Doing Our Part to Help Wild Polar Bears

pbi-pbw2016-pbsrelyonseaiceChristina Neel, AmeriCorps Sustainability Engagement Member

Did you know everyday actions can help protect species all over the world? That means right here in Cincinnati, our behaviors can keep polar bears in the arctic for many years to come.

Polar bears need ice to survive. They spend most of their time hunting on the ice for seals and other prey. Summer sea ice levels have been shrinking, leading to population decline.  Rising arctic temperatures due to climate change mean polar bears have to swim farther between ice flows, and have a tougher time finding food.

But it’s not too late for the polar bears! Researchers are hopeful that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can save the polar bears from extinction. Every day, we can make choices to live a little greener, and keep our carbon footprint low.

twitter_getinvolvedBeing energy efficient doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, and isn’t just for adults! Making sure we turn off lights when we leave a room, or swapping traditional lightbulbs to LEDs can reduce our emissions, and even lower the electric bill. Unplugging chargers and electronics when not in use reduces energy use—those little red ready lights keep working 24-hours a day, adding to your monthly bill.

Polar bears regulate temperature by their big fluffy fur coats, and you can do the same at home! Instead of hiking up the thermostat on a chilly night, throw on a thick sweater and fuzzy socks or curl up under an extra blanket. In the summer, open the windows for a nice breeze whenever you can—just make sure the A/C is off first.

Reducing our water use also keeps our carbon footprint low. Washing only full loads of clothes and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth is easy. Polar bears don’t mind swimming in the chilly Arctic Ocean; you can wash your clothes on the cold setting, or take a slightly colder shower (it’s a great way to wake yourself up in the morning!) Or, you can take shorter showers by playing music on a speaker or your phone—when one song is over, it’s time to finish up! In the summer, we can be smart about our water use by not watering the lawn as often or making sure the cover is on the pool to reduce evaporation. Investing in a rain barrel can keep your water bill low when you harness rainwater to water your plants.

A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)
A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)

Behavior change isn’t an automatic thing; it’s okay if it takes a little time and effort (and making mistakes). Set a phone reminder to make sure things are unplugged when you leave the house for work/school, or a sticky note by the thermostat that says what your “not at home” temperature should be set at.  Making a pledge with your family members and friends can keep you accountable, and maybe even lead to a little healthy competition.

Living sustainably doesn’t have to be a chore, and it’s not just for your own home. Talk to coworkers about recycling at the office, or shutting down your computers at the end of the day. Carpooling is a great way to get to know your coworkers and neighbors, you’ll save gas money and car expenses, plus reduce traffic on the roadways. Even better, try walking or biking to work—it’s good for your body and the planet!

By pledging to live a little greener every day, we can ensure a positive future for the polar bears, and all inhabitants of the Earth. Thank you for doing your part for a sustainable future!