In their daily activities, all people have a surprisingly important power of influence on biodiversity. Find out how simple choices can help protect the environment.
Recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) sounded the alarm. This international biodiversity organisation - comparable in some ways to the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, gathering thousands of scientists - explicitly stated that global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate. However, humanity is highly dependent on all these plants, animals, fungi and bacteria for our health, economy, clean air, food, climate, …
That is why the federal government, more specifically the FPS Public Health, launched a campaign to encourage citizens and companies to make more 'biodiversity-friendly' choices. After all, individual citizens have a considerable impact on the environment, all the way to countries in the South: through living, clothing, personal care, mobility, eating, …
This article contains ten examples selected from the rich range of recommendations collected by the FPS Public Health. It serves as a guide from which you can pick the elements that suit you best, step by step. By now, it should have become clear that the fight against climate change and the fight to restore biodiversity are closely intertwined.
1. Let nature inspire you when designing your garden
For example, you could opt for native plant species, bee-friendly flowers and natural hedges instead of fences. Avoid using pesticides, there are often natural alternatives available that you can use instead. Compost your organic waste to get natural fertilisation.
Lastly, do not keep your garden too neat: leave some dead wood that will delight birds, hedgehogs and small rodents. You could also let a corner of your garden go feral or mow part of your lawn less frequently or not at all. An excellent way to invite some beautiful natural flowers.
2. Communicate as ecologically as possible
How can we communicate ecologically? We all use smartphones, tablets and computers that contain a lot of minerals that often originate from polluting mines. Buying second-hand or opting for sustainable brands could help reduce this pollution.
Trying to use your devices as long as possible or having them repaired instead of throwing them away at the slightest defect also contributes to more ecological communication (for instance through a repair café). And if your device is really broken, you could return it to a collection point.
Since the Internet also consumes a lot of energy, you can offset CO2 emissions related to your online activities. Google already uses 100 percent green electricity, but did you know you can go one step further by using eco-friendly search engines such as Ecosia and Lilo.org?
3. Respect the environment when taking care of yourself
Since personal care products have an ecological footprint too, you could opt for sustainably produced 'biodiversity-friendly' cosmetics free of chemical ingredients. Some labels such as the EU Ecolabel guarantee products that are environmentally friendly. On top of that, you could try to limit your consumption to the bare minimum.
Another option is to avoid waste as much as possible. For example, you can opt for a larger packaging size or not use single-use wipes. Other possibilities are packaging-free shampoo bars, reusable sanitary pads, washable cotton pads for removing make-up, ...
4. Make your daily movements as sustainable as possible
Although taking the car is inevitable sometimes, you could try to walk or use your bike or step if the distance allows it. These low-noise alternatives are better for the environment, especially in the countryside and forests. Public transport, carpooling or shared cars could constitute adequate alternatives for longer distances. Finally, follow the marked paths in natural sites.
5. Consume tasty and sustainable food
The exploitation of the land necessary to produce our food is often associated with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Try to opt for organic or more sustainably grown products, these characteristics are attested by various labels such as Flandria.
Try to eat local and seasonal products and only buy food you really need. You may as well reduce your meat consumption, as vegetarian alternatives are quite tasty. The savings in terms of water consumption and CO2 emissions will be huge.
Here, too, you can limit waste by buying larger packages or food in bulk or using reusable drinking bottles and straws.
See also 9 ways to sustainably feed the world.
6. Wear elegant and eco-friendly clothing
The production of textiles requires synthetic or natural fibres. Even 'natural' cotton fibres have an impact: their cultivation requires a lot of pesticides and water. Not to mention the dyeing products which damage the environment.
That’s why you can use your clothes as long as possible. You could also choose materials such as linen or hemp or look for labels for ecological clothing. Finally, you could exchange clothes or give them a second-hand life.
Since washing clothes also has an impact, it is better to wear your clothes as long as you can before washing them and to choose ecological washing products.
Discover more tips: 10 tips for ethical and eco-friendly clothing.
7. Choose sustainable travel
Does truly sustainable travel really exist? Or should we travel less often, less far, slower and longer? Anyway, there are many opportunities to make your trip more sustainable. For instance, you can offset the CO2 emissions of your flight (CO2logic.be, Greentripper.org, Treecological.be, myclimate.org ...).
Try to buy souvenirs that are not made from endangered animal or plant species (ivory, coral, reptile leather...). Be sparing with water and do not leave any waste in natural areas...
Discover more tips: 17 tips for sustainable travel.
8. Medicines must not harm environment
Chemical medicines are often unavoidable, but there are aspects you could pay attention to in order to limit environmental damage. For instance you better take your expired or unnecessary medicines to the pharmacy instead of throwing them away or flushing them down the sink.
Only use antibiotics when really necessary, and opt for non-hormonal contraception instead of the pill, which eventually ends up in rivers and complicates fish and amphibian breeding.
9. Living comfortably and environmental-friendly
The ecological footprint of housing is far from negligible. That is why you can choose to renovate an existing house rather than build a new one. Or why not opt for an apartment or group accommodation? Use environmental-friendly building and insulation materials, paint and cleaning products wherever possible.
Energy-efficient household appliances can save a lot of energy. Take a look at the website energievreters.be before making a choice! Solid insulation and lowering the room temperature also help. And why not buy some nice second-hand furniture or enhance your aunt's cute little wardrobe?
10. Tell others
Have you adapted some of your lifestyle habits to preserve biodiversity? Have you experienced this situation not as a burden, but perhaps even an enrichment, while not being expensive at all? Then tell this to the people around you to show them that making slight changes to your lifestyle to protect the environment does not have to be insurmountable.
Read more tips and background information on #BeBiodiversity, the campaign of the FPS Public Health.
Find your way around the existing labels (only in French and Dutch)
Discover also 14 tips to prevent plastic pollution.
Other articles on biodiversity: