Getting outside is hands-down one of the best sustainable self care practices you can do.
Don’t get us wrong; we’re fans of a sustainable candle-lit bubble bath as much as the next stressed-out eco-warrior, but getting outside is extremely beneficial for your mental and physical health alike.
Even if you’re just taking a quick walk in the park, those 10-15 minutes may be enough (circumstances depending) to soak up your weekly vitamin D requirements.
To fully maximize the benefits of your outdoor excursion, however, you should approach these spaces with an awareness that our actions can—even without our knowledge—cause harm.
So how can we be mindful stewards of Mother Nature while enjoying the outdoors?
What to Wear in the Woods? Probably What You Already Own.
If you’re interested in spending time with Mother Nature, you probably want to help protect her.
It then doesn’t make much sense if the gear you're buying to do so is antithetical to that goal.
Between ozone-depleting PFCs for their water repellent properties and the fact that most outdoor gear and clothing alike is made of microplastic-releasing synthetic fabrics, our entry ticket to the outdoors has some hidden fees for nature itself.
Contrary to what the outdoor industry may lead you to believe, you don’t necessarily need outdoor-specific gear to enjoy nature!
Wear what feels comfortable for you, even if it isn’t “outdoorsy”.
Obviously, if you intend on pursuing more technical, backcountry adventures, investing in sustainable outdoor clothing (from impact-minded brands like Cotopaxi that use primarily recycled fabrics) can go a long way in upping your quality of outdoor life.
But if you’re simply going on a camping weekend getaway or even just a peaceful walk in your local city park, any old piece of activewear (ideally sustainable activewear) will do.
Gearing Up Sustainably
Outdoor gear extends beyond what clothes we wear and while non-clothing categories of outdoor gear are more outdoor specific, we can still be mindful about what we choose to put in our sustainable backpack.
Instead of those single-use plastic water bottles that would be all too easy to forget at your campsite, pack a plastic free water bottle that you can re-use endlessly. The stainless steel bottles by United By Blue are perfect for exactly that; you’ll take extra care to make sure it makes the return journey with you!
If you plan on venturing into the wilderness proper, your preparations will need a little more thought.
While an Eco Living Gift Box is picnic-perfect for local park visits and lighter day outings, be mindful that the outdoors encompasses vast, rugged landscapes.
If these destinations are on your summer bucket list, you’ll need the tools and knowledge to stay safe, like knowing how to purify water and having the means to do so.
Zero waste sunscreen and eco friendly sunglasses, like the recycled polarized ones from Sunski, are essential for keeping your skin and eyes safe from harmful UV rays—which can be even more damaging at higher mountain altitudes.
Speaking of protection, insect-borne diseases are of increasing concern, so be sure to carry insect repellant. To avoid polluting nature and ruining your clothing with toxic chemicals like DEET, opt for the essential oil-based spray by Mindful Mixtures.
If you’re going on an overnight trip, see if you can score a used tent and sleeping bag before resorting to buying new. Some outdoor retailers like REI sell second hand gear, or visit your local thrift store and who knows what other second hand camping treasures you might find.
The same goes for secondhand camp cookware, otherwise the Light My Fire biobased 8-piece meal kit is an excellent, lightweight option for backpacking.
For drinkware that you can use in the woods and at home, Klean Kanteen’s insulated camping mugs are multi-purpose, durable, and sustainable (they’re made with 90% recycled stainless steel!).
Leave No Trace
You’ve probably heard this oft-repeated term before, but what does it really mean?
Leave No Trace refers to an outdoor stewardship philosophy that asks people to, as the name suggests, leave no trace of their presence in outdoor spaces.
Leave No Trace is built upon seven principles that can be applied to outdoor spaces of all kinds:
- Plan & prepare ahead
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others
In other words, we should pack up all trash, refrain from picking wildflowers, stick to designated campfire pits, don’t feed wild animals, and use compostable trash bags like those offered by biobag to pick up our doggies doo (or our own!).
Final Thoughts on Outdoor Sustainability
From buying camping gear for an upcoming trip to the moment we return home rejuvenated, being responsible in the outdoors means being mindful that, while the outdoors can serve us infinitely, it doesn’t exist for the purpose of doing so.
We are guests in nature and we should always act like we want to be invited back.
At the root of it, sustainability and mindfulness in the outdoors boils down to one thing: respect.
And not just respect for nature itself, but for others who follow in your footsteps down those dusty trails—whether that’s the group of hikers behind you or the next generation.
We want to leave our beloved outdoor spaces better than we found them so mankind can find serenity and solace there for generations to come.