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Small Actions Spark Big Changes

You can make our planet more sustainable

At the Academy of Natural Sciences, we believe that individual actions can truly make a difference. Each month of 2023, we’ll guide our community in a conversation about how everyday choices can affect the health of our environment. Follow along with us here, on our Blog, on social media @acadnatsci, through email and in the museum to join the conversation!

February 2024: Simple Ways to Support Spring Bird Migration

An orange Baltimore Oriole sitting on a branch.
Baltimore Oriole © Johann Schumacher/VIREO

The snow is melting, the sky is often blue and the weather seems to be warming up. Spring is the perfect time to spot both local and migrating birds, as well as plan for the upcoming year’s sustainable changes. Plants, feeders, birdhouses and even a few small alterations in our daily habits can go a long way in supporting the livelihood and diversity of nearby bird species.

Whether you live in the woods or in the city, check out the Academy’s Blog for simple tips on how to make your own environment biodiverse and bird friendly this season.

Additional Resources

January 2024: Alternatives to Road Salt

A close up of road salt.

When cold weather arrives each year, an estimated 20 million tons of sodium chloride, or salt, is scattered on U.S. roads. When all this salt melts, it runs directly into our soil, groundwater and nearby freshwater streams and rivers, persisting in the ecosystem year after year. Nearly 40 percent of urban streams in the U.S. already have chloride levels that exceed the safe guidelines for aquatic life.

This winter, think sustainably and make a change. Learn more about why road salt impacts our environment and check out our Blog for some alternatives.

December 2023: How to Have a Green and Sustainable Holiday Season

A brown gift sits underneath a light green gift, both with light brown strings.

It's that time of year to celebrate winter, gather with family, friends and loved ones and think about all the good you’ll do in the new year. If you find yourself wondering how to be more environmentally conscious, then you can start even before the ball drops with a few of these simple tips that will help make your holiday season green and sustainable.

From candles to gifts to the debate on what kind of tree to use, you can learn more by checking out our Blog, as well as some of these additional resources.

November 2023: How to Start Composting

A sign on a fencepost that says 'Compost happens' while there are logs cover with snow underneath the sign.

Composting is easy and there are many ways to use it. It enables you to turn organic waste — such as leaves, fruit peels, food scraps, coffee grounds and more — into a resource that can help nourish your soil and spruce up your yard. When thrown into an oxygen-deprived landfill, these very same items break down slowly and produce methane, contributing directly to global warming.

By taking just a minute each day to compile organic waste, you can reduce your contributions to the landfill, put your kitchen or yard waste to good use, enrich your soil and benefit the environment — all at the same time.

Learn about different types of composting and what to do with it over the winter on our Blog. And check out these other resources for more decomposing fun!

October 2023: Create Bird-Friendly Habitats

A blue bird feeding it's young with a worm.

Autumn and winter in the Northeast are the perfect times to spot both local and visiting birds. The air becomes crisp, the trees are bare and the natural world can seem still and silent. Migrators call from the skies, while blue jays, mourning doves, crows, cardinals and others will linger throughout the season. But the season also brings many challenges. Besides the inclement weather, our feathered friends also face a variety of other dangers — predators, overexertion, starvation and, especially during migration, collisions.

Some studies have shown that birds who make it through the winter in decent physical condition will see an improved nesting season to follow. Simply providing nutrient-rich food and places to nest for birds can help increase egg clutches, produce higher chick weights and support overall breeding success across a wide range of species.

A brown bird and a red bird sitting on a bird feeder.

To learn how to make your own environment a biodiverse, bird-friendly habitat this winter, read more on our Blog.

Bird-Friendly Habitat Resources

September 2023: Fall Gardening Guide

Fall Garden Guide

A little bit of gardening can go a long way in supporting the health of our planet. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or out in the woods, you can help local biodiversity flourish with a few of these simple autumn garden tips.

Check out the resources below and learn how you can make small changes with big environmental impacts this season!

Explore our Fall Garden Guide.

August 2023: Eat Sustainably

A variety of fresh vegtables on a wooden table. 

What you choose to eat impacts not only your health, but also the environment. Eating foods that are sustainable can improve how you feel, benefit the planet and save in your wallet.

Choosing sustainability when we eat refers to consciously picking foods that are produced in ways that have a minimal impact on waste, natural resources, ecosystems and overall biodiversity. Land erosion, water use and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and species loss all affect the environment — and are often the result of processing and shipping food.

Check out our Blog to get started and learn more using the following resources. Over time, our individual choices — when multiplied by people around the country and the world — can lead to real differences.

July 2023: Let's Be Plastic Free!

A veggie stand with different kinds of veggies including cherry tomatoes, corn, yellow peppers, and eggplant.

There's no denying it, we’re drowning in plastic. About 18 billion pounds of it ends up in the ocean every year. Americans alone purchase and discard about 50 billion plastic water bottles annually, averaging 13 bottles per month per person, according to Green Cities. Scientists have even found plastic waste in the stomachs of birds and sea creatures that have ingested microplastics in remote corners of the Arctic.

It is time to reduce our plastic waste and make clean water a priority. Join the Plastic-free Philly movement and pledge to reduce your consumption of single-use water bottles. Then, check out our blog for more simple tips to help ease off plastics in your day-to-day life. Let's all be plastic free and keep our environment healthy!

June 2023: Summer Garden Guide

Pots, plants, and gardening tools in a circle ontop of dirt with the text, Summer Garden Guide. 

A little bit of gardening can go a long way in supporting the health of our planet. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or out in the woods, you can help local biodiversity flourish with a few of these simple summer garden tips.

Check out the resources below and learn how you can make small changes with big environmental impacts this season on our Blog!

Have you seen the Academy’s Summer Butterfly Guide? Photos of beautiful specimens from our insect research collection are listed to help you recognize the butterflies in your garden or local park. We also include information on their sizes, where you can see these species and what types of plants their caterpillars feed on (known as host plants) for those who want to proactively seek out butterflies. The Academy’s Entomology Collection houses about four million insect specimens and over 50,000 moth and butterfly specimens collected in North America over the last 200 years.

An small eggplant on a vine

May 2023: Plant a Pollinator Garden

Two buckeye butterflies on a branch.

At least 75 percent of all the flowering plants on Earth are pollinated by insects and animals. Supporting this remarkable biodiversity starts right here with small actions.

In the city or out in the suburbs, pollinators play an enormous role in ensuring beautiful flowers bloom year after year and towering trees continue to stand and provide shade throughout the seasons. Check out our Academy Blog and these resources below to learn how you can help protect and provide green space for these integral species.

A purple wild bergamot. 

Local Native Plant Societies:

April 2023: Academy Guide to Local Bird-watching Spots

The Philadelphia Waterworks

Birding is one of the most accessible entryways into learning about the natural world around you, since it can be done anywhere! Our avian friends can be found readily in urban cityscapes, pristine old forests and everything in between. As they glide through the sky and alight on grass blades, tree branches, telephone lines or roof eaves, they provide a momentary sense of wonder — a simple way to feel inspired about the biodiversity of our planet and empowered to support it by making environmental changes.

Discover new and fascinating local bird populations or spot astounding migrators that fly through the tri-state regions, simply by visiting one of the parks, preserves, refuges or gardens listed on our Blog. And check out these other amazing resources to learn more.

March 2023: Spring Garden Guide

Spring Garden Guide

A little bit of gardening can go a long way in supporting the health of our planet. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or out in the woods, you can help local biodiversity flourish with a few of these simple spring garden tips.

Check out the resources below and learn how you can make small changes with big environmental impacts this season on our Blog!

Outside potted plants need nutrients, air and water to thrive. Consider creating a simple potting mix this spring that includes equal parts: store-bought soil; peat or sphagnum moss; compost; and coarse sand. Mix the ingredients together thoroughly. Add a handful of rocks at the bottom of the pot before adding in your mix — this will help promote water's movement. Be sure to use pots with drainage holes! Then, research whether your potted plant needs plenty of sunshine or a bit of shade; spring-planted bulbs usually require a full day of sun.

February 2023: Four Ways to Get Involved in Science!

A group of people posing for a camera during a clean-up.

Urban or rural, in-person or online, there are communities, neighborhoods and networks everywhere getting involved in science, learning about the natural world around us and helping to make the world a better place — one small action at a time. And you can join in, too!

The Academy is working hard to collaborate with different communities and organizations across the city to spark change at any level. Our Delaware River Watershed Initiative has relied on the work of 60 different organizations and their volunteers across the region to collect data and keep our rivers clean. And Science Shop, an exciting new partnership with Overbrook Environmental Education Center, connects our research expertise with community-initiated projects in Philadelphia to help strengthen the environmental justice movement and provide scientific resources that neighborhood leaders can use to help articulate their needs to policymakers.

But there are so many more! Check out the resources below and read our Blog to learn four simple ways you can get involved in digital or in-person science communities that are making an environmental difference in the natural world.


January 2023: Reduce Energy Use at Home

Eight air conditioners along a teal wall.

When seasons change, so do indoor temperatures. Whether we're turning down the AC to cool off, or turning up the heat to get cozy, we use a lot of energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 76 million American households used a central air-conditioning system to cool or heat their spaces. With increasingly irregular climate conditions, as well as current global issues with obtaining necessary energy resources, these numbers — and the costs — are only rising. 

Whether your motivation is to save money or to decrease your carbon footprint, making small adjustments to your daily energy consumption can have a positive effect on the environment and help reduce the amount of energy consumed by your community. 

Check out our recent blog post to learn more about reducing energy use in your own home.