by Michele Beasley
I know I can feel overwhelmed when I hear about wildland fire, drought and disappearing species. I want to know: what can I do? These problems seem so huge, where do I even begin? Sometimes, it is the simplest actions that have the biggest impact. Tweaks in our daily routine can go a long way in caring for our natural environment.
1. Conserve water – We are in the second year of a record-breaking drought – not the kind of record anyone likes to break. Taking shorter showers, not letting the water run when we brush our teeth, installing low-flow toilets and re-thinking gardens with plant species appropriate for our dry climate are all good actions to take.
Lots of great ideas on how to conserve water from the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.
2. Leave No Trace – This is a set of ethics for engaging with the outdoors that is mindful and sustainable. They include disposing of waste properly, not disturbing plants or animals and leaving what you find. Learn more about the 7 principles.
3. Share it – One of the best ways to support your favorite park is to visit it with someone who has never been there before. People protect what they know and love and to know San Mateo County Parks is to love them. Bringing a child to experience the magic of a redwood forest can instill wonder that lasts a lifetime – this is a benefit to the child and the park.
4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – When prepping for a visit to a park or just in our everyday lives, we can make it a habit to cut down on waste and use less resources. Invest in a water bottle, coffee canteen and reusable containers for food items. Download a smartphone app, like OuterSpatial, instead of using paper maps to navigate around a park.
5. Manage your land – Defensible space on your property between your home and the trees, shrubs and wildland area that surround it can help slow or stop a wildfire. Use fire-resistant plants in your landscaping, like red monkey flower, California lilac and sage. These plants are also drought tolerant. Find out how you can be Ready for Wildfire.
The San Mateo County Resource Conservation District serves as a local hub for conservation and connects people with the technical, financial and educational assistance they need to conserve and manage natural resources. A defining characteristic of RCDs is that they provide confidential, free assistance.
6. Volunteer – Give love to your favorite parks by volunteering to help care for them. You can do beach cleanups with Pacific Beach Coalition, volunteer at the Mission Blue Nursery with San Bruno Mountain Watch and/or restore habitat with Parks’ Natural Resources team.
7. Eat and Buy Local – Not only does this support local farms, food producers, and businesses, but it benefits the environment by cutting down on the distance and fuel needed for transportation. That means less waste, less pollution and fresher foods. We are so lucky in the Bay Area to have access to so much delicious, healthy food. Farms are an important element in our open space network; parks are another. Check out As Fresh As It Gets.
8. Choose non-toxic chemicals – It’s nice to live and work in an environment that is clean and healthy, so we buy cleaning products. But what about the chemicals in those cleaning products? These chemicals can wash into streams and rivers. Some persist in the environment and enter the food chain. For our home and office, natural and eco-friendly cleaning products are safer for people and the environment.
9. Support environmental organizations, including your local Parks Foundation! – People can give their time, talent and/ or treasure to organizations that work hard to clean up the environment, protect endangered species, preserve regional landscapes and care for local county parks. Donate today!
It is our responsibility to care for the planet, and for parks, so that for generations to come, all of it may be enjoyed. Parks are our close-to-home connection to the bigger, natural world. Small shifts in how we think and act can add up to a big, positive impact! Showing love for the planet, and for our nearby parks, can begin with riding a bike to work, changing household cleaners, taking shorter showers or inviting a friend to a park for their first time. Which action will you take next?