods, like recycling and using secure trash bins to make sure the wildlife doesn’t crawl inside. When wildlife is harmed, it causes a chain reaction that may cause permanent damage to ecosystems across the globe.

Improper waste disposal may also end up in our oceans. According to the NOAA, “entanglement causes the death of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals every year, including dolphins, seals, and whales.” Furthermore, animals like sea turtles might mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, thus ingesting something they cannot digest. Improper waste disposal also harms plant wildlife. According to the EPA, “floating trash can block out sunlight and deplete oxygen levels in the ocean, all of which are necessary for underwater photosynthesis.” It’s all a chain reaction that eventually points back to humans (Rubicon)

Distinctly Montana

Feeding The Wildlife

It sounds counterintuitive, but feeding the wildlife around you is causing more harm than good. It disrupts their natural feeding patterns and encourages dependency on human-provided food. This, in turn, may lead to malnutrition and reliance on human-sourced food. You must allow the wildlife to find natural food sources on their own. If they’re exposed to food from humans, it may also alter their behavior and diet, which may lead to long-term harm.

Animals need different nutrients than humans. And think about this, if you’re feeding them a snack, it means that dozens of other people are probably doing the same thing. This prevents them from hunting, scavenging, or foraging as they naturally would. When the animals get used to food, they lose their fear of humans, which can lead to death or injury. And if an animal is waltzing towards you with the expectancy of food, and suddenly becomes startled, they’re more likely to attack or hurt you, whereas previously they’d never even thought to approach you (NPS).

Reddit

Chemical Use in Gardens

Even though no one wants to have weeds in their garden, there’s a bigger issue at hand. When there are chemicals in your gardens, they harm the wildlife around your home. Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can contaminate water sources. In turn, this affects aquatic life and harms insects that are vital for many ecosystems. One solution to this is to opt for natural or eco-friendly alternatives and to use chemicals only sparingly.

According to Nathan Donley, “It’s no surprise that these chemical poisons are causing severe harm to imperiled wildlife since U.S. use exceeds 70 million pounds of atrazine and 300 million pounds of glyphosate every year. It’s long past time for atrazine to be banned, and the EPA needs to crack down on the reckless overuse of glyphosate. Without real conservation action, these pesticides will continue to push our most endangered wildlife closer to extinction.” Try to be a part of the change and use natural products. Some states are already taking action, but it must happen at a faster pace to have a lasting effect (Biological Diversity).

Slate

Excessive Water Usage

There’s a reason they say to keep your showers short and never let the water run! Not only can it rack up your water bill, but the overuse of water resources can lead to habitat destruction and negatively impact aquatic ecosystems. One solution to this is to fix your house to help conserve water. Do this by fixing leaks, using drought-resistant plants, and practicing water-efficient habits.

Water is also much scarcer than we think it is. Even though our planet is 71% water, it doesn’t mean it’s readily available for us to use at our disposal. Most of the water on this planet is unusable. Not only does water treatment use a lot of energy, thus burning fossil fuels that harm our environment, but water feeds humans and animal and plant wildlife. Your water impacts your local environment, no matter where you are in the world. It’ll take every single household to do their part, which is why changing some terrible home habits now is so detrimental to the health of our planet (Drop Connect).

Bird Conservancy

Uncontrolled Pet Behavior

It might feel good to let your dog run around unsupervised, but it comes with a catch. Unsupervised pets can harm local wildlife, either by confrontation or by disrupting nesting sites. One solution to prevent them from harming wildlife is to keep pets indoors or supervise them when outside to minimize their impact on local wildlife. And when there’s an area with tons of stray dogs, they’re more likely to spread diseases or harass the wildlife, preventing them from living in their local habitat.

Cats are recognized as a significant contributor to the declining bird population in the United States. Their predatory nature, especially among outdoor and feral cats, poses a substantial threat to birds as they hunt and kill millions each year. Efforts to mitigate this impact often involve promoting responsible pet ownership and implementing measures to control the feral cat population, aiming to safeguard the delicate balance of ecosystems and protect vulnerable bird species. (NCBI).

Trash Hero

Littering

It may come as no surprise that littering is bad for the environment. Discarding litter, especially plastics, can have severe consequences for wildlife through ingestion or entanglement. One solution is to make sure you’re disposing of litter properly and effectively. You can do this by participating in local cleanup efforts and reducing your consumption of single-use plastics.

Littering can also stunt or prevent plant growth. Small animals tend to crawl into small jars, where they get stuck and eventually starve to death. When animals eat plastic bags, it can destroy their metabolism and lead to starvation and death. Animals can also cut themselves on certain types of litter, which might lead to a fatal infection. According to Plano, cigarette buts can take five to 30 years to decompose, styrofoam can take over one million years to decompose, aluminum cans can take up to 500 years to decompose, and plastic bags can take up to 600 years. If you can avoid using any of these items, you’re doing your part in helping the environment and making it safer for the innocent wildlife around us (Plano).

Dark Sky

Unregulated Outdoor Lighting

Have you ever looked at a bright light and immediately felt pain or discomfort? The wildlife feels the same way, which is why it’s important to control excessive or misdirected outdoor lighting. It can easily disrupt nocturnal wildlife, affecting their behavior and navigation. One solution to this is to use motion-sensor lighting. You can also shield lights to direct illumination downward and always make sure to turn off unnecessary lights at night and when not in use.

Researcher Christopher Kyba said, “Predators use light to hunt, and prey species use darkness as cover,” Kyba explains. “Near cities, cloudy skies are now hundreds or even thousands of times brighter than they were 200 years ago. We are only beginning to learn what a drastic effect this has had on nocturnal ecology.” To make matters worse, artificial light can lead baby turtles towards their demise, by leading them towards humans instead of towards the sea and safety (Dark Sky).

Nurture Native Nature

Habitat Destruction for Landscaping

It feels nice to have a manicured lawn, though it doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment or the wildlife around you. Clearing natural habitats for landscaping purposes can displace and harm local wildlife. Instead, choose native plants that support local ecosystems, and design landscapes with wildlife-friendly features.

If you want to manicure your yard, try filling it with beautiful native trees, flowers, and bushes. This will provide more of a home to the wildlife around you instead of taking it away from them. It’s their home as much as it is yours! Birds look for dense shrubs to nest, and if you’re someone who’s cleaned out your yard, they won’t have anywhere to go (Nurture Native Nature).

Skedaddle Wildlife

Disrupting Nesting Sites

If you see a nest, leave it! Disturbing or removing natural nesting sites can harm bird and insect populations. Be mindful of nesting seasons, avoid unnecessary disturbances, and provide birdhouses to compensate for lost nesting sites. Not only that but trying to remove the nest may expose you to diseases like harmful parasites and pathogens.

If you disrupt a nest with baby birds inside, the mother might smell human interference and abandon the nest, thus abandoning her babies. Worst case scenario, the mother bird might attack you. Many birds are also protected under the law, so it might be illegal for you to move the nest (Skedaddle Wildlife).

The Impact Investor

Over-Harvesting Natural Resources

Collecting plants, animals, or other natural resources without consideration for sustainability can lead to population declines. There’s a reason only a certain amount of resources grows in your area, so never take something without considering the wildlife around you. Make sure you always follow ethical and sustainable practices and adhere to regulations regarding the collection of natural resources.

One example of this is overfishing. Overfishing usually leaves juvenile fish. The adult fish are usually taken. Juvenile fish are much more susceptible to predation, which could eventually impact their species and lead to extinction (Britannica).

NRDC

Excessive Use Of Single-Use Plastic

You likely use plastic bags when shopping for food, clothes, toiletries, and other random items. If you’re not using it shopping, then it’s probably in boxes you order from Amazon. Straws and other single-use plastics are some of the most harmful materials for wildlife. Because plastic is unable to degrade naturally, it oftentimes ends up in the stomachs of wildlife or their natural habitats, whether that’s deep in the sea or the forest. We’re using plastic at a much faster rate than we’re able to dispose of it, so it’s becoming a huge concern. You can do your part by limiting your use of single-use plastic and switching to more sustainable materials.

When animals eat microplastics, they accumulate inside their bodies and cause health issues, including punctured organs or intestinal blockages. The chemicals alone in plastics are also harmful. According to NRDC, “Marine animals bear the burden of this influx of garbage into their habitats. Beached whales have been found with stomachs full of plastic trash. Recent studies found plastic in the guts of 90 percent of the seabirds tested and 100 percent of the turtles. Alarmingly, scientists estimate that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight in 2050.” (NRDC).

Green Biz

Throwing Away Food

If you constantly make too much food and find you’re throwing a majority of it away, it’s time to take a step back and look at how harmful that is for the environment and wildlife. Because food waste rots away in landfills, it produces methane, one of the greenhouse gases. It also increases organic matter in waterways, which may augment the growth of algal blooms.

Not only that, but food waste attracts wildlife. Decaying food is harmful to wildlife because it affects their numbers, predator-prey relationships, and reproduction patterns. The less food you waste and throw away, the better it is for the wildlife around you. Try buying less food and cooking just enough to keep you and your family full (Respect Food).

12 Everyday Items You Should Never Flush Down Your Toilet

Flushing the Toilet

Our toilets alone use about 1.28 gallons of water every single time we flush. That equates to roughly 6.35 liters of water. It’s an unnecessary amount of water, especially when there are better alternatives like compost toilets. The waste from compost toilets can be used for projects like manufacturing manure. Unfortunately, this is an unlikely solution for most homes around the world, so one alternative would be to flush the toilet less often.

Excessive toilet flushing can indirectly impact wildlife populations through water consumption and wastewater discharge. If a large amount of water is used for flushing toilets, it contributes to increased overall water demand. This may lead to altered water availability in ecosystems, affecting aquatic habitats and potentially disrupting the natural balance of local flora and fauna. Additionally, the chemicals and pollutants present in wastewater from toilets can pose risks to aquatic ecosystems if not properly treated, further impacting wildlife. (United Nations University)

Green Peace UK

Consuming Too Much Meat

One of the most commonly produced greenhouse gases is methane, which comes from meat production. The detrimental impact methane has on the planet is that it traps heat within the atmosphere. The meat industry is the number one producer of methane. Farmed livestock produces this greenhouse gas from animal manure and enteric fermentation. You don’t have to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but simply being more aware of your meat consumption and perhaps buying from more sustainable sources, or simply eating less is one way to protect the wildlife and environment around you. With little changes, we’ll see big results.

Meat production also uses massive amounts of water and land, which leaves tons of pollution and greenhouse gases. According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Roughly 2 of every 5 tons of grain produced in the world is fed to livestock, poultry, or fish; decreasing consumption of these products, especially of beef, could free up massive quantities of grain and reduce pressure on land.” Unfortunately, the USA consumes the most amount of meat when compared to every other nation in the world (PETA).

Earth

Shopping Online

Think about all those packages you receive in the mail from Amazon. Even though the convenience is unbeatable, considering you don’t have to drive anywhere, avoid traffic, and even avoid talking to people, the waste that comes with online shopping is horrendous. Plastic wrapping and styrofoam end up in landfills, which take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose if they even do decompose. Modern consumerism is horrendous for the environment and wildlife, which may end up accidentally eating our trash.

According to Earth, “The transport of goods across the world is responsible for a huge portion of CO2 emissions generated by e-commerce. In 2020, the shipping and return of products accounted for 37% of the total GHG emissions. The major problem can be attributed, once again, to the consumers’ appetite for convenience. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of delivery vehicles will increase by 36%, reaching approximately 7.2 million vehicles.” The CO2 emissions from vehicles, in addition to the plastic waste that comes with online shopping, is an equation for a catastrophe (Earth).

FSSI

Overusing Paper

Paper comes from trees, and we use way too much of it. The number of trees getting chopped down to match our paper consumption is detrimental to the planet. Whether we’re using paper for paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, or writing, the rate at which we’re using it is too fast to match the number of trees on this planet. Because we have such high standards of hygiene, paper is the number one choice when it comes to bathroom and kitchen purposes. Deforestation is becoming a tremendous problem that’s detrimental to the wildlife around us. Without the forests, the animals do not have homes.

According to The World Counts, “In the USA, Japan, and Europe an average person uses between 200 and 250 kilos of paper every year. In India, the figure is 5 kilos, and in some countries, it is less than 1 kilo. Producing 1 kilo of paper requires 2-3 times its weight in trees. If everyone used 200 kilos of paper per year there would be no trees left.” If you can, try replacing paper towels with cloth towels to reduce your usage of paper, little by little (The World Counts).

Ocean Blue Project

Uncontrolled Pet Waste

There’s a reason the law requires you to pick up your pet waste. Failure to pick up your waste may result in harmful bacteria and parasites leeching into the environment. This negatively impacts both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Just because your pets waste is natural, doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment.

According to the EPA, “one gram of dog waste can contain upwards of 23 million fecal bacteria (supposedly as toxic as an oil spill). When left unchecked (i.e., not scooped and not disposed of appropriately), elements of that toxic soup can make their way to waterways through erosion and rain, contaminating anywhere they pass through.” Dog waste is not the same as wild animal waste, especially because of the differing diets (Friends of the Blue Hills).

Machinery Lubrication

Disposing of Oil And Grease Incorrectly

The repercussions of pouring grease down the drain extend beyond environmental damage; it directly threatens wildlife by introducing harmful substances into water bodies, compromising the health of aquatic organisms and disrupting the delicate balance of ecosystems. From aquatic insects to fish and other species, the adverse impacts of grease pollution can have cascading effects on the entire food web, emphasizing the importance of responsible disposal practices to protect wildlife populations.

To prevent this, let the oil cool down completely. Then, scrape it into a sealable container that you can throw away. You can also choose to keep grease frozen and dispose of it once you fill up an entire Ziploc bag, to prevent unnecessary, extra waste. Take it even a step further and reuse your oil. All you have to do is strain the oil in a strainer to remove any extra food bits and store it in an airtight container to keep it fresh (Budget Dumpster).

Nature

Uncontrolled Vehicle Speeds

It’s always a good idea to drive the speed limit. If you’re driving faster than the speed limit, there’s a higher chance you’ll hit wildlife or run them over. This causes a chain reaction which can result in roadkill, thus harming the local fauna.

Unfortunately, lowering vehicle speeds doesn’t seem to be the only solution to preventing roadkill. According to the Nature Conservancy, “Since changing human behavior isn’t easy, the only sure way to significantly address this problem is to build over- or underpasses that allow animals to cross roads without touching the pavement.” If towns created more regulations in regards to building over or underpasses, there might be less roadkill, thus keeping the wildlife balance and ecosystem in check (Nature).

Indiana Public Media

Neglecting Bird Collisions

Many people are starting to install large glass windows in their homes. Birds easily mistake these windows for something transparent. They fly towards the window, only to crash into it. This causes immense injury and possibly even death. Many people fail to consider these bird collisions. For birds, glass windows are worse than invisible. They tend to fly towards them because they reflect the foliage around them, and mistake them for a tree or bush. Up to one billion birds die each year from window strikes.

According to Christine Sheppard, who directs the Bird Collisions Program, “If you’ve got windows near a bird feeder, you should make them bird-friendly and don’t worry about how far away they are.” You can prevent these bird collisions by adding sticker decals, screens, netting, or tempera paint or soap. These will deter the birds from smacking into your windows and thus prevent more bird deaths. We want those cute critters flying around, without them, our ecosystem will be immensely out of balance (All About Birds).

NPS

Unregulated Recreational Activities

The repercussions of pouring grease down the drain extend beyond environmental damage; it directly threatens wildlife by introducing harmful substances into water bodies, compromising the health of aquatic organisms and disrupting the delicate balance of ecosystems. From aquatic insects to fish and other species, the adverse impacts of grease pollution can have cascading effects on the entire food web, emphasizing the importance of responsible disposal practices to protect wildlife populations.

Implementing proper grease disposal methods and raising awareness about the detrimental effects on wildlife are essential steps toward preserving the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and ensuring the long-term health of diverse animal species. According to the NPS, “Going off trail can damage or kill certain plant or animal species, and can hurt the ecosystems that surround the trail. Always practice Leave No Trace principles: Leave rocks, vegetation, and artifacts where you find them for others to enjoy.” (NPS).

Earth Magazine

Improper Disposal Of Batteries And Ink

Your ink cartridges and batteries are doing more harm to the environment than good. Even though batteries are a convenient way of charging up your electronics, they’re not biodegradable at all. When depleted batteries are thrown in the trash, they eventually end up in landfills, where they decay and leak. The chemicals soak into the soil and contaminate the groundwater and surface water.

For starters, avoiding buying anything with batteries and ink in it is one way to help the environment. Other than that, disposing of them properly is your next best way to help the wildlife. Millions of batteries are tossed into the trash every single year. According to Water Atlas, “When depleted batteries are tossed into the trash, they end up in landfills where they decay and leak. As batteries corrode, their chemicals soak into the soil and contaminate groundwater and surface water. Our ecosystems, which contain thousands of aquatic plants and animals, are compromised when filled with battery chemicals. This means that when we drink from tap water faucets, we could be ingesting dangerous metals.” So not only is tossing your batteries and ink into the trash bad for wildlife and aquatic life, but it’s bad for humans, too (Water Atlas).

World Wildlife

Unattended Fishing Gear

A fisherman needs to keep track of their fishing gear. When fishing gear is lost or abandoned, it can entangle marine life, causing injury and oftentimes leading to death. They refer to it as ghost gear, which often falls off boats and lands in the sea. Between 500,000 to one million tons of fishing gear are discarded and lost in the ocean every single year. This includes discarded nets, lines, and ropes, which make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

According to World Wildlife, “Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic as it unselectively catches wildlife, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks, subjecting them to a slow and painful death through exhaustion and suffocation. Ghost fishing gear also damages critical marine habitats such as coral reefs.” While scuba divers are working to remove this from the ocean, it’s also important we do our part. If you’re someone who likes to spend time on your boat and out at sea, always make sure you keep track of your nets, fishing lines, and gear (World Wildlife).

Ecore Dux

Uncontrolled Invasive Species

Introducing non-native plants or animals to an area can easily disrupt the ecosystem and natural balance in that area. There’s a reason they always say to never bring fruits and vegetables with you to certain places! It can seriously harm the wildlife around you. Some species are invasive, meaning they’ll kill off weaker species around them if introduced to the area. This negatively impacts the wildlife around them, who rely on these to survive. If you’re not supposed to grow certain plants in your backyard, there’s a reason! Listen to the law and don’t invite invasive species into your home.

According to Ocean Service, “Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. This can result in huge economic impacts and fundamental disruptions of coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.” Not only can invasive species harm the wildlife, but it can also harm the aquatic ecosystem (Ocean Service).

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