Katherine Donnelly | 12.26.2018

There's no denying that it is an interesting time in the outdoor industry. More and more people are gaining access to nature and integrating the joy that outdoor recreation brings to their lives into their daily, weekly, and monthly routines. Through day trips in the city, vacations to bucket-list destinations, and multi-day trips into lesser-known wilderness areas, the growing population of outdoor recreationists creates an increased need for everyone to take a few additional steps towards creating better outdoor habits. With more people comes more impact, and it's as simple as that. And while we are fully in support of an outdoors for everyone, we also believe that each and every one of us needs to be a voice for the land that has none. It's not a new idea: with more people comes more impact, and it's up to all of us to be respectful, thoughtful, and considerate—not just to the natural world that we love so much, but also to those we are sharing it with.

Regardless of one's location, preferred method of adventuring, or ability and experience level, there are five main items that outdoor lovers should always have on their mind as they take their explorations into the new year. Whether or not you call these resolutions is up to you. For us, the below items are on our eternal to-do list—as a growing business and as a group of individuals who are truly in love with spending time outside.

1. Be Inclusive

Photo by Fernando Boza.

2018 has proved to be an incredible year full of industry campaigns, initiatives, and efforts to create a more inclusive outdoors. Organizations are popping up around the country to inspire, connect, and engage more people with the outdoors—including Latino Outdoors, Unlikely Hikers, Outdoor Afro, Indigenous Women Hike, OUT There Adventures, among many others. After all, the outdoors doesn't care what someone might look like, and neither should any one person. Gender, race, religion, age, sexuality, size, shape, and social status shouldn't have any bearing on whether someone can access nature or be an outdoor recreationist. But the cruel reality is that there are still daily incidents where people are discriminated against in the very places that they feel most at home, all based on their appearance or background.

As with any sort of change, it takes time. We urge you to take the new year to build upon the strides that 2018 brought about for many minority communities of the outdoors. In your 2019 explorations, make a conscious effort to be welcoming and encouraging to everyone you meet on the trail, crag, summit, beach, and everywhere in between. Lend a hand to anyone in need, start a conversation with someone new, and take the time to put yourselves in a person's shoes before getting frustrated or passing judgment.

Most importantly, be an ambassador for the outdoors. Invite a wide range of people out with you on adventures, and introduce those within your community who don't already participate to new activities. Consider immersing yourself into your local community and helping to introduce underserved youth to the outdoors, whether it be a city park in your neighborhood or the national park in the next state over. Stand up and speak out against any discrimination or disrespectful behavior that you might encounter, and use the outdoors as a pressure valve for the often tense and contemptuous conversations of our complex social lives.

There's no wrong way to be more inclusive in the new year, so it's up to you on the efforts you make come 2019. It all comes down to the idea that we are all humans looking to spend time with Mother Nature, and we all deserve to do this without being discriminated against. Period.

2. Be Respectful + Responsible

Photo by Tyson Gillard.

In the same breath as being inclusive, you should also be respectful and responsible when enjoying the outdoors. You have likely already heard our two cents on this matter, as this is a topic that we discuss on Outdoor Project a lot. But it still remains a practice that may people, ourselves included, need to continue to keep in the front of their minds when interacting with nature, wildlife, and other recreationists.

Be courteous to the people you meet on the trail. Pick up after yourself and work to mitigate your physical impact on the lands you're exploring. Practice Leave No Trace, and always try to leave a place better than how you found it. Pay as much respect to those whose land you are on as you do to the land itself. Take responsibility for your adventures, your impact, and your demeanor while outside. Don't just try to keep the outdoors as it is, but rather work towards being a steward for improved recreation and a better outdoor community. And always remember that, no matter how cute or how good the photo might come out, give wildlife space; it's their home, and you're merely a guest. Even if they come up to you, which is likely to happen with so much habituation in wildlife around the globe.

3. Give Back + Be an Outdoor Advocate

Photo by Jaime Johnson.

Again, there shouldn't be any surprise that this one makes the list. It's imperative to give back to the places we love most, and we are constantly touting this within our content, our social posts, and throughout our community correspondence. But we do see 2019 as a new chance to invigorate our efforts to give back and be an outdoor advocate, whether it be making monetary contributions to efforts near and dear to our hearts, running trail work days at your local trail system, or advocating for land conservation and protection by attending a rally or calling your representative. 

There are countless ways to be a steward for the outdoors, and the first step is figuring out what you want to stand for. It is nearly impossible for an individual to make a global impact on their own, but when you focus your time, efforts, and passion on something small and work your way up, big things can happen. Find your voice, hone in on your strengths, and narrow down your mission so that you can effectively take action that will make a real difference—to the land itself and the community built around it. For example, if you have a large social following, perhaps you can work to educate and activate your audience. Or say there is a local bike trail near your home that gets very little attention or maintenance, and you happen to have a free Saturday coming up. Rally your friends to meet at the trailhead with shovels to make some repairs to the worn trail.

The moral of the story here is that everyone has their part to play in giving back, and there is no such thing as a wrong or right way to do so. Find a way to integrate outdoor advocacy into your life, no matter how large or small, and not only will the outdoors benefit, but we bet that your life will, too.

4. Take the Time to Disconnect + Be Present

Photo by Matthew King.

Now this resolution is more for your own personal well-being rather than having a direct impact on the people or land around you, but we can (nearly) guarantee that taking the time to disconnect and truly immerse yourself with nature will inadvertently lead to a happier, more motivated you. There is so much to be learned from the outdoors, from the humbling grandeur of towering mountain ranges to the smells and sounds found on the forest floor. So take those headphones out, leave your phone in the car, and take a walk.

Let your feet take you to new places, and be present in what is happening around you. Forget what's going on at work, those medical bills that might be piling up, and even those new scratches on the side of your truck from driving in to the trailhead. None of that matters, and nature is 100% the best way to put everything around you into perspective. Your body and mind will relish in the experience—and you might be surprised to learn a huge amount about yourself in the process. 

While we're on the topic, let's talk about social media a bit. If you are driven to get out on your next adventure purely for the 'gram, then you're not doing it right. Don't get outside just for the selfies, but rather for your self—although we totally understand if you take a few snaps along the way. Be courteous, respectful, and don't put yourself, others, nature, or wildlife at risk to get the shot; it's not only incredibly rude, but it can (and has) lead to personal injury, increased impact, and even more severe consequences. For more on social media and it's impact on the outdoors, take a minute to read our recent article, Like It or Not: The Realities of Social Media in the Outdoors.

5. Act Sustainably

Photo by Halvor Tweto.

This goes further than just your impact to your favorite trails and local stomping grounds. It also applies to your everyday life more so than any other item on this list. We are lucky enough to live in a time of great innovation and rising awareness around conservation efforts as well as human impacts on both land and sea—and with these modern times and greater knowledge comes the responsibility to act as sustainably as possible. There's no denying that it's not easy to change engrained habits, and you will likely find that a combination of more time, effort, or money is required to become more sustainable in your adventures and day-to-day life.

But this isn't about going plastic-free or eliminating your carbon footprint overnight—although a giant kudos to anyone who is able to do that. This is more about the incremental change, the ability to find small ways to improve on your personal impacts one step at a time. And this can look very different from one person to the next. Maybe you stop off at Starbucks every morning on your way to work, have an annual retreat to a far-off corner of the earth with college friends, or you constantly update your gear closet when the newest technology hits the market. We're not here to judge, but rather instill in your mind the questions of, "How can I change my habits to be more sustainable and better for the greater good? How does this effect the natural world, both in the short-term and in the long-term?" By asking yourself these questions, you'll begin to think sustainably—which is the first and most important step to acting sustainably.

Start bringing a reusable mug for your morning coffee instead of using single-use items. Keep the bulk of your adventures to nearby trails rather than international endeavors, where less transportation, and resulting energy demand, is required. Buy used, recycle and upcycle your gear, and when something breaks try to fix it rather than replace it. Commute to work by bike or public transportation rather than by car. Buy your groceries in the bulk section and bring your own reusable bags. These are just a few examples of how one person can make small changes to their lives in an effort to create less waste—especially with plastics—and become more sustainable. If we all begin to make small strides towards being a better consumer and adventurer, we can expect to see more robust change as an outdoor community... and beyond!

We would love to hear what resolutions and efforts you are making toward a better outdoors in 2019!

Share in the comment section below.


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