After over a year of everybody going stir crazy and the summer months arriving, there’s no better time to get outside and experience the wonderful outdoors. Now, that doesn’t mean jumping on a plane and traveling to Antarctica. That could simply mean enjoying the incredible and beautiful wild spaces and national parks that we have right here in the United States.
I don’t care who you are, I guarantee you have not seen all of the amazing wild spaces that are within two hours of your home if you live in North America. We are lucky and fortunate to be here. There are incredible parks, campgrounds, national parks, and wild spaces preserved all within a couple of hours of where we live, no matter where you live in this country. But one thing that a lot of people don’t realize while they’re visiting our parks and wild spaces is that they can leave a pretty big carbon footprint — even if they don’t intend to.
Let’s break that down a bit. When you are gearing up for a summer trip, you’re going to fuel up your car. You’ll buy a bunch of sunscreen, throw a case of water in your trunk (all individually bottled, of course), and pack your car with pre-packaged foods. And then, you’re going to go on your trip.
This all adds up. So as summer ramps up, here are some ways you can remedy this while traveling.
Have A Target In Mind:
This is something I always do. I never understood people who go hiking. I know, I know — you’d think an avid outdoorsman like me that I’ve just love hiking. I don’t. I hate hiking. So when I go hiking, there’s a purpose behind it. I’ll like to go and see if I can find California condors at the Pinnacles National Park. When I’m on a mission like that, I’m willing to hike for ten hours because I’ve got a reason behind it.
Try and find something unique or interesting, whether it’s a waterfall or a cool rock formation, or a piece of wildlife that other people can’t find. Do your homework on what time of day is best to see your target or maybe what time of day or night that animal is most active in that habitat, and then set off on your mission. That’s going to give purpose to your adventure, which is going to make it a lot more fun than aimlessly going on a hike in 110-degree heat. More importantly, it your various “missions” can often be ecologically based.
Take part in citizen science programs! Pick up trash on the trail! Carry water filters to remote communities! Point being, if you give your adventures a purpose, that purpose will often be a positive one!
Give Back To The Environment:
Once you’re in that “have a purpose mode”, you can also start to think of all the smaller, accessible ways that you can give back to the environment. Instead of bringing plastic bottles, get yourself a nice metal Hydro flask, or bring a Nalgene that you refill on your hike.
Even if you don’t make picking up trash your focus, still do it. It’s such a small gesture and it’s easy to do. When you’re on your hike, take a stick with a nail in it to pick up every piece of trash you find. If everybody were to do that, you’d never see any trash on the trails. Most of the time, it’s their Clif Bar wrapper or something that’s escaped from someone’s pack. But if you don’t pick it up, who’s going to?
Even if you’re on a pure party trip, doing something for the environment (however small) is a realistic goal.
Stay Local! Buy Local!
This is one of those things that people tend not to do. Take a tent with you and experience the night sky. On the way up, look for a local shop where the food is sustainably farmed or comes from a nearby source and is grown seasonally. This allows you to support local farmers with good practices and will help you avoid too much packaging/waste from pre-packaged foods.
It’s little things like that that make a big difference and are going to make your experience more enjoyable. You’re going to have a target when you go out there, you’re going to have something to search for, and it’s going to make that camping trip feel like an expedition instead of just a chore.
Do your best to support local, buy local, and remember that those small communities are what you really want to be supporting on your trips.
These tips are all so easy. Truly. There are a million more, too. But these will lead to you connecting with nature much more. Once you connect with nature, you begin to appreciate and understand it, and ultimately fall in love with it. And once you fall in love with something, you care a whole lot about protecting it.
And that, my friends, is how you go from a weekend warrior to an impassioned conservationist without even realizing you’ve done so.
More About Forrest Galante:
Forrest Galante’s book “STILL ALIVE: A Wild Life of Rediscovery,” available to purchase on June 1, takes readers on an exhilarating journey to the most remote and dangerous corners of the world. While introducing the fascinating rare species he has encountered throughout his life.