October 18, 2019

How to help your local bird population from your own backyard

Here are three stories about renewal to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

Birds are members of the community as well. Photo by dfkt/Unsplash

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week we’re featuring three ideas that are helping other communities thrive and could help yours, too. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Keep flocks together: You already know that thriving green spaces are vital to communities, helping to reduce air pollution and soil erosion, as well as lowering energy costs. But those green spaces aren’t complete without birds.

Birds can be a sign of the overall environmental health of a community. They eat pesky insects and help to pollinate flowers and disperse plant seeds. Unfortunately, the North American bird population has declined by one-third since the 1970s according to a report by the journal Science. “If bird populations across all habitats are declining, that means something systemic is happening out there that is no doubt going to be affecting us too,” John Fitzpatrick, executive director of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology told CNN.

Thankfully, there are easy steps you can take to help our winged friends and us too.

Put decals on glass to help birds navigate and avoid hitting your windows. Install bird feeders in your front or back yard, and if possible, plant native shrubs that will provide cover for many bird species. The nonprofit American Bird Conservancy has some tips.

You can also drink bird-friendly coffee. This means the beans were grown on trees that provide habitat for migrating birds. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a helpful guide for finding a roaster.


Happier Campers: Summer camp is an important, transformative experience for many young people, but especially for the kids at Camp Mariposa in Dayton, Ohio. The majority of Mariposa campers have parents who are addicted to opioids.The camp helps to connect children with others who are experiencing the impact of addiction. During activities, campers are encouraged to talk about what’s going on in their homes and to share their feelings. The kids also participate in activities such as horseback riding to learn how to take healthy risks.

Run by the nonprofit group Eluna, Mariposa camp is one of 13 similar camps located throughout the U.S.

“I think the education is great. I think the connections are awesome,” Brian Maus, the director of addiction prevention and mentoring programs at Eluna, told NPR. “But to let kids be kids? That’s it for me. The opioid epidemic really has stolen their childhood away.”

Empowered to save energy: Two dozen young people in Chicago are helping their friends and neighbors save energy and save money by becoming ”youth energy efficiency ambassadors.” The program, which includes classroom training on sustainability efforts, was created through a partnership between
the Illinois Green Alliance and the youth outreach group City Incite.

The Ambassadors program also introduced students to green energy industry professionals through networking event, and culminated in three block parties held on the South Side of Chicago, attended by at least 400 people.. The young ambassadors could reach out to the people in their communities to share ways to limit their energy use, and utility costs.
Program leaders hope to increase the number of participants by expanding energy efficiency efforts to schools.

“Our hope was that the students would walk away feeling they were empowered,” Liz Wimmer, a program manager at the Illinois Green Alliance told the Energy News Network.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project.