Whether or not you accept different studies of global warming and its conflicting research, there is no doubt that our environment is changing and those changes impact wild birds. Some species are thriving, others are struggling. Habitat ranges are shifting and food sources are changing. Birders who reduce their carbon footprints can help lower pollution levels in the atmosphere and give birds and birders alike a healthier environment to share. While birding, with its wildlife awareness and conservation implications, may seem environmentally friendly, there are many steps birders can take to truly go green.
Carpooling is the most obvious and easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint as a birder. If a rare bird is sighted in your area, call another birder before you jump in the car and the two of you can go birding together. When taking organized field trips, offer space in your vehicle to carpool with guests, and try to consolidate groups to use as few cars as possible. Furthermore, keep your car well maintained and choose a fuel efficient model for lower emissions. When possible, avoid driving at all and consider hiking or biking for birding instead.
2. Grow Birdseed
Growing your own birdseed is easy and environmentally friendly. Not only will you have a ready supply of guaranteed fresh seed for your backyard birds to pick directly from the plants, but you also avoid using birdseed grown far away from your feeders that would require shipping and the emissions from trucks or planes transporting the seed. Millet and black oil sunflower seeds are easy for anyone to grow, and with enough space for a birdseed garden your birds will never go hungry.
4. Bird Locally
Instead of traveling great distances to see exotic birds, learn to appreciate your local birds through more detailed observations. By doing so you will learn more about the birds in your backyard and which unique species you can find locally, and simultaneously you will save the fuel and carbon emissions that are a part of extensive travel. If you must travel, consider environmentally economical options such as trains, public transportation and buses. If you’re considering a birding tour, investigate different birding tour companies’ environmental practices and choose the most responsible one.
5. Choose Festivals Carefully
Birding festivals can be very attractive and offer birders unparalleled opportunities for unique birding. If you want to go to a festival, plan to travel responsibly and choose a festival that offers a variety of local field trips with suitable carpools. Also check the festival’s sponsors for reputable conservation organizations and learn if there will be any fundraising events during the festival to support local conservation and wildlife management.
6. Travel Responsibly
When you do travel for birding, opt for accommodations that understand the importance of environmentally friendly practices. Look for water conservation measures, electricity conservation, sustainable foods used in restaurant menus and native landscaping designs that encourage local wildlife. If you’re traveling for a festival, check their recommended accommodations for suitable options, or investigate eco-hotels and environmentally friendly lodges nearby.
7. Cancel Magazine Subscriptions
While there are many great magazines for birders, check your local library before subscribing. Many libraries will take suggestions for new subscriptions, and you may be able to share your love of birding with many other library patrons. If a library subscription is not available, consider sharing subscriptions with other birders so everyone has the chance to read the magazines but at a lower cost and with fewer copies needing to be shipped.
8. Buy Used Supplies
It is possible to buy a lot of suitable backyard birding supplies and birding field gear through thrift stores, consignment shops and yard sales rather than buying new items that require excessive packaging and carbon-heavy shipping. Use free online classified services to locate items you want or to post your own items for sale, trade or giveaways. Other ways to advertise for used items include through church groups, conservation societies or local birding groups.
9. Buy Carbon Offsets
When in doubt about how to reduce your carbon footprint while birding, consider purchasing carbon offsets from reliable conservation organizations. Investigate how your funds will be used and what is required to offset excessive travel or other areas of environmental concern in your life. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of purchasing offsets, consider supporting new tree plantings and other habitat conservation measures where the plants will help to offset your carbon output.
10. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
There are hundreds of simple, effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint in everyday life, from turning off excessive appliances to switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs to recycling paper and plastic. Even if these small steps aren’t directly related to your birding, they still help lower your carbon footprint overall and keep the environment strong and healthy for the birds.