Hitting the trails can be a great eco-friendly way to explore an area. Even as you tred lightly on the Earth, bagging peaks and trekking to waterfalls, it pays to consider sustainability, helping to protect those beautiful natural areas we all love to recreate in. Here are a handful of sustainability rules to take to heart when you head out on a hike.
The ethic of Leave No Trace has a firm place on the trail. It includes the common adage of “pack it in, pack it out,” or “take only pictures, leave only footprints,” and it also gives guidance for waste disposal and campsite selection. By following this code of ethics, you can bring sustainability with you into the backcountry, making sure you leave your destination better than you found it.
Trails are there for a reason, and hiking off-trail in heavily trafficked areas can cause big problems for the environment. The unsanctioned trails created, known as social trails, can damage the surrounding environment and lead to erosion that impacts animals and water bodies for the worse. By staying on maintained trails, you help preserve the environment. And if you are recreating in an area where off-trail travel is allowed, be sure to hike in a way that’s safe for the environment, minimizing damage and preventing the spread of noxious weeds by keeping an eye out for seeds that can ride along as hitchhikers on your clothing.
Various public land management agencies have different rules to help with managing the area. In national parks, pets aren’t allowed in most areas, and if they are, they’re typically required to be on leash. But in national forests and on BLM land, you might find different regulations. The same goes for food storage in bear country or off-trail travel in fragile restoration areas. Find out what governing rules prevail in the spot where you’re hiking, and be sure to follow them carefully.
What you put on your body can make a difference for the environment, for good or ill, especially if you plan on swimming in an alpine lake or ocean lagoon at the end of the trail. Near the ocean, opt for reef-safe sunscreens to help prevent coral bleaching. And in those alpine lakes and mountain streams, your cosmetics and lotions in the water can impact fish and other species well downstream. Going for biodegradable soaps and observing Leave No Trace principles for washing up will go a long way to helping the ecosystem.
You have an opportunity to make a big sustainability statement when it comes to your gear. From boots to backpacks and water filtration systems, you can be choosy with where you buy and which brands you support. Look for names that make a commitment to making the world a better place, and shop local or secondhand when you can to spread the love through the communities where you’re heading outdoors.
Sustainability starts with where you stay. Choose green-oriented accommodation options like Highline Adventures properties to help offset your impact while you travel.