How to be an eco-friendly hiker

I consider myself a friend of nature. With it comes an effort to leave as low impact on the nvironment during my travels as possible. Today, I’ll share some ways to be an eco-friendly hiker.

Use mass transport

Nothing else I’ll mention will ever come closer in impact than this. The worst you can do for the nature is drive solo. Car sharing helps but using public transport means you’re only sharing a bit of carbon trace that’s already present – the bus or train would operate anyway with or without you. And the demands on eco-efficiency of public transport vehicles increase each year. Likewise for power plants which then fuel electric vehicles (whether a bus or a train).

The only limitation comes with the quality (or lack of it) in a specific country. In my case (central Europe), that’s fortunately not a problem.

A hare found its way to the train station…

Plus, you get to relax instead of being focused on driving.

Bring your own supplies

Buying food/drink in a stand out there means further increasing the amount of waste you produce because most things have to be packaged in some way. On the other hand, if you pack food and drink at home, in the amount you need – easily doable for one- or two-day hike – you can make sure to only use the least amount of packaging necessary.

If you buy a bottle of whatever at the train station, it’s one more bottle to add to the pile of waste produced each year. If it’s a disposable packaging, even worse.

Which gets me to the next point…

Reuse packaging

A plastic bottle, if it’s durable enough, can be cleaned and reused a few times. There are ways to store your drink that have much higher reusability – either in the kind of reusable bottle you can see used by professional cyclists or hockey players (raise your hand if you’ve never seen the typical bottle-flip when a slapshot hits the upper corner of the net). Another option, which I use unless it’s freezing, is a camel-bag – for which many hiking backpacks have a slot prepared. Plus the over-shoulder ‘hose’ means you can take a sip any moment without stopping and putting your bag down.

And a snackbox is better than a bunch of plastic bags while lasting much longer.

Archive picture (2017) – notice the ‘hose’ over my shoulder.

Take care of your gear

The best thing to do for the environment is to not buy stuff unless you need it. Everything succumbs to wear over time but, by taking good care of your gear, you can make sure your gear lasts as long as possible.

And when its days are over, look for a way to reuse it elsewhere before tossing it – and if possibl, recycle. Boots that are too worn to be safe for hiking may still serve a few more years for garden work, for example.

Don’t litter and don’t smoke

It’s a shame this isn’t as obvious as it should be to some people. The nature can decompose bodily waste so relieving yourself is not an issue. Anything else is. A can takes a decade or two to decompose. Plastics and glass may never decompose on their own.

When it comes to smoking, it’s not just about the litter itself but about the fact that the filters absorb a great deal of poisons from tobacco smoke which are then released as it deteriorates. Plus, there’s the risk of starting a forest fire, especially as dry summers are becoming more common.

A passive-aggressive sign in one of the Czech natural reserves: the tracks of lynx, deer, humans

To fly or not to fly?

Now, let’s touch the topic of vacations. There was a lot of outcry and almost demonization of flying after Greta’s speech.

Let’s get honest now. Vacationers only take a small fraction of the passengers. It’s not like many people could affort to fly a lot, even in the richer countries.

Business flights and private jets are the real problem, more so today when the same could be achieved with videoconference – which would save the companies money for not paying the tickets and the employees two doses of jet lag.

For the average person, the only issue would be a flight on a short distance when the plane doesn’t reach the ‘optimal’ altitude (the most fuel-hungry part of the flight is the take-off and early ascension, while flying in high-altitude is quite efficient), especially flights shorter than ~1000km – a distance that could be covered by train, more so in countries with high-speed railways.

So, that’s it from me. Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic – and see you next time.

2 thoughts on “How to be an eco-friendly hiker

    • You have a point there. There are some clean-up efforts, usually on Earth day. Yet, as long as the infrastructure (such as lack of trash bins) is insufficient in the busiest places, it’s only treating the symptom. And some people won’t ever care, which is why I focused on what one can do on their own.


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