When it comes to climate change and environmental loss, it can be difficult not to get so bogged down and frazzled that we don't know what actions are worth taking. In fact, it can be downright depressing when we become aware of the sheer scale of the global emergency.
However, The Oconee River Land Trust and The Washington Post have some simple advice we can follow for a big impact. By gradually transforming our wastefully irrigated lawns into wildlife-friendly wonderlands, we can create a vast patchwork quilt of ecological connectivity. Restore populations of essential insects (especially pollinators) by replacing soddy, ecological desserts with beneficial native plants and flowers. This in turn impacts your entire local ecosystem, as any positive changes in the bottom of the food chain kicks it up the ladder. If you live in an urban area, something as small as a window planter could make a world of difference for that one butterfly looking for a much-needed meal.
The National Wildlife Federation has a useful tool to find plants native to your area. and even has a store that sells them directly. The Audubon Society also has a tool to find local plants and nurseries. Numerous apps can also help you to identify plants — a recent assessment by Michigan State University determined that PictureThis and Plantnet were the most accurate of the bunch. You don't have to personally own and protect acres upon acres of high priority or endangered habitat (though we certainly recommend it if you have the means!) to be able to make a difference. While we as a land trust have helped permanently conserve (and save from development) over 43,000 acres of land to date through conservation easements, we also tend to our own personal gardens, homes and outdoor spaces in ways that prioritize and promote biodiversity, planting native species as much as possible. Let’s redefine what is considered “beautiful” in our yards to include what is useful for our planet.