Experts’ Guide to Being Kind to the Earth
We are passionate about caring for the Earth, and we couldn’t help but notice that a lot of our experts are, too. To celebrate the places we hike, bike, fish and camp with our families and pets, we asked them for Earth-friendly ideas and advice. And like they always do, they came through.
Leave No Trace
Given how many hikers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts spend time on ExpertVoice, it’s not surprising that so many of them live by the practices of Leave No Trace.
Hi, this is Andrea Daniels with the Expert Collective through ExpertVoice. I’m here to share with you the two ways I reduce my environmental footprints. One is the Leave No Trace. I pack it in, pack it out. I swear by their ethics. Second is the Kula Cloth, my reusable pee cloth. You can make your own design. This is my photograph. I swear by the Kula Cloth. So have a great day. Leave No Trace.
- Andrea Daniels
Here’s what a few more experts said:
Nick Green: “[I] bring a trash bag with me to pack out more than I pack in on every adventure”
Taylor Tolbert: “The biggest thing my family and I are planning on doing is spending more time in the outdoors and while we are out enjoying the sun and fresh air we plan to try and pick up garbage left in our forests and on trails. I think it will help not only keep things cleaned and environmentally helpful but it will also help us remember why we love to be outside. We need to be better as humanity that we live on this earth and we need to keep it clean!”
Andrew Zahurones: “We are planning on having a spring cleaning day around our house now that the weather is warming up. We are going to donate as many items as we can to our local hope gospel mission to give those items new life in someone else's home. Our kids are participating in an environmental challenge of who can pick up the most trash along our local roadways."
Bring a RepYourWater Upcycled Ditty Bag on your adventures, for picking up trash and keeping it separate from your stuff. RepYourWater created the bags out of damaged shirts, giving new life to material that otherwise would have ended up in landfills.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
We asked: “What are you doing to reduce your environmental impact?”
Many experts said they reuse what they can and recycle what they can’t. The top answer: cutting back on single-use plastics.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the majority of plastic (an astonishing 91%) isn't recycled — instead, it makes its way into landfills and the environment. Left alone, those plastics don't break down, they break into smaller pieces called microplastics that harm our health, wildlife and the planet.
Leslie Leslye: “I use washable water containers like Nalgene or Crusher cups to reduce waste from single use bottles or cups. I drink a TON of water every day. I could not imagine the pile of waste if I didn't switch to this.”
Zane Miner: “Trying to walk or bike more places. Also, I try extra hard to use reusable water bottles to use less plastic.”
Sydney Kloehn: “I am making the switch from plastic water bottles to a reusable water bottle. Using no straws and switching to reusable bags.”
Steven Bills: “As a family we have begun to use reusable water bottles and a filtration system at our kitchen sink to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles that we use.”
Amanda Miles-Berry: “Reducing all single-use plastics, using my own water bottle and coffee mug always, walking or biking whenever possible and keeping house temperature lowered in winter to reduce hydro use.”
Kayley Negast: Switching to a water filter system rather than using so many water bottles.”
Steve Walker: “I am using a refillable water (Yeti) instead of plastic water bottles. I am also biking to the store and to other locations rather than driving by truck.”
Use this, not that
The best way to use less is to just, well, use less. Sometimes, that’s a matter of replacing a single-use product with a reusable alternative. Try some of these.
The lifestraw has been an absolute game changer, I carry one in my vehicle and one in my hunting pack, while most streams where I live can be drank from without much risk its still a necessity to have. Wicked easy to use and lasts a long time. I recommend it to anyone who spends a significant amount of time in the woods
I literally love this brand. I owned 5 of their 32 ounce bottles, unfortunately I lost two of them while travelling. I still have 3 of them and I bring them absolutely everywhere. They are durable, long lasting, versatile, and easy to bring anywhere. I use them when I'm skiing, whether it's thrown into a snowbank next to our jump hill or stuffed in my backpack. I also use them while hiking, biking, traveling, playing tennis, running... pretty much every activity ever. My family makes fun of my because I've spent so much time covering each one with specific stickers to make them look distinct. I don't really care though, I love them!
Gotta love these. Less plastic in the world is always a good thing.
Batteries worth getting.
These batteries are very affordable and they work very well. I love the company’s approach to the environment which is one of the reasons why we purchased the batteries from Goal Zero and not from another brand.
We wanted to add a set of real utensils to our car camping kit and avoid plastic and throw aways. The Pioneer Cutlery set is perfect for our needs. It's strong and durable. A minor issue with them is that due to the rounded handle design, they do not nest together at all. I wish there was some sort of roll-up utensil storage bag that came with them. As it is we store them in a zippered pouch. I would love to see a set with flat handles that nests together for easy storage and space savings.
Jacob Munevar: “One thing I have done since 2017 and continue to do in 2021 abstain from eating animal products. Something new I've been doing in 2021 is reducing my waste. Whether it be plastic bags, toothbrushes, or buying bulk items in the grocery store.”
John Blatnik: “Not just in 2021, but over the past three years I've taken steps to reduce my environmental impact. At home, I make sure to recycle cardboard, paper, & plastics with resin code 1-7. During the warmer months here in Cleveland, I bike the 6 miles to work as much as I can. When I go for a drive I make sure to do as many stops as possible on one trip. At work, I make sure I'm recycling cardboard, plastics, & ensuring that chemicals are disposed of properly. The facility I work at still uses a lot of fluorescent tube bulbs. I try to encourage their replacement with LED bulbs whenever possible.”
Zack Tamminga: “Starting to compost at home. Starting a recycling program at work. More reusable bags at the grocery store. More harvested meat and less from stores.”
Victoria Riley: “I recycle all our paper and plastic. Instead of throwing leftovers away I now freeze them for other meals and now I take a lunch box to work instead of using paper bags.”
David Bowman: “Our household keeps all electronics - tv, computers, etc on power strips that are shut off when not in use to ensure that the energy vampires do not use electricity when we are not using them.”
Nathan Schoelier: “Tree planting! Short & simple.”
Michelle Wittman: “I recycle everything, at work I reuse paper & print on the backside, I also recycle used envelopes at work for paperwork that needs to be sent into the office. I use our shredded paper for bedding for our chickens.”
Andrew Bennett: “I became an Ecotarian, practically eliminating my meat intake, only eating local meats for special occasions. Our meat production is one of the most harmful industries to our planet, and any amount of reduction to that will make a huge impact! :)”
Greg Weiss: “We just outfitted our sea kayaking business with 7.2Kw of solar!”
More earth-friendly ideas
Experts also said they've been using reusable shopping bags, taking shorter showers, driving less and trip-chaining.
Use this, not that: Road version
A lot of experts said they keep the car in the garage and walk or ride their bikes (when they can).
“If you ride an acoustic bicycle 300 miles in lieu of driving a car, that product becomes impact neutral. If you ride an e-bike 500 miles in lieu of driving a car, that product is impact-neutral. And every mile you ride beyond that, you are offsetting the impact of all of the raw materials that went into those products.” — Chris Speyer, VP of Product Merchandising at REI
Kelly Mulvaney: “Riding my bike to work as often as I can, switching to a plant-based diet, finding where to recycle items that the city doesn't take, shopping local/small business as much as I can.”
Tim Briley: “Instead of a car, ride your bike!”
Stephen Claydon: “On a personal note I used to drive, since returning my working day has been adjusted so that I can cycle the 4.5 miles, still meet commitments and deliver to my obligations. As a consequence I have also upgraded from MTB and purchased a road bike, this has now developed into a full time, weekend pass time, heathy lifestyle etc.”
Fun Ride for City Riding/Commuting!
This bike is fun to ride! The fat tires make bumpy streets in Northeast Portland feel as if they are a flat and smooth. The aluminum frame is lightweight, even on the XL size bike. The geometry of the bike makes for a comfortable, upright ride. The stock saddle is actually pretty nice. Getting the front disc brake rotor lined up properly took a little bit of work and the barrel adjuster for the derailleur needed a tweak to smooth out shifting, but other than that assembly was a breeze. The matte green color is cool - though I sort of wish I had purchased the bright yellow bike of the previous model year.
A lot of brands want to do what they can to lessen their impact on the environment. Here are the brands that our experts mentioned most frequently when we asked who they admire most for environmental leadership.
The ExpertVoice team also nominated a handful of brands to receive some love for the efforts they make to protect the environment.
icebreaker: Using natural alternatives to plastic-based performance apparel, icebreaker is helping create a more sustainable future. By eliminating acrylics (which contribute microplastic to the ocean when washed) and planning to use only recycled nylon fibers, the brand has a goal of becoming 100% plastic-free by 2023. Soft, biodegradable and renewable merino wool makes up about 80% of the fiber used in icebreaker apparel.
Helly Hansen: Every season, Helly Hansen develops a collection or technology or uses creative materials (like recycled coffee grounds) that take environmentally friendliness to a new level. Lifa Infinity™ Pro, for example, provides waterproofing and breathability without the need for chemical coatings — and gives apparel longer lives since it doesn’t need to be reproofed. Helly Hansen also protects the world’s water supply by limiting water use, pollution and overall greenhouse gas emissions.
iwi: Rather than sourcing omega-3 fatty acids from marine life, iwi uses a vegan source: algae. And the brand grows its own algae on sustainable farms that use resources other farmers steer clear from. Iwi’s open-pond operation uses desert land, sunlight and saltwater — which it recycles over 98% of back into the operation). And since algae grows at such a remarkable rate, iwi believes the crop will be the answer to the world’s need for a sustainable protein source.
Host Defense Mushrooms: In addition to actively reducing its carbon footprint, Host Defense has committed to being climate positive, meaning it supports projects that offset its carbon footprint. The brand’s research team is also studying and experimenting with mushroom-based solutions that support and protect natural resources. For example, Host Defense is studying colony collapse and experimenting with mushroom mycelium extracts as a beneficial source of nutrition for bees.
Zeal Optics: Using less and giving back are two of Zeal Optics’ major initiatives. The brand’s 100% plant-based sunglass frames and lenses break down quicker than traditional petroleum-based ones, and goggles (produced at a solar-powered factory) are shipped with recyclable material in place of foam inserts. The brand also removes plastic from the oceans and plants trees for products sold, and partners with organizations that support the environment and protect public lands.
Cotopaxi: The Gear for Good brand has a goal to make 100% of its product lines out of materials that are certified as either responsible, recycled or repurposed by 2022. Cotopaxi designs already focus on minimizing waste, and the brand creates many of its pieces (such as Del Dia packs and Teca fleece) using leftover fabrics, giving them purpose rather than seeing them end up in landfills. Cotopaxi also has its sights set on achieving carbon neutrality by reducing and offsetting 100% of its carbon footprint.
“What environmentally friendly features do you look for when buying a new product?”
Experts' top answer was recycled content and whether the products, themselves, were reusable or recyclable. Experts also look for whether a brand:
Has Certified B Corp status, Energy Star Certification or other energy ratings
Commits to low or no carbon footprint
Plants trees or donates to environmental causes
Uses solar energy or other renewable energy
Uses bluesign®-approved materials
One of the best ways to use less is to invest in quality — buy gear and apparel that needs to be repaired or replaced less often.
Typical 5.11 quality
Ive had this pack for nearly 10 years now and its still 100% operational. Sure, it shows some wear from continuous use and visits to three continents. I don't baby my gear and I expect it to perform. But there are zero tears, blown out seams, broken zippers. Nothing. Its as fully operational as new. Its 1000D nylon and it makes ALL the difference. Nearly infinitely configurable with tons of molle loop everywhere and internal pouches and compartments of a variety of sizes. Some are solid and others are mesh and ventilated. I've used this bag for EVERY purpose imaginable and I've never found it lacking
Jacob Helmka: “I like quite a bit of recycled materials or products that use scraps or old material, like my Flow-Fold wallet. But to be honest, I really prefer the product that will last me the longest. It's what is great about ExpertVoice, I can find the longest lasting product. In most my hobbies I adhere to "cry once, buy once!"
Recently I've been bummed about how long things last, especially footwear. These have been going strong for me for a year, with understandable tread wear. You'll need to double knot the laces, but they have held up well, fit my foot (I'd say "true to size") and provide a nice balance between traction, mobility, and support.
Michael Orlow: “Not throwing out any gear, but donating, fixing, or using the material to make/repair new equipment.”
oh *clap* my *clap* god *clap* These pants are legit. I have run the GAMUT looking for wool leggings/pants that are warm but breathable, and that I wouldn't walk through within a year of buying them (my thighs rub together when I walk). I'd tried most of the other brands you think of when you hear 'wool clothes', but I hadn't tried icebreaker because I was scared away by the price, having been burned by equally costly pants in the past. I did have a sweatshirt and a cap from icebreaker I wore a lot, and recently, I finally felt like I had enough $$ to give them a shot. They were so worth it I bought another pair a week after receiving the first. These are warm and comfortable, travel well (I just wore them for three days out of a five day vacation), and fit under my sailing foulies so I know they'll be a good option on race days. TBD if they'll function as ski long underwear, but I sized down when I bought my second pair in hopes they'll fit under my ski pants. I would call them 3.5 season pants, since they work even in summer for cool early mornings or late evenings. My one ding is the pocket situation -- it's really nice to have the option, but even though they feel deep, they don't hold gear well. I lost a lipstick and a chapstick on this last trip because of the pockets, but it's not really enough for me to dislike these pants.
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