going on a hike

Going on a Hike? 8 Ways to Make Your Trip More Sustainable

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

Hiking offers numerous benefits, including lowered risk of heart disease, weight control, improved blood pressure, strength, balance, mental health, and more. It’s a wonderful way to connect not only with our inner selves, but also with nature. Since Mother Nature gives so much, the least we can do is treat our surroundings with respect and ensure our enjoyment is not at the expense of other living things.

So, if you’re planning on going on a hike anytime soon, be it your first time or millionth, here are some ways you can make your trip more sustainable. 

1. Pick Your Trail and Stick to It

Mountain vegetation can be fragile because of the extremes in weather and high elevation. By going outside the designated trails you can cause harm to the vegetation and disturb the living creatures that consider the secluded parts their “safe place.” Another problem is hiking has become so popular it is difficult to find any privacy on most of the trails. However, you can use online resources to find hiking trails that are designated, but also quiet.

2. Do Not Start Campfires

As tempting as it may seem, do not start a campfire in the wilderness. Campfires can hurt the local flora and fauna, as well as disturb the wildlife. Also, they can cause serious wildfires and lead to injuries and the death of many animals. As for you, you can get in trouble with authorities. You can, however, start a campfire at labeled spots where it is allowed. 

3. Don’t Feed the Animals

Hikers don’t necessarily have bad intentions when they feed the animals they come across on the trails. Unfortunately, though, feeding wild animals with food they are not accustomed to can cause severe health issues. Wild animals are perfectly capable of finding their own food and they don’t need your help. This can be dangerous for you, too, because some bigger, potentially dangerous creature can lose their natural fear of people and become too comfortable around them, which can be a safety risk. 

4. Don’t Pick Wildflowers

When you pick a wildflower from its natural habitat, you are not taking only one flower. Every native flower has a relationship with its surroundings. It is a part of an elaborate web of life. In addition, when you pick a flower, it will wilt really soon. Some wildflowers are even protected by law. So, leave them where they are – they will look better there. 

5. Never Litter

This is something you probably know, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you. The rule of leaving no trace also goes for biodegradables. Apple cores, pistachio shells, and orange peels may seem perfectly safe, but they do stay around for a long time. 

6. Be Quiet

You’ve probably come across a group of hikers talking and laughing loudly, perhaps even playing music. Don’t be one of those people. Talk quietly when you have to, and focus more on observing your surroundings instead. Doing this will also help you see more birds and mammals, because they will not be running away.

7. Answer Nature’s Call Responsibly

If you have to go to the toilet and step off the trail, don’t go near a lake or creek. You need to be at least 200 feet from wild water. 

8. Wear Eco-Conscious Hiking Gear

It’s not just about how you act in natural surroundings – it’s also about what you carry with you when you go outdoors. Hiking requires several layers of clothing and a lot of gear. Knowing the clothing industry is responsible for more carbon emissions than international flying, the equipment you choose is important. Everything from shoes, sunglasses, pants, rain jacket to gear should be made out of sustainable materials and under fair labor conditions. 

Every hike is a wonderful opportunity to step out of your mind and focus on the present. It’s really something to be grateful for – and the best way to show that gratitude is simply by being respectful toward nature and its inhabitants, as well as fellow hikers.

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