Top 10 Ways to Be Kind to the Environment on Your Hiking Adventures
Whatever your hiking desires, there are always new adventures calling your name. I totally understand the dream of seeing distinguished sights and finding the most remote places. However, keep in mind that every step and choice you make will impact the environment around you. So, here are the best ways to show a little extra love to the environment while taking on a hiking adventure.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Water is so important to have with you on any hike. Make sure you’ve planned ahead of time to bring your reusable bottle along. Our plastic bottle consumption has taken over our oceans and landfills. This is so disheartening when we can see how simple and easy it is to bring along your own.
Fuel consumed by any mode of transportation, whether a car, plane, or train, can add a lot of emissions to the environment. Choose a local hike to explore, or carpool with friends if you want to go a little further. By opting out of major travel for your excursions, you will understand more of your local landscape while saving our atmosphere.
Bring your own Snacks and Refuel Local
Making your own trail mix or granola will be better for your budget as well as the environment. By planning ahead, you can use ingredients that haven’t traveled far from their source. You will also be avoiding excessive packaging that so often accompanies snacks purchased from gas stations and such. Finally, pick a local restaurant after your hike. Rather than fast food, choose a business that puts sustainable food and products first.
Take Only Pictures, and Leave Only Memories
Perhaps the most well-known wilderness rule is to Leave No Trace. This means that no one should be able to know you were out in the woods. Whatever you brought in, you need to bring out. This protects the rustic and natural feel of the woods. Beyond simply this, however, to truly love the environment, leave the place cleaner than you found it.
Stay on the Trail
While the vista off trail seems close enough to harmlessly venture to, your detour will wear down natural wildlife. One person going off path encourages others to do the same. This will quickly create many trails in what was previously a backcountry area. In addition, skirting muddy patches quickly broadens them. Be prepared with the right shoes so that you can confidently stride down the middle of the trail, even through the mud. This will help prevent erosion as well as keep more ground cover safe.
Use Established Campsites
When backpacking, it is so important to find a well-worn campsite. Find a sustainable surface, such as a flat rock or hard packed dirt. If you park your tent on soft cushy grass, even for a night, you can cause long-term damage. Common campsites also establish a safe place to keep you separated from wildlife. Letting animals stay wild by limiting our invasion is a kind gesture as they are letting us explore their home. By choosing established hiking and camping spots, we can share our earth with our plants and animals.
Keep Waste Off the Trail
This might seem silly to address, but it is an incredibly important topic! We are usually willing to clean up after our dogs, so why not ourselves? Human waste is quickly becoming a top issue. The best way for taking care of your business in the backcountry is by digging a cat hole. Digging it at least 4-6 inches deep in a rarely trafficked spot is the best option. If you are somewhere that you cannot dig, such as the dessert, you should go ahead and pack it out. There are human waste bags and portable toilets that will keep all the essentials sealed until you can dispose of it properly. By choosing these options, you save your fellow hikers and the local ecosystem from unwanted waste.
Protect Our Water
Water is one of the most used resources that we take for granted. In order to preserve our natural waterways and the current balance, we must defend our streams, lakes, and oceans. There are a few ways we can keep the water clean. One of the most important rules is to dig cat holes and relieve yourself over two hundred feet away from any water source. On top of that, do not wash dishes close to the water. Instead, choose a biodegradable soap and wash with some of your personal water further away. By respecting the beauty of the natural water in these ways, we can share a little extra love with our aquatic friends.
Keep Fires Small
Fire can be one of the most dangerous things while camping or hiking. While it is enjoyable to roast marshmallows over a fire, make sure to keep it small and in a designated space. A fire without a border can quickly spread with only a spark. In addition, a fire without a healthy bed of dirt and ash underneath can start a root fire. This can burn for months without showing signs above ground and wreak havoc on the native tree and plant structures. Please make sure you always check fire regulations to see if you if there are bans or restrictions.
Choose Your Clothes Wisely
This may sound like a strange way to take care of the environment, but clothing choices have a huge impact on the environment. The first way is simply through their production. Posing for that perfect Instagram picture means you might need that new pair of leggings, right? Well, the environment begs to differ. Each time clothing is made, more pollution is sent into the air from both the process of making it as well as shipping. So, see if you can pass up that extra hiking top and simply re-wear one you have. If you do need a new piece of hiking gear, look for eco-friendly brands.
It takes a few minutes of planning ahead and discernment on the trail, but there are many ways to care for our world. Whether you forgo the disposable water bottle or dig a hole, nature thanks you for your eco-friendly choices. Remember that our forest, waters, and animals are all meant to balance each other. We can do our share of enjoying that while leaving the wild things wild.
About the author: Lauren Nowack is a trekbible writer and story maker from Pine Valley, California. She and her husband work in the recreation department at a camp. In their free time, they enjoy mountain biking, building out their Sprinter
van, and adventuring with their new puppy, Shadow.