Think of Your Home As a Habitat and Help the Environment

Many people care about the environmental problems that humans are causing, such as chemical pollution and global warming. If you count yourself among them, then you are certainly interested in alleviating the worsening conditions on the Earth. The most obvious and easiest place to begin as an environmentalist is your own home and yard. With some research, care, and creativity you can nurture the Earth exactly where you live with your personal environmental cleanup and wildlife protection program.I have undertaken this process myself with my yard, and I’m not alone in this approach. The winter 2008 issue of OnEarth magazine presented an article precisely about turning gardens and yards into habitats instead of semi-sterile landscapes. The article “How to Get Wild in Your Garden” by Amy Stewart reported that about one million acres are claimed by development in the United States every year, exacerbating habitat loss that kills off wildlife. With this in mind, imagine how a portion of distressed plant and animal species could be revived if suburban and even urban residents began to nurture habitats around their homes.My natural interest in environmental problems latched onto my property in 2005 when I happened to visit a native plant nursery near my home. I wanted to add some shrubs to the back of my property that did not require frequent watering because the summers in my region are hot and dry. As I selected some native plants, the nursery worker mentioned how the blue elderberry would attract and feed birds, which was much better than popular ornamental varieties that did nothing for the local fauna. Great, I thought. I won’t have to work hard watering my new native species and birds will be happy.With the realization that I could promote wildlife with what I planted in my yard, I became more actively interested in how I could nurture life upon my personal piece of the urban landscape.

With the new shrubs doing nicely, I turned my attention to my lawn and stumbled upon a book at the local library called “The Organic Lawn Care Manual.” The book informed me that lawns maintained with chemical fertilizers and pesticides are a source of millions of pounds of toxic pollution in our environment. Along with pesticides that pollute the land and water, the production of chemical fertilizers is energy intensive and therefore contributes to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

For my property, pesticides and chemical fertilizers are permanently off the list. Upon learning that numerous household lawn chemicals are linked to cancer in children and pets, giving them up was easy. Now, I enjoy a lawn teeming with life. Granted it does not look like a golf course, but all manner of insects live there along with a wide variety of little native grasses and plants. All summer I spot beetles and praying mantises. I have toads hopping about, frightening me when I take the trash out in the dark, and birds forage for bugs in the chemical-free lawn.

The trend toward creating home and garden habitats is growing. The National Wildlife Federation even has a backyard habitat certification program. To qualify as a nurturing habitat, your yard must observe the following guidelines.

1. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides must be eliminated. This will stop your addition of toxic chemicals to the environment and make you learn how to maintain your property with organic practices.

2. Provide food for birds and insects by planting native species that produce the flowers, nuts, and berries that local fauna desire. Such plants will serve as the foundation of the food chain that you are creating for the habitat.

3. All habitats require a water source. Rain gardens, ponds, or birdbaths serve as wellsprings of life for amphibians, birds, and insects.

4. Wildlife needs shelter in various forms such as dense thickets, rock piles, or an old rotting log.

5. Along with shelter, you can work to provide nursery habitats like frog ponds and birdhouses where animals can reproduce.

Your personal environmental program in your yard will put you on the front lines of the environmental movement. Caring for the Earth starts exactly where you live. It might not be saving polar bears, but if you can stop putting toxic substances on your habitat and help out a few plants and animals, you will have accomplished something positive. The philosophy of backyard habitat building will also serve as a point of cultural shift. As humans we occupy large portions of the planet, especially the prime land. Where we live does not have to be a paved-over dead zone. The results are rewarding as well. Seeing how life can flourish within even the small space of a yard will inspire you with hope. You will enjoy the presence of the wildlife and you can count yourself among the residents of a healthy habitat. You are in control of the environmental health of a tiny portion of the Earth. Use your power to make positive choices.

This article about backyard habitats was written by Tracy Falbe, publisher of a numerous web publications, including one about global warming and another about tattoos that symbolize people’s ultimate attempt to control their personal space.