Conservation at Home | The Topeka Zoo

Conservation at Home

Conservation is a very important topic in our modern world.  Many of us live in large cities, set apart from the natural environments that were once present there, and it is easy to forget just how crucial these environments are to our own survival.  Many key species are under threat, for a variety of reasons; the largest of these threats is humans’ impact on the environment.  Every person has an impact on the world and its ecosystems.  It is our responsibility to protect and conserve those ecosystems, not only for the wildlife and vegetation that lives in those environments, but for us as well.  Conservation may seem difficult, but there are many ways we can help aide conservation from our own homes, with little to no effort!


Recycling is a very important aspect of conservation.  Cardboard, Paper Products, Plastics, and many metals such as Aluminum and Copper can all be recycled!  Recycling regularly is a HUGE way to help conservation from home.  By recycling/reusing these materials, new products don’t need to be made, reducing the need to: cut down more trees, manufacture new plastics, and mine vulnerable areas of the world for more precious metals.  Many cities provide recycling bins along with general trash bins, making recycling accessible and easy to do from almost anywhere.  Smaller, or rural towns will often times provide a city wide recycling station, giving everyone the opportunity to recycle!  Beyond recycling, you can reuse items and containers.  Plastic water bottles can be refilled; food containers such as Tupperware can be used and reused as an alternative to individually packaged food.  Try to avoid purchasing Styrofoam entirely, as it will never decompose, filling our landfills and oceans!

Sustainable Seafood

Seafood is a broad category that includes fish caught from the oceans, lakes, and rivers; it also includes crustaceans, such as lobster and crab.  With water covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, the oceans may seem to provide an endless supply of food.  However, in recent times, improved fishing fleets, large human population, and an ever-increasing appetite for seafood has caused a great stress on these aquatic ecosystems and the species that live there.  One way to help conserve these precious resources is to reduce our consumption of seafood.  If you do have a craving for some seafood, the best thing you can do is to ask your local market or restaurant “Do you serve sustainable seafood?”  If they do they can recommend a great-tasting sustainable meal, but, if they do not, it shows that you would be interested in purchasing a sustainable product.  This gives companies a great incentive to purchase only sustainable seafood!  Many grocers and seafood restaurant chains offer guides on the “best” types of seafood to purchase as well. For example, Albacore Tuna is more sustainable and recommended over Bluefin Tuna, which has suffered severe population loss due to overfishing. Be sure to check out Seafood Watch’s Consumer Guide to help you know which species are sustainable and recommended for purchase.


A great and easy way to reduce food waste and help conserve resources from home is by making your own compost bin.  Composting is a term used to describe the natural process of nutrient recycling and decomposition.  If you have a small plot of outdoor land available to you, composting is possible!  All you need is a bin and food waste.  Composting has several benefits. Not only do you keep food products out of landfills, but you also have access to extremely rich soil that allows you to garden from home.  This will help reduce grocery bills and reduce the stress on ecosystems growing garden crops, such as tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and peppers (garden fresh will taste better too!).  The food you grow in your garden can be eaten, the waste composted, and the cycle can begin again.  This is extremely cost-effective, sustainable, and easy!

Natural Pesticides

To discuss natural pesticides we first need to define what a pesticide is.  A pesticide is a substance that can provide protection against some type of “pest”.  A pest can be any number of organisms that people find undesirable in a specific area and may be insects, plants, and even microbes.  There are many laboratory manufactured (synthetic) pesticides available, but their use does carry some health and environmental risks.  As an alternative to using synthetic pesticides, many people have turned to natural pesticides.  These are substances (or organisms) found in nature that offer protection from predators or parasites.  One well known example of this is actually the nicotine in tobacco leaves.  The nicotine is toxic to many different species of insect and as a result provides the tobacco plant with some protection. To aid in adopting some more home practices that will result in your family having a lower environmental impact here is a small list of some natural pesticides that may provide some protection from pests for your home, garden and yourselves.

  • Ladybugs!  Introducing some ladybugs to your garden will actually reduce the numbers of unwanted pests such as aphids, as the ladybugs will eat them.
  • For protection against mosquitoes, one alternative to bug spray is a mixture of one part lemon eucalyptus oil to ten parts witch hazel.
  • Tired of ants in your house in the summer? Try making a mixture of one part lemon juice and three parts water.  Spray this mixture around the outside of your house, on baseboards, windows, etc.  This is a natural deterrent to ants.
  • Want to protect yourself and your dog from ticks? Try a drop of rose geranium oil on each ankle as well as a drop on your dog’s shoulder blades.  It is a natural tick deterrent with the added benefit of actually smelling good.
  • One cheap and low environmental impact way to eliminate weeds from your garden is to dribble some very hot water onto the weed (being careful not to burn yourself or the surrounding plants.)

There are many, many more natural and environmentally friendly ways to protect against pests.  Be sure to check online for new ideas and tips!