March 3 marks World Wildlife Day, the United Nations’ annual celebration of the world’s wild animals and plants to recognize their contributions to the health and beauty of our planet.
As we prepare to celebrate this special day, it’s important for us to take note of how we can protect our wildlife through taking better care of our environment. Research has shown that roughly one million animals die each year by ingesting or becoming trapped in trash that has been disposed of improperly. One of the best ways to care for the animals and plants surrounding us is to acknowledge the harmful effects of litter on our environment and its inhabitants and do your best to reduce it.
Trash causes pollution and facilitates the spread of disease, both of which kill wildlife and hurt the environment. Chemicals from trash, such as arsenic and formaldehyde in cigarette butts often left on the ground, can make their way into soil and freshwater sources that directly impact the health of wildlife. At the same time, litter is a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases that can be spread through direct and indirect contact. These bacteria and diseases can lead to animal and plant death and may eventually get passed onto humans.
Here in Hawaii, seabirds are often found to have serious health problems due to ingesting microplastics. Endangered monk seals, hawksbill and green sea turtles have also suffered the effects of marine debris. Even our coral reefs and the fish that live there are threatened by the waves of garbage in the ocean. Here are a few things you can do to help protect our wildlife:
- Attend or organize a public beach cleanup. Many local organizations also host regular beach cleanups that you can join. They will often provide trash bags, buckets and gloves for participants.
- Throw away litter whenever it comes across your path. If you’re a hiker, consider taking a small bag with you and picking up trash on your way up or down. You can do this while hiking, jogging, or beach-going. Picking up trash goes a long way. It helps our parks, beaches, roads and sidewalks look nicer, too!
- Educate yourself! Do some research on new ways to reduce your trash, environmental initiatives in your area and other ways to get involved. Checking out our website is a good place to start – head to www.trashfreehawaii.com for more trash reduction tips.