Protecting and preserving Planet Earth and its global population is the responsibility of every single person around the world
We all have the privilege of calling this planet home, and we each depend on it in order to continue on with life as we know it—as well as to allow future generations to do the same. Human activity is the cause of most environmental problems, so it is up to us to minimize our ecological footprint and reverse the damage we have already done to the best of our abilities.
However, it's a reasonable argument that the outdoors community should be a little extra mindful of the environment. After all, these are people who appreciate and utilize the Earth in all its glory more than any other part of the population. Outdoor enthusiasts treat the natural world as a playground, enjoying activities such as hiking, kayaking, climbing, trail running, cycling, rowing, skiing and snowboarding. Spending time outdoors is one of the most fulfilling activities in life—it’s a gift that everyone should be able to enjoy—and it is something that we must never take for granted.
There are many factors that play into humankind’s relationship with the environment, but there are challenges that come with not being able to see the direct effect of our actions. It's easier to turn a blind eye to the harm of contributing to global warming when its consequences are gradual and global, rather than instant and personal.
Conservation psychology is a study of people’s attitudes and behaviours towards the natural world, looking at how humans care about and value nature, and also how we behave towards nature. Creating a harmonious and caring relationship between people and the natural world is critical for creating a sustainable future, and people who love the outdoors must spearhead the movement towards protecting our planet and those who live on it.
So how can we encourage the outdoors community to be more involved in taking care of the planet and people?
One of the most important ways to motivate people to protect the planet and people is to equip them with knowledge of what is happening with climate change, how vulnerable communities are being affected, and how our actions are contributing to it. Messaging on sustainability should be implemented into every part of our day-to-day lives, and when it comes to the outdoors community specifically, it should be an overarching theme for every outdoor activity. Conservation should be enforced through all avenues, from signage to events, seminars, digital marketing, forums and groups with which this community engages.
Fostering a connection with the environment and local populations will encourage people to care about it, and want to protect it. Western Canada-based outdoor adventure company Yervana is an example of a company that strives to create these connections, bringing explorers together with local guides for adventures like rock climbing, skiing, hiking, kayaking and more. Yervana’s adventures are intimate and immersive, teaching adventurers to appreciate and respect their surroundings and sharing local knowledge. Cultivating enriching experiences in nature will create special memories and a stronger bond for the outdoors community to develop an affiliation to the world around us.
In a perfect world, any outdoor lover would embody principles of leaving the Earth a better place than they found it. Take only memories, leave only footprints, as the saying goes. But this is easier said than done, and there is always room for improvement. Even if we don’t litter, most of us are guilty of seeing plastic waste on the trail or the beach and not picking it up. There are always opportunities to show more care and respect for other people on the planet. Providing incentives will help the outdoors community to be better custodians of the planet—for example, encourage outdoor lovers to volunteer on a beach or hike clean-up and in exchange, offer free access to national parks, scuba dives, ski hill passes and other incentives.
To motivate people to act sustainably and care about those around them, outdoor destinations should make it as easy as possible to conduct eco-friendly behaviour. Recycling and waste bins should be stationed in all high-traffic areas. Outdoor brands must incorporate sustainability into their products, services and messaging, so that customers don’t have to go out of their way to find sustainable choices. Outdoor-focussed activity companies should eliminate and discourage the use of single-use plastics, offer carpool or public transit options, and perhaps give out bags and gloves to pick up any trash on adventures. Every little step to make sustainability easier and more achievable will help in the long run.
Many members of the outdoor community are connected in various ways—from running groups to Facebook groups to following and interacting with similar personalities on social media. Members of this community have a responsibility to use their platform and voice to spread messages of sustainability and conservation and act in accordance with them. High-profile athletes and influencers, especially, must act as brand ambassadors for the planet and its people, sharing how they prioritize the environment and local communities in their outdoor activities. Leading by example by participating and promoting beach clean-ups, picking up trash on their hikes, respecting local customs, shopping and supporting sustainable and local brands, and partaking in other conservation measures, while encouraging others to do the same, is important.
Sustainability must come from every level of society: individuals, businesses and government. Many organizations are already implementing sustainable models into their offerings—for example, Google Flights is now showing CO2 emissions in its search function. Restaurants should be transparent and forthright about the sustainable choices on their menu, clothing brands should be clear about how they are working to minimize their footprint. Every organization, especially those which cater to the outdoors community, should have sustainability as a top priority in their offerings.
Let’s look at Whistler, British Columbia, one of the premier outdoor adventure destinations in the world, which has made strong commitments towards protecting the planet and people. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the stunning mountain town for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, or just soaking in the scenic views. Organizations here have a responsibility to protect their beautiful backyard, which is the source of their livelihood. Brands like 3 Singing Birds and Ecologyst sell eco-friendly and ethically-made products, enabling outdoor lovers to gear up sustainably and support local while doing so. Ziptrek Eco-Tours supports local and international organizations, provides sustainable jobs in the community, and creates its own renewable energy. Whistler BlackComb Ski Resort has made an EpicPromise—a commitment to zero net emissions by 2030, zero waste to the landfill by 2030, and zero net impact to forests and habitat. These sustainable efforts are translated through offerings, staff and clientele throughout the resort, encouraging environmental mindsets and actions amongst everyone who visits.
We have a long way to go in creating a sustainable future for the planet, and those who actively use and enjoy nature the most must be at the forefront of the movement—they are the ideal ambassadors to protect the planet, paving the way for the rest of the world to follow.