Spending time in the trees provides a sense of peace, freedom, and this inexplicable sense of connection with the environment. It’s topophilia. It’s the love of place. It’s that amazing feeling of connectedness that courses through my body each time I get to explore. I hope to experience it for the rest of my life. More importantly, I hope my daughter and future generations can experience it. As someone who benefits both physically and mentally from the natural environment, I feel a responsibility to do something to help preserve it.
With all the information available on climate change and environmental issues worldwide, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by some of the large-scale initiatives recommended by government agencies and some environmental groups to preserve our earth. As an outdoor adventurer, no matter what level, there are some simple things you can do that will make a difference.
Take Care of Your Stuff
Something as simple as following the washing instructions on your clothes can prolong their lifespan substantially! When in doubt, use gentle detergent and air dry.
Donate/Sell Used Gear
This could be shoes, packs, clothing, tents, hydration vests – you name it! We often replace our gear as we size up to accommodate a growing family, begin more advanced adventuring or when we feel it’s run its course and simply needs replacement. There are plenty of opportunities to give gear a second life and help reduce waste. Some options include:
- Posting it on Facebook Marketplace, local outdoor groups or craigslist
- Donating used gear to local initiatives – often community organizations or local outdoor shops collect used clothing, tents, shoes etc. for those in need of essentials
- Repurposing old gear – for example I recently saw a family turn their old 2-person tent into a contained sandbox in the backyard and another as a contained ball pit!
Purchasing used gear is a great option but some things you may want to purchase new. If this is the case, be sure to do your research! The terms ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘ethical’ are among a few that are commonly used in marketing but have no specific criteria. These terms have become a buzzword among organizations and unfortunately, they are not always founded. This is also known as “greenwashing”. This can be done through advertising using images of the environment, making unfounded claims, marketing ‘environmentally friendly’ strategies that are already commonplace or making a small aspect of a product environmentally friendly while the remainder is harmful to the environment. The one that has caught my attention recently are companies making pricier eco-friendly product lines among their many existing environmentally harmful products.
It can be difficult to distinguish which companies are truly working towards environmentally friendly practices from those who are using a façade. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you are supporting organizations that truly want to be sustainable:
- Look at the different products offered. Does the company use sustainable practices or materials throughout manufacturing for all products or simply for a small number of product lines?
- Look at the organization’s information/bio on their website. Does the company provide detailed information on the ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco-friendly’ aspect of their products or manufacturing?
- Verify labels. Are their claims factual? Can they be verified? In Canada, you can visit the Understanding Green Claims site to reference labels.
- Do a quick google search for sustainable outdoor gear companies. This can take the guess work out of it and will bring up some well researched lists.
Go Reusable vs Disposable
Invest in refillable flasks, bottles, snack bags or containers and support local race organizers in their movement to go cupless and waste-free.
Leave No Trace
It’s exactly what it sounds like. When we’re out enjoying the wilderness, let’s do our best to leave it as we found it.
- Pack out what you pack in – this includes toilet paper and menstrual products.
- Be mindful of human waste disposal. Dig 15cm deep holes that are away from water sources, camp and trials to bury human waste in.
- Leave nature as you found it. Stay on trail to avoid damaging vegetation and habitat.
- Minimize the impact of campfires. Use lightweight stoves for cooking. Keep fires small when permitted and create a barrier to prevent them from spreading. Ensure the fire has burned down completely and cool ashes are scattered before you leave.
- Respect wildlife from a distance. Do not feed the animals or attempt to approach them.
- Store food securely using provided bear proof lockers, canisters or by hanging from a pole/tree.
Hopefully these suggestions help take the guesswork out of sustainable outdoor adventuring. Sometimes the sustainable options can be expensive and out of our budget. Ideally this would not be the case but it’s the reality of it for many of us. Let’s focus on what we can do, and what we can afford to do in order to be responsible, outdoor enthusiasts. Even something as simple as taking care of the gear you already own, can make a difference.
There are many other things we can be doing to help our environment and if you have other ideas or want to touch base about my recommendations, please reach out on Instagram @runanna.