In 2019, scientists documented North America’s staggering loss of nearly 3 billion breeding birds since 1970. Helping birds can be as simple as making changes to everyday habits. Here’s our quick list of 7 Simple Actions you can take to help birds.
Start with a reusable lunch box or lunch bag. Avoid single-use items like paper bags. Personalize, monogram, or label your lunchbox, lunchbag, and re-usable items so they do not get lost.
Pack reusable utensils and straws. Avoid disposable, plastic forks, spoons, and knives. Pack utensils made of durable plastic*, bamboo, or stainless steel. Consider buying used utensils from a thrift store.
Use food containers made of cloth, durable plastic, glass, or stainless steel that can be re-used. Avoid plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. Use a Thermos for hot items, like soup or pasta.
Purchase a refillable beverage container. Avoid single-serving drink boxes, pouches, cans, and bottles. Reusable water bottles are the healthiest and least expensive drink option.
Pack your own dips and condiments. Single-use items are expensive and cost more money in the long run. Use small, re-usable containers for salad dressings, ketchup, and other condiments and side dishes.
Skip the straw. A plastic straw has become a symbol of unnecessary, single-use plastic pollution for the sake of convenience. If you need a straw, purchase one that is reusable and easy to clean.
Consider your napkin. If you prefer paper napkins, purchase napkins that are made from 100% recycled paper. If you use cloth napkins, use environmentally safe detergent to wash them and line-dry them to save energy.
Compost leftover fruit or vegetable waste. If composting is not currently offered, investigate what it would take to implement a composting program at home, school, or the office. Every item you compost makes a difference.
Challenge yourself to eliminate as much waste as possible. Avoid single-use products. Recycle and re-use bottles, plastics, and cans. Host a waste-free challenge to see how small changes can lead to big reductions in waste.
Have fun! Add your own personal style and creativity to your waste-free meals. Consider making your reusable snack bags, lunchbags, and napkins. Or consider purchasing these items or materials at your local thrift store.
Making these seemingly small changes, can make a big difference and help protect our environment. However, these changes can take time and money. If it seems too expensive, start small and recognize you will save money over time, especially if you ditch the more expensive, single-serve products and buy in larger quantities. For example, buying one large bag of pretzels and putting them in your own reusable containers is much cheaper than buying individual, single-serving bags of pretzels.
Finally, take into consideration the age and developmental abilities of the person who will be eating the lunch you are packing. Some containers and lids are more difficult to open than others. Test your products to confirm they are user-friendly. This will also make the transition to waste-free lunches more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.
In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.
Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.
The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:
Is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.
If you are ready to reap the benefits of birdwatching, consider joining the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) this weekend. The GBBC is an opportunity to spend time in your favorite places watching and counting as many birds as you can find and reporting your findings. This year’s event starts on February 12th and ends on the 15th. To learn how to join the GBBC, visit: www.birdcount.org
Do you or a loved one take Singulair (generic name is Montelukast) for asthma or allergies? Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged serious mental health side effects related to this popular medicine, prescribed to over 35 million people. The side effects include suicidal thoughts or actions, agitation, hallucinations, and depression. Since March 2020, the medication now requires a Black Box warning, due to the overwhelming evidence of serious mental health side effects.
According to A Guide to Drug Safety Terms at FDA, a black box warning “appears on a prescription drug’s label and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.” Medline Plus, a website operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, has the following information about Singulair/Montelukast:
Montelukast may cause serious or life-threatening mental health changes while you are taking this medication or after treatment has stopped. You should call your doctor right away and stop taking montelukast if you experience any of the following symptoms: agitation, aggressive behavior, anxiety, irritability, difficulty paying attention, memory loss or forgetfulness, confusion, unusual dreams, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), repeating thoughts that you cannot control, depression, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness, sleep walking, suicidal thoughts or actions (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so), or tremor (uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body). Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.
~ National Institutes of Health
If someone you know takes Singulair/Montelukast, encourage them to contact their doctor to discuss whether they should continue taking the medication.
Benefits vs. Risks Medicine, whether over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription, has side effects. In the best case scenario, the benefits of any drug should outweigh the side effects. However, the FDA found that the benefits of Singulair/Montelukast often did not outweigh the risks.
Report Adverse Reactions If you or a loved one have taken Singulair/Montelukast and have experienced any adverse reactions, you are encouraged to make a report to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. To do this, visit MedWatch to submit a report online or to download a reporting form.
Written by: Laura Stanton, MA, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, email@example.com.
Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, MS, CHWC, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is often considered the “unofficial” start to summer. That means longer days and warmer weather for getting outside. However, this summer brings a new and unsettling guest: COVID-19. To help you stay safe while you are outdoors, the Ohio Department of Health and the National Recreation and Park Association has made the following recommendations:
Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on personal hygiene. Wash hands, carry hand sanitizer and stay home if you have any symptoms.
Only go outdoors with those who live under the same roof.
Visit places that are close to your home. Refrain from travel that requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others.
If a parking lot is full or blocked, move on. Do not park in the grass or on roadways.
Warn others of your presence and step off trails to allow others to pass safely.
Expect public restrooms to be closed.
Bring water or drinks. Drinking fountains should not be used.
Bring a bag for trash and leave no trace.
Plan Your Trip Before Heading Out
Currently, most outdoor spaces in Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, forests, natural areas, and preserves are open. This includes trails, dog parks, docks, fishing piers, and boat ramps.
At this time, state lodges, visitor centers, playgrounds, and restrooms remain closed. Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the most up-to-date information about what state facilities are open and closed.
If you plan to go somewhere other than an ODNR facility, do some research before leaving. Most places have a website or a Facebook page with updated visitor information.
Expect places to be crowded. If you step off a trail, avoid poison ivy or tall grass that might have ticks. Practice sun safety to protect your skin and your eyes.
Find New Places to Explore
If you need help finding new places to explore, try these tips:
Start local. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend their favorite places to explore. A quick internet search can help you find local destinations, depending on what you want to do. Try a search such as “places to hike near me” and you will quickly find destinations, reviews, and images.
Diversify your destinations. In addition to state wildlife areas, forests, and nature preserves operated by ODNR, there are also private nature centers and preserves. For recommendations, try a search such as “nature areas near me.”
Get Outside and Experience the Great Outdoors
Remember to be safe and do some homework before leaving home. Be sure to check the CDC, ODH, and ODNR websites since COVID-19 updates happen frequently. Then, get outside, breath in some fresh air, and reap the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of being outdoors. Enjoy!