How hikers become eco-friendly
Free time is important for the body, mind, and soul. But is it always good for the planet? Modern recreational activities are becoming increasingly energy- and equipment-intensive: jet skis and Boston Whalers navigating the waters; climbers scale the cliffs using large SUVs enough to hold all gear, and people immerse themselves in nature year-round on off-road vehicles and snowmobiles.
Now, we’re not suggesting you go off-roading in your 2-door sedan; Fortunately, there are plenty of meaningful and restorative recreational choices that are more climate-conscious.
For example, taking a hike can be beautiful in its simplicity, yet profound in many ways. Hikes can recharge and strengthen your health, inspire your knowledge and love of ecology, and be blissfully low-impact too.
Cycling, swimming, and kayaking can also be high in health benefits and low on environmental costs. Your walk in the woods can be carbon-free or carbon-neutral, depending on how you do it.
If your usual one mile hike doesn’t start until after 50 miles, you can probably find a trail closer to home. Even better, you can hike or bike to the trail! If there aren’t wilderness trails within walking or cycling distance, you might find that a “front country” hike in or near your neighborhood can be filled with flora and fauna, and some new learning or appreciation about your community, nature, and the interface between the two.
You’ll likely be amazed at what you discover as you explore your garden or neighborhood on foot, peering into trees and under logs along the way! If you’re leading your hike, there are ways to reduce or offset its impact on global warming.
Couple your trip to the trail with efficient errands and other to-dos that can eliminate another car trip, or bring others along with you who might otherwise take their own car out for recreation.
You can also turn your walk or other recreational activity into a service project, hat help Mother Nature such as tree planting, path restoration, erosion control, environmental education, and coastal cleaning.
When preparing for your ride, plan to gear up in ways and materials that help rather than hinder your pursuit of a low-carbon experience. For example, you can bring tap water in a reusable bottle instead of buying a bottle of water, you can also tote locally produced snacks and drinks with minimal packaging.
Excursions organized with outdoor clubs, environmental groups, land funds, etc. can be both informative and efficient, guided by expert guides and organized with carpooling.
Leave No Trace is a national organization dedicated to teaching outdoor users to do so with care. Their slogan – “from your backyard to the backcountry” – means that it is necessary to consciously limit your impact wherever you go to enjoy the great outdoors.
There is a chance your local bookstore will have an outdoors section that stocks hiking guides with local gems that you don’t already know about. Many of these guides will also be online. Whether you want the well-worn path or prefer to venture off the beaten path, there are certainly a number of ambitious options not too far from your front door.
Connecting with nature is the key to being the best fighter against global warming. And because walking is often touted as the best exercise for overall health, a simple hike can really be a boon for people and the planet.