“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet.”
– David Attenborough, British Naturalist and Broadcaster
The decisions we make in our daily life — at home and away from home — in total, impact the wellness of our health, family, community, and the natural world. For instance, if you wish to become more environmentally conscious, you might start by turning lights off in empty rooms. This small habit is a good one to adopt because it saves you money and conserves natural resources. This action may lead to other changes, such as making your own cleaning supplies using non-toxic, biodegradable products like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. Eventually, this may lead you to adopt even bigger practices – for instance, using a bike instead of a car.
All of these routines may seem insignificant, but they are not. In fact, these beneficial changes infiltrate and improve almost every aspect of our lives – our health and that of our fragile ecosystem. Unsurprisingly, the simple eco-friendly habits we adopt eventually tend to blend across all areas of our life. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, try thinking of what more you can do.
How can you help when backpacking?
The biggest ecological problem with backpacking is littering. Many wilderness areas have become degraded by trash. It is not uncommon to find areas along the trail littered with food wrappers, aluminum cans, water bottles, toilet paper — even vandalism. What should you do if you come across these items?
- If you find trash along the trail, pick up what you can and dispose of it properly with your own trash. Carrying out someone else’s garbage is always unpleasant and sometimes nasty, but it is the right thing to do.
- If you encounter a person committing vandalism, get a good description of them and remember the location of the incident. Take a photo of them in the act (discreetly, of course) and report it immediately to Park Authorities. It is best not to confront these type of individuals – unless they appear non-threatening (e.g. kids).
- Dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6 – 8″ deep. Dig 200 feet or more away from water sources, trails and camp spots. Carry out your toilet paper and hygiene products.
- Set up camp in designated camping areas. If that is not possible, at least use a backcountry site that appears to have been used before. Always keep an eye out for previously cleared camp spots and reuse them. If you have a choice, opt for the site that was not recently used to give it a chance to recover.
- When lighting a fire, burn only fallen wood. Never cut down branches from a living tree. Remember the three D’s when collecting firewood: choose only wood that is dead, downed, and detached. Always keep your fire small and thoroughly extinguish it when leaving.
- If you need to clean with a nearby water source, dip your bandana in the water and use the wet cloth to clean your skin. Don’t get soap into water sources. Otherwise, you can damage fragile ecosystems.
- Try to backpack in low volume areas or during non-peak times, such as during the week instead of the weekend. Whether we like it or not, human beings are a form of pollution. Most backpackers wish to encounter few people (if any) on the trail. Most of us are outside to get a feeling of peace and solitude. Keep your profile low by not making too much noise. If you travel with a group, make it a small group of 6 people or less.
- Help others enjoy a positive wilderness experience by keeping it pristine. Younger people and first-timers are more likely to become involved in outdoor recreation and environmental advocacy when they experience it in a positive manner. By being responsible, you can keep it that way for everyone else.
Like you, Outdoor Herbivore is concerned about staying healthy and caring for the natural world. We are committed to making food products (and spreading the word about other companies’ products) that address your concerns regarding ingredient safety, pollution, and animal welfare.
- Other steps you can take to help the environment
- Check out the Leave No Trace website for more information about reducing impacts on the trail
- Learn more about Outdoor Herbivore’s model for trail foods