Be Your Own Birder

Saving Electricity, Saving Birds

We are all aware that our natural resources are limited, and that careless use endangers our environment, wildlife, and even ourselves. Some time ago, I discussed conserving water and its importance to birds, including how our different water sources are connected. But just as important, and in some ways even more so, is electricity.

Power Cord – Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker

Electricity runs our lives, from our frivolous gadgets and gizmos to heating and cooling, refrigeration, critical medical equipment, entertainment options, computers, stoplights, and a million other things I could name. There are many sources of electricity, and while some are “safer” or “greener” than others, none are 100 percent ideal for wildlife.

  • Coal-fired electrical plants pump hazardous gasses into the atmosphere and produce toxic byproducts. These plants also require extensive mining, fracking, and other damaging methods of securing fuel to convert to electricity.
  • Nuclear power plants run the risk of highly toxic contamination from waste that cannot be cleaned, recycled, or refined. Should an accident occur, the contamination can persist for many years and spread far from the initial site.
  • Solar plants require large panel arrays that usurp habitat and the sun panels, if improperly placed, can start fires or burn wildlife, including birds. The manufacture of solar panels can also produce environmental toxins.
  • Wind turbines fragment habitat and pose dangerous collision risks to birds and bats. The best places for turbines are also some of the worst for birds, including key points in migratory flyways and passage points for flying birds.
  • Hydroelectric plants may divert water resources from their natural courses, affecting nearby habitats. This is particularly tragic in the tropical regions where some of the most suitable rivers flow and more birds are displaced.

I will not suggest we ought to live without electricity completely, nor do I even think to do so would be possible (it certainly wouldn’t be for me, as I type on my computer, with a DVD playing for company in my office, in a Florida house cooled by air conditioning, with the full dishwasher running in the next room, and a banana cake to bake for dessert). If, however, we lower our electricity use, we lower the demand for fuel sources. That lowers the need for more power plants of any variety, which ultimately can help lower the impact that any type of power plant can have on the environment, habitat, and wildlife.

Not everyone will have the same options or possibilities to lower their electricity use, but options that do work for me include…

  • Using natural light as much as possible rather than turning on lights.
  • Unscrewing extra bulbs on ceiling fans, so they don’t light up.
  • Turning lights and ceiling fans off when they are no longer needed.
  • Unplugging large electronics, including the TV and DVD player, when not in use.
  • Unplugging all computers and electronics when traveling and they won’t be used.
  • Adjusting the house temperature to personalized levels to save on power.
  • Using window coverings to help control solar heating and cooling.
  • Recharging devices only when the batteries are low, not plugging them in all the time.
  • Minimizing microwave use and only running large appliances when full.
  • Not leaving outdoor lights on all night long.
  • Avoiding unnecessary “powered” gadgets – using a manual can opener, razors, and toothbrushes.

Each one of these steps may only be a small one, but they add up to a good bit of electricity conservation (and smaller electrical bills to boot). In some small way, that does help wildlife, and it raises my own mindfulness about the resources I use and how I use them. By doing so, all wildlife, including birds, can benefit.

How do you conserve electricity? Share your ideas in the comments so we can all save more!

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