Stuff You Can Do
So what do you need to do to become a conservationist? You've got a lot of options.
Some of these activities are easy, even obvious — but still important. Other things take a little more time and energy; a few actions are demanding, requiring commitment and drive. You can decide which speed is right for you (and your family or community) right now. If it helps to start small, by all means do.
Whatever you decide, it'll bring rewards. The more effort you put in, the more you'll get out of it.
So get off your couch — or, if you're starting with online action, stay on it! And stick to this website — and save wildlife, wildlands and the planet.
Have your own ideas for action? Tell us now.
Take action with the Center for Biological Diversity on your computer or phone:
- Read about letters to the editor (LTEs) and how to write them. Through LTEs, you can tell your community about an issue close to your heart and get your name in the newspaper (not bad). LTEs can be even more powerful coming from young people than coming from adults. The sample letters on this page are about the Endangered Species Act, but you can write about a species, climate change, pollution — almost anything.
- While you're learning, decide which campaigns seem the most compelling to you. You can also have fun picking out your favorite endangered species. (Which is cutest? Which is weirdest?) Trust us — just deciding these things is important in itself.
- Keep sharing all that you learn and feel with your friends and family — the first step toward becoming a conservation leader.
- Send the Center stories, photos, videos and pictures of yourself for us to possibly share on one of these pages or feature in our Activist Spotlight. (You must have the permission of a parent or guardian to do this.)
Save (conventional) energy:
- Shut off the lights and other appliances (even the radio and TV) when you're not using them. That's obvious enough, but did you know you can also save energy by unplugging them? It's true!
- Influence your family to buy energy-saving light bulbs (like compact fluorescent and LED bulbs) and energy-saving appliances.
- Encourage the decision-makers in your family to contact people who can perform an "energy audit" on your apartment building or house, in which someone assesses how your home is losing the most energy and how it can be fixed. Your family can ask your local energy supplier if they have a program, or if needed you may research instructions to do your own version yourself. You can also push your school, community center or other places you spend time to do an energy audit. Energy-efficiency doesn't end at home.
- Go all the way: Is your family considering home solar? Tell them you're all for it, and why (because it saves fossil fuels, of course, using the sun's energy instead of a more conventional kind of energy — electricity — to fuel your home). And while you're talking about it, you could mention Sungevity, a solar company that donates to the Center, helping the Earth in two ways at once.
- You've probably heard it before: Don't leave the water running while you're brushing your teeth! Same goes for when you're washing dishes, the car or anything else — make sure the tap is on only when you're wetting or rinsing.
- Encourage your family to buy water-saving appliances like dishwashers and toilets (and remind them they can usually get cash rebates for doing it — go on the Internet to find out what rebates are available in your area).
- Does your family have a yard to landscape? If so, let them know you'll help them with passive water-harvesting techniques (look it up) that make sure each plant gets the most out of each rain — and needs to be watered less.
- Go all the way: If you live in a dry place and really want to save water, see if your family or building management might install a graywater system, which lets you water your plants with the water that goes down your sink's drain. Do some research about it online.
Save other resources:
- Always be aware of the stuff you and your household are using (and wasting — we all do it), and then try to use less of it. For example, if your family has a barbeque or picnic, pack up real dishes and silverware (or the kind for camping), not paper plates and plastic forks you throw away. Then you'll have used less paper and plastic.
- Reduce junk mail: Every coupon booklet and catalog you don't use wastes resources and fills up dumps and recycling plants. Do a Google search about good ways to reduce your household's junk mail; there are even some services that will help your family (though make sure you don't cancel any family members' subscriptions!).
- Recycle the right way: Your family already recycles (we hope) — but you might not know about mistakes you're making in doing it. Go to your city's waste-disposal website to find out exactly what's recyclable, plus how (or if) there's any special way to sort your recyclables. Than make sure nobody in your family puts a recyclable in the trash!
- Reuse stuff when possible — like, repair things instead of buying new ones whenever you can. When your family goes shopping, remember to bring cloth bags. And learn about all kinds of fun ways you can repurpose old household items, from making art to transforming something old into something newly useful. When you do need to buy a nonedible consumer product, try to find it used first. (For example, buying a used book instead of a new one requires no additional carbon pollution for the book's manufacture and no additional trees logged to make the book's pages.)
- Save gas (and our climate) by encouraging your family to drive less — and if you drive, do the same). Bike, take public transportation and walk whenever you can.
- Reduce your family's meat consumption. This is an incredibly healthy and easy way to have a big impact on curbing climate change and to save endangered species that are being hurt by industrial meat production. Check out the Center's Take Extinction Off Your Plate website.
- Go all the way: If your house or building has a garden, ask if you can make a compost bin to fertilize it with your food scraps instead of throwing them away.
Save animals, plants and their habitats:
- Don't buy beauty products (lotions, facial scrubbers) with exfoliating beads — those are plastic particles that pollute the ocean and are a source of toxic chemicals for the critters that eat them.
- Cut up your plastic soda-can rings so they don't become a deadly noose for a sea creature (or any animal near a dump).
- If you live in or near a place where you can watch urban wildlife — from birds to chipmunks to reptiles — check 'em out (from a distance), identify them and appreciate them! It'll help you appreciate all the other nonhuman life in this world (up close and personal). And if you take a liking to birds in particular, get a bird feeder, a bird-watching book and some binoculars. Watching birds could become a lifelong pastime (or part of your career!).
- Share the Center's ringtones site, rareearthtones.org, with everyone you know who might be interested (kids and teachers).
- Tell your teachers you're interested in conservation, and ask if the class can pursue collective projects about saving wild creatures and places, acting on behalf of the climate, or promoting environmental justice. (Show them this story, this story and this story for inspiration.)
- If you have a class project where you're allowed to pick the subject, do your project about an endangered species or conservation issue. You'll probably impress your teacher and you might inspire your classmates.
- Remember that school is where you eventually decide what job you want and develop skills to get that job. Learn about the different jobs you can have in the conservation world, and start exploring whatever you find intriguing. Once you think you've decided, you can apply yourself to a potential conservation career.
- Go all the way: Take action with your own school-wide conservation project. You could start a school (or after-school) club about endangered species, climate change, riding bikes — whatever. You could design posters about saving water and put them up wherever your school allows it (using recycled paper, of course). You could even — maybe — host a big fundraiser concert at your school, like this guy did. The possibilities are endless.
+ Do It in Your Community
- Go ahead, pick up litter: Even cities are habitat for some wild animals — and trash degrades that habitat (and yours too). Extra points for going into a wilder area, like a nearby state park (or even a regular park) and picking up litter while hiking around.
- Are there any bats in your city or town? You might be surprised! Research it online and if there are, make bat houses and put them up wherever they seem useful (and are legal).
- If you want some free new fashion, host a clothing swap with your friends or neighborhood. Everyone brings clothes that they're kind of getting tired of — but that are still great — and trade them with each other. This saves resources and money.
- Road mortality is major threat for frogs, toads, snakes, turtles and other wildlife that may live in or near your neighborhood (especially during spring migrations). Share these tips on helping turtles cross the road with your families and neighbors.
- Ask your parent or guardians to let you attend — or bring you to — conservation-related events that are appropriate for your age, where you'll automatically become plugged into the conservation community: workshops, presentations, even peaceful rallies and protests. Check out the Center's Events page to see if there are any good examples going on (or organizer your own get-together or rally to defend species or fight a harmful practice like fracking.
- Start your own social media campaign about your favorite aspect of conservation or endangered species — use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
- Go all the way: Think about starting your own nonprofit — seriously! These kids did. You just might need someone to help you with all the complicated financial parts, and you'll definitely need to research everything that goes into something like this. It might be the biggest commitment you can make to devoting yourself to change. Of course, if it's not something you can do right now (you're a busy, busy person), just look into it for the future. If you don't end up actually founding a nonprofit, maybe one day you'll want to work for one — like us at the Center.
Grizzly bear photo by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversiity