MARY JO NAGY | PETS Caring for the planet pays dividends

It is time again for New Year's resolutions. This year, there are many things that you can do to save animals, to help clean up the environment and to improve the planet.
Although it is important to financially plan for your and your children's future, if you do not have clean air to breathe, unpolluted water and land to live off of, then no amount of money will matter. Here are several things that you can do to help Mother Nature.
URecycle. Don't throw away glass, plastic, cans and newspapers. Why send them to the dump when they can be recycled into new products? Our landfills are full of garbage that is not biodegradable. If you are really feeling earthy, try a compost pit for leaves and other kitchen waste, i.e., coffee grounds, eggshells and lettuce. (Never meat!)
UDon't litter. Garbage along roadsides and in empty lots is ugly. Animals can get their heads stuck in cans or birds can catch their wings in plastic junk. Throwing garbage out of a car window is against the law. It is not that hard to find a garbage can.
UUse cleaning products not tested on animals. Unfortunately, all of the major companies for soap and laundry cleaners test their products on animals in the name of safety. How many times do you need to put that bleach in an animal's eyes to see if it burns? There are many basic items in your house such as vinegar or baking soda that clean just as well and don't pollute the environment. Try a health food store or co-op for alternative cleaning products.
UGo vegetarian (meatless) once or twice a week. Try cheese pizza, marinara sauce on your pasta or grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. Factory-farmed animals live miserable lives in crates and cramped pens. After the flooding of the Carolinas several years ago, we saw many hogs drown and an immense amount of hog feces wash into the water supply. Not a pretty picture. Try organic foods and free-range animals if eating meat.
UDrive with caution. Give wildlife a break. It is sad seeing 10 dead animals just on the drive from Austintown to Columbiana. Since we are encroaching on wildlife to build our homes, we need to be aware that animals have fewer places to run and live. Animals do not know how to get out of your way. Slow down. Be alert.
UFeed the birds in your back yard. Especially during the cold, harsh winter months. Put up a birdhouse or provide shelter for the birds with shrubs and bushes. Thistle, corn, millet, sunflower seeds and suet all provide much-needed energy for the birds.
UPlant a tree. Or flowers, shrubs or bushes to invite bees, butterflies, humming birds and songbirds into your yard. Pine trees are great shelters for many birds in the cold months. Trees provide oxygen as well as shade in the summer and wind breaks in chilly weather and are just pretty to look at.
UReduce pesticide and chemical use. All that stuff on your lawns eventually goes into the groundwater supply. Try companies that use organic fertilizers, and limit weed and pest control. Try pulling the dandelions out by hand.
UShow compassion and kindness to all animals. Pet the neighbor's lonely dog. Stop overpopulation of pets by spaying and neutering companion animals. Don't buy dogs or cats from pet stores, which will continue dismal puppy mills. Adopt from a local shelter or humane organization.
UWrite to your legislators. Seek tougher, humane animal and environmental protections. Educate others and speak up for the animals and the planet since they can't speak for itself.
We all want a future with clean air, good drinking water and land free of pollutants. Don't make excuses. A few simple tasks done daily can ensure a better life for all this planet's inhabitants. Have a Happy New Year.
XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.

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