By Sylvia Karcz, Contributing Blogger
Adventuring responsibly in the outdoors -and with purpose- has never been more important. Our environment keeps us alive, keeps us inspired, and keeps us thriving every single day, and especially as outdoor recreationalists, it makes sense for us to be the most fervent stewards of and advocates for the lands we love. By connecting our enjoyment of wild spaces to our protection of them, we can help be the catalysts for shaping a more sustainable future. It sounds like a tall order, we know. But it’s true that small changes can have a big impact, and the important thing is to start somewhere. Here are a few simple ways you can incorporate sustainability into whatever adventures lay ahead.
Pick up Trail Litter or Host a Cleanup
Whether you’re finding connection on a National Park trail or at your local beach, the sad reality is that you’re bound to come across litter in some form. From single-use water bottles and wind-strewn bags to tiny corners of snack packaging, litter in wild places is not only dangerous to the animals that call them home, but it makes the pristine landscapes we recreate in look sad, to say the least. So be a “Leave No Trace” advocate, and bring a bag on your next outdoor adventure to pick up litter as you pass it. Or, if you prefer it to be a community affair, host a larger-scale cleanup, round up volunteers, and make it a party! It’s a seemingly simple act, but one that takes an authoritative stance as a steward of the land we’re using. And hopefully, if someone else sees you do it, it’ll have a ripple effect and inspire them to do the same, too.
Bike or Carpool to your Hike
It’s a simple equation, really: by reducing the number of cars on the road, we reduce pollution levels, congestion, and carbon emissions. So if it’s possible, consider alternative ways of reaching your favorite hikes or climbs. If you have trail systems or climbing routes within reach, for instance, how about ditching the car altogether and really elevating your adventure by biking to it? Or, if you’re heading to a larger park, see if there are public transportation options or shuttles within the park system. As for those venturing out as a group –carpool, carpool, carpool! Sure, it may mean we’re sacrificing convenience, but our actions speak volumes, and putting our environment over our comfort is one of the most radical things we can do.
Package Your Own Trail Food
We’ve been there, and we get that it’s often far easier to buy pre-packaged snacks and backpacking meals before heading out into the outdoors. Ultimately, though, that’s a lot of single-use plastics and wrappers that spend decades decomposing in a landfill. Instead, try this: plan ahead and stock up on snack fixings from the bulk section of grocery stores, and create your own calorie-rich mixes to fuel your adventures. If it’s breakfasts and dinners for multi-day hikes you need, research quick-prep recipes that utilize ingredients easily purchased in larger quantities –like couscous, dried beans and vegetables, instant rice and potatoes, etc– and customize them in (reusable) heavy-duty bags to suit whatever flavor profile you’re craving. It not only saves money, but by leaning toward minimal waste choices we become far more mindful of our waste production, from a micro to macro level. Plus, by straying away from super-processed packaged foods, we have way more control over what’s going into our bodies. A win-win, we’d say!
Make Mindful Outdoor Gear Purchases
Passionate environmentalists have imprinted the adage of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in our minds for good reason: it’s one of the most important and simple sustainability practices we can adopt. By buying outdoor gear and apparel with intention, and making a conscious effort to use them until they’ve truly reached their end of days, we help mitigate the environmental footprint. That could mean patching up a worn-out knee on your hiking joggers or replacing a zipper on your go-to camping hoodie. There are stories in every piece of gear you’ve adventured in, after all, and isn’t that worth preserving?
Plug in to Sustainability Podcasts
These days, there is no shortage of sustainability-focused podcasts that tackle important topics in engaging, lighthearted ways. So whether you’re on a long hike or cozying up in your tent at an active day’s end, learning about the dynamic issues affecting the fragile environments we recreate in is an easy way to stay connected to the bigger picture. From conversations about regenerative agriculture and renewable energy to curiosity-driven narratives about kelp farming and conservation policy, the more you learn, the more you know –and knowing is always a good thing. By being informed, we can make smarter lifestyle choices, vote for climate legislation that impacts our communities, and collectively, do our part in protecting the precious wild spaces that fuel our outdoor adventures.