Outdoorist Tips for (Easy) Eco-Living

As an outdoor advocate, my dedication to caring for the land isn’t exclusive to my work to protect public lands–it’s embedded into the core of my daily lifestyle. To care about the outdoors means to care about the planet, climate change, plastic waste, energy, supply chain (where your products come from), air + water quality, the works. If you truly want to do good for the outdoor places you love, your life should reflect that. If you want to be an environmental activist, make every day a personal protest.

Shifting towards a more eco-minded lifestyle doesn’t have to be dramatic. You can adapt this mindset to whatever your budget, energy, and give-a-shit levels are. You don’t need to live in a house with solar panels and drive an electric car to start doing good for your planet.

One important note: While there are small, relatively inexpensive (and free) ways to be more eco-friendly, it should be acknowledged that ‘living green’ is often a privileged lifestyle. Buying organic food, driving an electric car, investing in earth-friendly products is often more expensive than choosing a more earth-impacting lifestyle. Something worth acknowledging, and for those of us privileged enough to choose to go eco–let’s think about how we can support others who aren’t.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve incorporated eco-living into my everyday:

Change your mindset.

This whole respect yo mama, be a better human existing on this planet, live more sustainably thing is truly a lifestyle shift. And while it involves commitment, it also becomes a snowball–the more you roll with it, the easier and bigger the movement becomes to adopt. And the more you open your eyes to how wasteful and disrespectful to Pachamama humans are, the more compelled you’ll feel to honor and respect her.

Think smaller. Think local. Think human-powered.

Support your local community and economy.

Source as much produce + products from your local farmers market as possible (there are fewer joys greater than having an egg guy, kombucha fam, and Cuban coffee lady). Patronize restaurants that source their ingredients from local farms. The Farmers Market Coalition has a sweet map of markets across the US–I love using this tool to find new markets when I’m on the road.

Think about the carbon footprint of the products and goods you buy. How far did your ordered-online coffee table have to travel (and how much packing supples did it use) to get to your living room? Could you have supported a local woodworker to get a locally made coffee table instead? For the price of 2 gonna-fall-apart-in-a-season H&M sundresses, wouldn’t you rather have purchased a handmade dress that’ll last for 50 years from a local artist? Focusing on locally made goods is 10/10 one of the more satisfying and community-stoke-building ways to live more eco-friendly.

Ditch single-use plastic.

  • Buy a set of reusable bamboo utensils from To-Go Ware, and take ’em everywhere with you. Make it a habit to keep these in your everyday pack. On the trail, in airports, while you’re eating out on the go, give yourself no excuse for using plastic utensils.
  • In the US alone, we use–and promptly throw out–500 million straws every single day. Repeat after me: “No straw, please.” Start saying this, every time you order at a restaurant, go through a drive-thru, get delivery. It takes a while to get used to saying, and sometimes you’ll get funny looks, but eventually it becomes second nature. If you simply can’t do without a straw, buy a reusable one! I love straws, so I have like 5 reusable ones–though I am currently most stoked on the FinalStraw, which was created by a lovely friend.
    If you need visceral proof of why you should say no to plastic straws, watch this video of a sea turtle having a straw pulled out of its nostril. If you still feel okay about using plastic straws after that, plz unfollow me.
  • Get a reusable coffee thermos or mug. Ain’t no shame in treating yourself to a $5 latte on the regular, but there is shame in creating waste every time you indulge. Treat both yoself and the planet with some love–and a lot of coffeeshops give a little discount when you BYO! I use this Hydro Flask 22 oz. thermos, but reusable mugs are very frequently given out as swag at events and such, so you can likely score one for free too.
  • Keep a few reusable canvas bags in your car at all times. Let’s be real, you’ve got like 20 stuffed under your kitchen sink, yet somehow you never have one with you when you’re grocery shopping. It happens to us all, so be prepared and keep ’em stashed in your car instead. Commit yourself to never using a plastic bag ever again. This has been the most consistent elimination of single use plastic for me.
  • Bring your own take-out containers. Walking to the bagel shop to grab breakfast to-go? Bring your own tupperware to take ’em home in! I live a block away from killer taco stands, and instead of consuming a styrofoam plate every time I stop by (which is…frequently), I’ve started to bring my own plate. Think about all the places you can eliminate single-use dining ware–there are a lot of small changes we can make to reduce this disposable culture.
  • Bonus points: If you’re a little piggy like me and get delivery often, leave a little note in your GrubHub order for “no utensils or napkins, please!”

Play outdoors with yo mama in mind.

Every time you recreate, keep the earth in mind. Are you respecting her? Are you treating her well, helping her heal? Every time we play outside, we are taking from the earth. Are you giving back whenever you take? Tread lightly, leave no trace, pack-it-out, don’t bust the crust, respect the wildlife, and encourage others to do the same.

I challenge you to adopt a habit I picked up a few summers ago: pick up one piece of trash every time you go for a hike, run, climb, ski, whatever. Just one wrapper, piece of tape, straw, whatever you find on your adventure for the day. If everyone that used the trails did that, our public outdoor spaces would be a helluva lot cleaner.

Eat healthier–for yourself and for your earth.

This topic deserves its own conversation and post (which will come), because the choices we make with our food consumption plays a huge role in the relationship we have with our carbon footprint and lifestyle supply chain. As I mentioned earlier, knowing the source of your food is a major way to eat eco. Not only does a freshly picked apple from a local orchard taste better and fresher, it also has a much smaller footprint than an imported, months-old, sprayed-in-who-knows-what apple from the grocery store.

One of the top ways to individually reduce our carbon footprints is by going meatless. Before you groan and go back to your burger (oh how I miss those), hear me out. Cutting back our consumption of animal products is a process, a personal choice, and has many layers. For some folks, giving up meat isn’t an option–and I get that. If you do eat meat, commit to only eating local, sustainably + humanely raised meat, or wild hunted harvests. Consider adopting Meat-free Mondays, or only eating meat on weekends. If you do decide to give it up completely, do whatever works best for you (like me, I am vegetarian for environmental reasons, and it’s hard sometimes, I totally ate a piece of fish last week).

If you’re a real champion for the earth, go vegan. I am not one of those people, and I applaud folks who are.

Go out of your way to reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Ride your bike more! In the summertime, I often try to see how long I can go without driving my car. Salt Lake City has excellent bike lanes, as do many bigger cities. Skip the car, rally your crew, and pedal!
  • Take public transportation. Again, why drive your car when you don’t have to? Public transportation is an inexpensive way to travel, and acts as a built-in designated driver. Salt Lake City’s TRAX system is fantastic, especially for easy airport transportation.
  • Carpool, especially if you’re heading to a crowded outdoor spot like ski resorts. If it’s a bluebird winter day, you know that you and everyone you know are heading to the same canyon to hit the slopes–so reduce the amount of emissions pouring into the air AND help reduce congestion by hopping in someone else’s car or offering rides to your friends.
  • Consider your air travel footprint. For a lot of folks in my industry, hopping on airplanes is practically part of our job descriptions. It’s also a major contributor to our personal carbon footprints. There is no easy solution here, except to consider the frequency and necessity of our travel by plane. Recently, I had two occasions to be on the east coast within 2 weeks. My options were to either fly to Maine/New Hampshire, fly back to SLC, and then hop on a plane a few days later to return to D.C., or to just combine the trips and the impact of those flights. So, I chose the later and ended up on a two-week adventure around the east coast–driving, so still not carbon neutral by any means, but better.

Make big changes where you can.

This one is for the over-achievers. Living more ‘earth-friendly’ is currently still much more expensive and inaccessible than living an ‘average’ carbon footprint. That said, if you are in a position to take bigger steps towards an eco lifestyle, do it. Install a few solar panels on your roof, focus on native landscaping in your backyard, buy an electric car. If you’re making big purchases, use your consumer power to support more sustainable economic options. You’re investing in a healthier future for yourself, and the entire planet.

In the course of writing this blog post, it’s become rather apparent to me that this idea of living more sustainably is far more worthy of a series–so, let me know what topics you want to hear more about first: the much-demanded tour of my eco-house, a guide to my favorite sustainable products, how to make your backyard/landscaping more earth friendly, any and all of the above?

And happy Earth Day. Today and every single day that we get to exist on this incredible hunk of rock and water orbiting around in outer space. Note: This blog post includes Amazon affiliate links! 

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3 thoughts on “Outdoorist Tips for (Easy) Eco-Living

  1. Erika Ann says:

    How I wish reducing carbon footprint can be so easy here in the Philippines. Bicycles are not respected in the road as much as other countries. I agree with you with all of these! Especially in making big steps. When transitioning to sustainable living, people keep on saying little steps will make it through. But true change will never done if big steps aren’t done.

  2. Jessica says:

    Hi Katie,
    Great tips! A small act can make a huge difference. “Ditch plastic” is my very first step. I always bring my own shopping bag and water bottle. 🙂 There’s a lot more work to do.
    Thank you for sharing this very helpful post. It’s worth sharing.

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