It’s no secret that I love the outdoors. I try to get out and spend time with Mother Nature as much as I possibly can. Whether it’s hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, or touring in the winter on my splitboard, time spent in wild places refreshes and resets my soul. I need it. I crave it.
Another thing that’s not such a secret, our climate is changing. I know, it seems to be a controversial topic, but even if you don’t necessarily believe in global warming, it’s pretty hard to deny that things are changing. Our glaciers are receding, our summers are filled with more and more wild fires, our climate is hitting extremes on both ends of the temperature spectrum. Again, if you choose to disagree go ahead, but these are things I’ve seen up close with my own eyes where I live. Even in the last five years, I have noticed a difference in our backyard.
With this in mind, I have been trying to become more aware of the small changes I can make in my daily life to help our environment. Things a lot of us already do, like using reusable grocery bags, really do make a difference. I’ve switched to more environmentally friendly household products, a bamboo tooth brush, a shampoo bar, and making sure I bring my own container and cutlery for takeaway food. The more I started to make small changes, the more I noticed all the ways we really do produce waste.
It hit me as I was packing for a backpacking trip this summer, that these little changes were not only necessary in my daily life but in my outdoor pursuits as well. I was getting my food ready for the next three days to come and as I was portioning my meals and snacks, I became aware of just how many ziplock bags I was using. As I continued to pack, I started to see all the other ways I was being pretty wasteful during my trips and adventures.
I’d like to note that I am FAR from being perfect at this. This goal of being plastic free, waste free, sustainable, and all that jazz is a new thing for me. It is something I am working at and learning more about every single day. However, what I want to share with you are some of the easy ways I have found I can be more sustainable while I chase my outdoor passions. As someone who plays outside as much as possible, I want to make sure I am doing my part to protect these places I play in for a long time to come.
So, here we go! Here are five small changes and easy ways you can make your adventures waste-free.
1) Use reusable snack bags and wraps
As I shared above, the first thing that got my brain going about how much waste I use on trips was when I noticed the amount of ziplock bags I was using for food. I like to eat. A lot. So, when I go on multi-day trips I find it helpful to portion my snacks for each day so that I don’t accidentally have a snaccident.
Snaccident: when you accidentally eat all your snacks in one sitting.
Yeah, I wish I could say that wasn’t a challenge for me, but it is. So, to avoid overeating when you’re say, having some downtime at your campsite at the end of the day, I portion all my meals and snacks for each day into bags. It may be excessive, but it works for me. The issue with this is that I waste a lot of plastic in doing so. I figured there had to be a better option. Sure, there’s always self control (ha!), but I figured the option that suited me best would be finding something reusable. After some researching, talking to friends, and personal trials, here are the two products that I absolutely love and now use all the time for adventures and in my daily life.
Stasher Bag: a reusable, silicone storage bag that is non-toxic, easy to clean, and can be used in the freezer, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and boiling water.
Goldilocks Wraps: a natural, eco-friendly, reusable wrap made out of locally sourced beeswax.
Whether your go-to for snacks and sandwiches are ziplock bags or saran wrap, these two options are great ways to reduce plastic and waste during your outdoor activities.
2) Buy Snacks in Bulk
I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I do in getting ready for a day out or a week long trip is head to the grocery store. Food is one of my top priorities in trip planning and preparation. Food is fuel and fuel is necessary for days outside (and, well, every day to stay alive). Once in the grocery store, I head straight for the snack aisle. As is already obvious, I love snacks. I buy myself veggies, hummus and crackers, candy, beef jerky, you name it. What comes with all of those things? Plastic packaging, and usually an unnecessary amount.
A great way to avoid this is to buy your snacks in bulk. Head to the bulk aisle in the grocery store or a store like Bulk Barn, bring those reusable snack bags you just bought (nudge nudge), and shop away to your snack loving hearts content.
This may not seem like a big thing, but have you ever looked at your garbage can once your food is all prepped and into your backpack? Or maybe it’s once you return home and empty the garbage from your pack? If you have, I am sure you can agree that there is usually a lot of waste, and a good chunk of it is food packaging. Shop bulk, save on plastic, and I usually find you save on money as well.
3) Make your own Meals
This one definitely goes hand in hand with the purpose of buying in bulk, but making your own snacks and meals is another great way to cut back on waste. As said above, our food often comes with a lot of packaging. This doesn’t just go for snacks however, but our meals as well. A great option for multi-day trips is dehydrated meals. They’re lightweight, easy, and a hardy serving size after a big day. As great as they are, they are another packaged product as well.
Challenge yourself to start getting more creative. Make your own granola bars! Again, this reduces packaging, saves you money, and you know exactly what is going into your snacks to fuel you on your big day.
Here is a recipe I have tried and personally like: https://ohsheglows.com/2014/05/20/feel-good-hearty-granola-bars/
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could try dehydrating your own meals and snacks. This is something I started doing this year and so far it’s been great. You can dehydrate fruits, veggies, anything really. My personal favourites have been mangos and pineapple. Again, this option is typically less expensive and eliminates the plastic. I am still working on dehydrating meals, so maybe this is something we can work at together. If you have any good recipes, send them my way!
4) Ladies, Use a Kula Cloth!
A Kula what? A relatively new (and fantastic) piece of gear, a Kula Cloth is an antimicrobial pee cloth. It is a reusable, hygienic, and a non-smelly option instead of all the toilet paper us females use. Since us ladies need the TP to pee, we tend to use it more often which does contribute to how much waste we have. It is one of the most common garbage items I see on the trails, and Im not sure about you but toilet paper is also one of the most common things I forget when I head out for the day (or week, yikes!). The Kula is easy to remember as it clips nicely to the outside of your pack. Use it, hang it, dry it, reuse it. It has beautiful designs, a glow in the dark seam to make it easy to find in the night, and did I mention it eliminates waste?
5) Buy Clothing from Sustainable Companies
This one can be a little trickier and I wish I could say all of my clothing was sustainable and environmentally friendly, but sadly that would be a lie. However, this is a great thing to become more aware of and to try and make the choice of when you can. Even if you’re buying gear, do some research on your favourite brands and see what they are doing to reduce their impact and make a difference for the environment.
A company that is great with this is Patagonia. They are a leading force in standing up for protecting our lands as well as a huge voice for the fight against climate change. Check out what else they are doing to reduce their impact with this link to Worn Wear: https://www.patagonia.com.au/pages/worn-wear
This one is for the ladies, but you have to check out the company Kind Apparel. Mallory makes everything from tights, dresses, skorts, and tops, to neck warmers, headbands, and hats. All of her products are made out of recycled water bottles! I personally think this is one of the coolest things ever. I am lucky enough to have many products from Kind Apparel and I can personally attest to how comfy and soft the fabrics are, not to mention a great fit and the brightest colours and patterns.
Lastly, I am a big fan of the company KEEN. Not only is their footwear my feet soul mate, but they are incredibly focused on making a difference. They give back to local causes that align with their values like health, integrity, and caring. They take action to work with communities to protect the places we live and play in, and advocate for the planet by working with and educating the next generation. They also strive to reduce their impact with how they manufacture their products.
Choosing where you purchase your gear from is an easy way to support a greater cause. Lots of the companies we buy from are massive, so supporting companies with a common vision of protecting our planet and being sustainable really does make a huge difference.
It can be daunting to hear the news and reports on the fate of our planet. I’m the first to admit that it overwhelms me and sometimes leaves me feeling hopeless. So, let’s take a minute to absorb the wise words of The Dalai Lama: “if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.”
You are never too small to make a difference and a series of small actions can add up to big results. If everyone makes small changes to their everyday life, soon we will have some big changes. It takes a village, and part of that village is you. Find the ways you can make a change. Cutting back on waste is but one thing of a million great things you can do. Let these ideas listed above inspire you, yet challenge you to find even more. I think we all would love to keep playing in our wild spaces for a lifetime and forever more to come, so let’s make that happen. Together.