One of the things I remember when I first had a baby was how hyper-aware I suddenly became of the world around me. It’s not that I wasn’t someone who cared about the environment and the world around me pre-baby. But, as soon as I had this little human, who would be breathing air and making an impact on it all, it’s like my nature senses lit up and started glowing like phosphorescence in black water on a dark night.
With each year that my son has grown I have tried to take on little changes in how I approach the world and protect the environment. I thought I would put together my list for you so you can see how I try to make a difference. You could already be doing some–or even all!–of these things. If so, you could pass this article on to a friend or help your community get an idea for a New Year’s Resolution.
My 10 Suggestions to Have a Positive Impact on the Environment:
1. Pack It In and Pack More Out
Whenever I am on trail, no matter where I am, I find there is always a stray piece of garbage here or there. Maybe a can someone tossed or dropped, a gum wrapper, a dropped Kleenex. I bring snacks and garbage into the forest due to having a toddler who eats non-stop, so I could even have been a culprit and accidentally dropped something in our often not so quiet wake, so I always pick up what I can to help make up for our community’s impact on the woods.
2. Diaper Dilemma
I’ll admit, I had a go at cloth diapering more than once, but I never really got it down. I ended up using disposable more often than not. I have no judgement one way or another when families are making this decision. One of the things I did try to do however, was to really look for brands that were as low impact as possible. The other thing I tried to do was to not leave dirty diapers in park garbage cans. I feel like the parks are already taxed enough with our heavy use, so if you are up for it, try to bring a diaper bag (I have been good about using reusable diaper bags) and take those diapers home with you so the parks have less to clean up. Five-to-ten diapers after a well attended hike can fill a garbage quickly.
3. Reusable Water Containers
It’s so easy to just buy a plastic bottle of water on the go right? Here are a few things to consider when you bring a single use bottle of water: Americans consume over 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water per year. Bottled water costs over 1,000 times the amount of tap water and the average American drinks 167 bottles! You thought your coffee habit was expensive?! Consider purchasing a water bottle for yourself and your little one. There are some great kid brands out there like Zoli, Mizu, Camelbak, Kleen Kanteen, and Katadyn Befree.
4. Coffee Cups
This brings us to coffee cups! It’s so easy to just grab a cup to go while on a coffee walk, but this is a habit that we should work harder to break. I was just doing a count on my last week and realized I used five cups in just one week! While coffee cups may not seem directly linked to Hike it Baby, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how they do coffee walks a lot and bringing our own cups is a trend we, as an organization, would love to get behind. We love that you all gather for coffee and do social hours, so let’s try to remind each other to bring a cup when we meet up. We have the power to make this small change and support each other with simple reminders or bringing and extra cup for a friend. My friend Andrea is always awesome at this and has brought me mugs of tea more than once on hikes! In fact it’s often enough that her son began to call one particular purple mug “Shanti’s cup” whenever he saw it.
5. Recycle Your Clothes
Hike it Baby is an awesome resource for recycling your clothes when your little one grows out of something or you need a bigger size. Use the community threads and for sale listings within the community to seek out gear. There are times when you may need to find it new, but there are also plenty of times when a Hike it Baby family around you will have that gear you need. I also have a neighbor who has a son a year older than mine, so when I like something they have like a Patagonia jacket that I know will withstand wear and tear of more than one child, I am pretty straight up about saying, “Hey neighbor, I would love to buy that jacket off of you guys when you are done with it.” There is so much gear out there and there should be absolutely no shame in getting it used. It’s better for the planet and your pocket book. Also, did you know big companies like Patagonia are encouraging and even helping people repair clothes versus encouraging you to buy new? http://www.patagonia.com/worn-wear.html
6. Consider Your Impact
When you are submitting a hike to the calendar, consider the trail you are picking and how many people could show up for your hike. In general we like to encourage hikes with five-to-ten families tops, but there are times when a beautiful day and the perfect hike lures far more out. Maybe if you suspect a lot of people are going to show, mention in your post that you will be splitting the group up if it gets large and you will be staggering the start times. This allows the late people to know there will be people still there when they arrive. Also, if you ever find yourself on a hike where a lot of people show up, whether you are the host or not, consider asking a smaller group to split off with you and stagger the group. Your host may be a new Hike it Baby host and feel uncomfortable asking the group to split up or may not know the trail well. Just something to think about when you gather and the group is larger than expected.
7. Pay Attention to Trail Conditions
Parks and trails are often very aware of heavily impacted areas and will do their best to mark this off, but sometimes those markers will simply be a pile of branches on a path that they don’t want you to go down. Toddlers can easily mistake this for a pile to climb on or over and charge ahead. Make sure you are aware of those areas that the park service is working hard to get back into good shape. This can include grass they may not want walked on and marshy river trails that are closed off due to a lot of mud. When it does rain hard think about using trails that have rocks on them or are more stroller-friendly versus dirt trails that might not bode well with a lot of foot traffic right after a rain.
8. Trail Snacks
Toddlers need heaps of food; or at least mine does. Snacks are everywhere in our life from our car console to every pack and pocket. I try to buy dried fruits and cheddar crackers in bulk and then bring them with us in reusable bags. We partnered with Lunchskins this year, which is one of the many great options out there to cut down on single use bags. We were also introduced to OreOriginals as well, which have great sandwich containers. Using just one Lunchskin can cut down on 500 single use Ziploc bags. Also, these are great for taking a few wipes out on trail.
9. Clean Up a Trail
Have you ever showed up at a trail and been kind of annoyed that people have left trash? Take that annoyance and make a difference! Plan a clean up hike once a quarter at a trail you know regularly struggles with overuse and trash. It may not be your “favorite” trail, but one that needs your love. Be loud and proud about this clean up and post pictures about what you (and friends) did. The hope is that it will inspire others to do the same.
10. Leave No Trace
If you aren’t familiar with Leave No Trace, check it out. This nonprofit is dedicated to teaching us all how to support nature and get on trail with minimal impact. They have hikes and educators who travel all over to events and teach people how to be more aware on trail. You can go to their website to learn some basics. They even have a program focused on kids. You can also read about some LNT principles on our blog: Leave No Trace -1 and Leave No Trace – 2.