by Jennifer Pharr Davis
The word “Conservationist” seems like such a weighty term that I used to think you had to dedicate your life to land management or donate your entire personal worth to be considered a ‘real’ conservationist. Over time, however, I observed that small steps taken by everyday folks can add up to create a substantial and sustainable effort towards protecting and preserving our natural resources. We can all be conservationists.
If you’re not sure how to start your journey towards conservation, I recommend that you go through your life off the trail as you would on the trail.
12 Hiker Steps towards Conservation:
1. Walk – Whenever possible walk to your destination instead of driving. It is good for your body and the environment.
2. Hitchhike – Hikers typically have to hitch or take a shuttle to resupply in town. When you can’t walk consider carpooling or taking public transportation to reach your destination.
3. NEVER Waste Food – It takes a tremendous amount of effort and resources to produce food. Use up the items in your fridge before going back to the store. Always take your leftovers home from a restaurant (ideally with a reusable container that you bring with you.) If you have extra share. Be grateful for everything.
4. Carry a Water Bottle – And Refill It! Store-bought bottled water creates waste and causes pollution as it is transported throughout the country and WORLD. Want better quality water than what comes out of your tap? Again, think like a hiker and get a filter.
5. Be a Minimalist – Hiking teaches you that you don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy and the more items you take with you on the trail, typically the more uncomfortable you are. Be a conscious consumer by getting your gear from companies who use sustainable materials and business practices, like Astral.
6. Repair Gear and Clothes – It’s amazing what duct tape and a needle and thread can do. Before you throw it away, see if you can fix it first.
7. Take Fewer Showers – No one appreciates a shower like a hiker. That said, you don’t need two a day. Reduce your water use by taking shorter, quicker, cooler shower with all natural soaps and shampoos.
8. Laundry – Again, most clothes can be worn multiple times before washing them. And don’t forget to dry those items outdoors as opposed to the dryer.
9. Cosmetics – Cosmetics, deodorants, and perfumes aren’t much use to a hiker. Consider using natural products in moderation off the trail.
10. Make your Second Home a Tent – Interested in a weekend getaway? Avoid the property tax and reduce your footprint by going backpacking or joining an eco-friendly vacation exchange.
11. Forage – Try to eat as much local food and produce as possible. If you are off trail long enough then plant a garden. If you spend your summers on the trail then consider supporting your local CSA and/or farmer’s market. Also, check your local national forest’s foraging policies and grab some edibles from the forest ; )
12. Leave No Trace – When it comes to conservation. I’m certainly not perfect but, like the trail, it’s a journey. We can all take small steps towards reducing our impact. Let’s all try to leave the trail and the world a little better than we found it.
Jennifer Pharr Davis is a hiker, author, speaker, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and AHS Ambassador who has covered over 14,000 miles of long-distance trails on six different continents.