I talk a lot about making the outdoors sustainable. But what does that really mean and how can individual actions help? For starters, when I talk about sustainability, I mean the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
Nearly every aspect of the outdoor industry (or really ANY industry) is embedded with unsustainable practices. By simply existing on this planet we have a carbon footprint that collectively contributes to the climate crisis. However, we can exist in a sustainable way that helps protect and preserve not just the planet, but the nature we love spending so much time in.
When you think about making the outdoors sustainable, ideas such as land conservation may come to mind. And while it is vitally important that we elect officials and use our privilege to vote, I want to talk about actions that we can take every single day.
So, here are the top 3 three actions that an individual can take on a daily basis to help make the outdoors sustainable once and for all.
The gear we use matters and how I gear is made matters even more. The outdoor industry is NOT free from fast fashion practices. (If you’re unfamiliar with how horrible the fast fashion industry is for the environment and as a human rights issue, check out my blog post HERE)
Have you ever wondered who made your gear? Your shoes? Your pack? Your tent? When we choose to blindly purchase and use unethically and unsustainable gear we are negatively affecting the land we are so excited to spend time in. When we feel the need to continually buy new gear, even when ours is working fine, we are hurting the planet. So, how can we use and purchase gear in a sustainable way?
First off, USE THE GEAR YOU ALREADY OWN. You don’t need to color coordinate all your items, you don’t need seven rain jackets, and you don’t need ever gadget that REI carries. However, sometimes we do need to purchase gear in order to be adequately prepared. In this case I recommend that you rent/ borrow gear first. Many outdoor stores have this option available, that way you can ensure you will buy the correct item. Renting gear is also a great option when you know you aren’t going to use an item more than a few times. If you do end up buying gear, focus on buying used or purchasing from ethical and sustainable companies. I know that many of these companies, like Patagonia, are more expensive than their unethical counterparts. This is why buying gently used gear is a great alternative. Not only is it budget friendly, but you will end up with high quality gear that is made to last. Below are just a few places that you can find used gear, not to mention your local outdoor store or thrift shop.
The food on our plate, or rather in our packs, is one of the ways that we can lower our carbon footprint the most. Meat production is the "primary source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent that carbon dioxide, and beef and cattle produce over 70% of it".
To pretend that what we eat doesn’t affect the planet is just naïve. So, when we pack a meat sandwich or bring cheese to eat with our crackers, we are choosing a diet that negatively impacts the land we are out exploring. The production of meat and dairy is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis. Going vegan overnight will likely seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. Heck, it took me two years to go from eating meat to being vegan.
If you do eat meat and dairy ask yourself why, do more research of the environmental impact of your food choices and how it affects our planet and the great outdoors. Then start to go meatless a few days a week, swap your latte for an almond milk one, and try new recipes. I’m not here to guilt you into going vegan, but rather raise your awareness and see how you can begin to make changes.
Curious about the carbon footprint of your personal meat consumption? The calculator below is a great tool for figuring out the environmental impact of different types of meat and how often you eat them.
We can’t talk about our carbon footprints without also talking about travel. And while travel may be necessary in order to access the outdoors, there are ways to do it mindfully and responsibly.
If you are someone who spends time in nature every day, do your best to explore your local trails throughout the week. Avoid driving to trails/outdoor space whenever possible by walking or biking to those near you. If you do need to drive be sure to first explore the trails closest to home. Get to know your area and carpool with friends and/or family to minimize the cars being taken.
If you are traveling far distances to a trail or for a trip, be sure to plan ahead so excess driving doesn’t occur. Also, when planning your next trip remember to take into account the first two tips; think about the gear you are bringing as well as the food you’ll be consuming.
Obviously, these tips are not a complete list of how we can help make the outdoors sustainable. They are merely a guideline for each of us to become more aware of how our individual actions affect the land we love spending so much time in. So, the next time you are looking for gear, packing food, or planning your next adventure, ask yourself “how can make actions help make the outdoors more sustainable?”.