Low Impact Travel: Going to the Snow

My feet in my snowshoes!

I think, a lot of times, people perceive a ecology-centered lifestyle (or green…I’m never really sure what terminology to use) as being restrictive.  It’s not an outlandish conclusion to come to, really.  Essentially, when making decisions in an ecosystem context, you’re thinking not just about yourself, but the system in which you live.  In that framework, sometimes the easiest, most convenient, or even funnest option isn’t the very best choice.  This can seem like, well, a bummer.  However, I think you will find that with a little effort and proper prior planning you can still enjoy the activities you love!  I’ll give you an example of an adventure I went on with some lady-ecologists this past weekend.

Not like the snow was deep or anything

One of my friends in graduate school, A, is from Florida originally, and since winter has rolled in she has been jonesing to get to the snow!  Lucky for her, I am always game for an outdoor adventure, and we quickly found a few co-conspirators.  With a little quick research, A found that we could rent snow shoes from the campus outdoor club for 10 dollars for the whole weekend.  Renting or borrowing equipment that you will only use occasionally is one excellent way to lessen the impact of your adventures.  You can think of it as reusing on the social level!  So, on Friday, after my TA meeting, I tottered on down to the outdoor adventure accessorizer, and rented my snowshoes.  Easy peasie.  I also borrowed a pair of gaiters from one of the other girls coming along because I lack proper snow-playing  gear (I’d been living in SoCal for 3 years).

Lake Tahoe from afar

Originally, A and I had planned to head up to Lake Tahoe on Saturday night with a full car of friends and stay at a fellow student’s parent’s cabin, and another group planned to drive up Sunday morning early and meet us for the day.  However, around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, due to a number of circumstances, the volume of passengers in the car dropped to just A and myself.  We regrouped and called the Sunday morning crew.  Did they all want to carpool together on Sunday morning?  The deal was done, and we all had more time to do work (oh joy).  Carpooling is an extremely important part of lessening the impacts of your adventures.  If your schedule is flexible, taking the train or bus are also great options!  I used this carbon footprint calculator to estimate the emissions from our trip.  With 4 of us in the car, I estimate we emitted 0.09 metric tons of CO2.  That’s only 0.023 metric tons of CO2 each as opposed to 0.04 if we had stuck with the original plan and driven in pairs.  Additionally, considering the vehicle you choose to drive is key.  If I can avoid it, I never take my car on adventures unless it will be FULL of gear, surfboards, or people because the gas millage is not the best.

You have rented, you have carpooled, and now you are on your adventure!  Time to have a blast and/or marvel at nature (depending on the brand of adventure you have chosen).  Make sure you pack your own food and water to the greatest extent possible to reduce the unnecessary plastic wrapping associated with buying food on the go.  I go into some examples of the types of foods I like on the go here.  On this adventure, I had a few granola bars (weird composite wrapping, too bad) and lots of fruit!

Lower Echo Lake
How long could we have resisted?

After this weekend, I would highly recommend that everyone go on a winter adventure ASAP.  As we discussed on our hike, the deep snow makes LNT (leave no trace) hiking super easy.  You don’t have to worry about messing up trails, damaging vegetation, or contributing to erosion because…you’re just walking on top of the snow!  It was also wonderful to get out into nature as it really helped me to decompress.  I’m never sure how much to write about it here, but being a graduate student is really stressful.  I’m busy a lot, and that’s why my posting here isn’t super regular.  However, when I spend time on non-academic things on purpose, I’m much more productive during my week.  And running around this winter wonderland was a great use of my time!

Really guys, don’t even try and park here.

Last Word:  Adventuring while living an environmentally conscious life is possible!  All you need is a little bit of creativity and desire to make a good plan.  Knowing I put in just that little extra effort makes me feel even more excited about my current/future endeavors   Over the last weekend, my major green decisions were to rent/barrow gear, carpool, and pack lots of snacks!  Next time you long for an adventure, try to implement at least one (maybe two!) of these strategies, and try to find a way to measure the results.  I love looking at the numbers and seeing the impacts of my decisions.

 What do you think?  Are there things you could do to make your adventures easier on the planet?  Any tips for low impact travel that I haven’t mentioned in this post?  I would love to hear them!     


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