Nature is powerful and to some degree the master of us all. But our ecosystems are delicate and need protection. Adventurers have a vital role to play in leading the way in socially and environmentally sustainable practices. Abby Walters offers six suggestions to this end.
Adventure is not solely about the destination. On your next adventure, think about becoming a slower traveller. Try to avoid flying - especially short-haul, which has an immense carbon footprint. Car share when embarking on longer trips, and use public transport more often. Best of all, where possible, always choose to cycle or walk, particularly once at your destination.
Slowing down not only produces a greener footprint. It also brings a stronger connection with local communities, allows you to immerse yourself in beauty that you otherwise would have missed and often leads to the unexpected. It makes your experiences richer.
Before you go on your adventure, project your carbon footprint online to make sure it is positive. Our world has limited resources, and they should be conserved, not commodified.
Now, more than ever, our actions when it comes to reducing waste are incredibly important. You can reduce waste throughout your trip.
Before departing, think about what from your kit list you can borrow from friends and family. This not only reduces the amount of raw materials and resources used, but saves you money.
During your travels, reuse things. Avoid single-use plastic, and use a reusable water bottle, food container and rubbish bag. Be sure to pick up and recycle your litter, and to grab a little extra when doing so. And be resourceful: get into the habit of repairing any broken items instead of immediately replacing them.
Finally, after your adventure, donate items you don’t need instead of throwing them away.
'Be resourceful: get into the habit of repairing any broken items instead of immediately replacing them.'
Promote sustainable business
Most obviously, pay for sustainable products and services. Pack eco-friendly essentials, for instance, like a bamboo toothbrush or natural deodorant blocks and soaps. Where possible, opt for accommodation with a commitment to sustainable initiatives like solar power, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow toilets.
As well as reducing your own footprint, supporting eco-conscious businesses could have a huge positive impact by encouraging other places to become more sustainable. (And staying in sustainable accommodation does not mean denying yourself usual luxuries. Check out these places in the UK as examples.)
Also try to go local. Be conscious about your food choices, for instance. Avoid imported foods to reduce carbon emissions. Instead, eat locally or make your own food. Farmers’ markets and farm shops sell high-quality produce, which helps local businesses.
To avoid greenwashing - the practice of businesses claiming they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are - check for green certifications that prove a business operates, or was constructed, in a way that protects the natural environment. Certifications include LEED, USDA Organic or Green Business Bureau (GBB). You can usually find certifications on company websites.
Save energy and water
Switching lights off, turning electrical items off standby, turning the heating down: these aren’t just things your parents nagged you about for fun. Yes, they might have been thinking about the weight of their wallets, but their nagging also encourages sustainable living.
If you’re on a more remote adventure, with no TV or central heating, try to save water, too. Showers might be the perfect way to refresh after a long day, but they use an astounding amount of water. Be mindful of this by not staying in the shower longer than necessary. And say no to baths, which are worse. Avoid getting your towels washed frequently, too, and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.
Nurture community and culture
Community surrounds us wherever we go, and nourishes people. But community requires support, and adventure means engaging with people.
Be sure to submerge yourself in local life: the who, what, where, why and when. Expand your horizons by taking time to talk to people. If you have a love for home cooking, for example, then why not try something like EatWith, which allows you to have dinner with locals. Or, try Couchsurfing, which lets you stay and hang out with them. By engaging in a local community in this way you can share the joy of your new locality with those who live it, share the joy of your experiences in their world and learn a little more about what keeps them going.
Another benefit of buying from locally owned and independent businesses is that money sustains the genuinely local economy, instead of faceless corporations.
'Community surrounds us wherever we go, and nourishes people. But community requires support, and adventure means engaging with people.'
All of the ideas in this article help protect our natural environments, and many are included in Leave No Trace’s principles to ensure outdoor adventurers protect unspoiled landscapes. But there are other points to note when outside.
Firstly, what is good for humans is not necessarily good for animals. Food or photos, for instance, can be wildly detrimental to the animal's people think they are helping and appreciating. By all means visit local farms and other organisations to learn about animals, if allowed. But don’t make animals outside of these environments depend on people.
Secondly, don’t always take “off the beaten track” literally. Of course, explore the paths less trodden. However, with research and preparation you can find a path that is right for you and that still offers a world of adventure, wildlife, and freedom. There is no need to go trampling off-piste through natural habitats every time, turning the natural into the tamed.
So enjoy your adventure, but make it invisible (or even leave the place better than you found it).