Celebrating Earth Day
Being someone who is passionate about the outdoors, I believe that Earth Day should be every day. However, it's great there is a specific day each year where all attention is turned to celetrating the Earth. The first Earth Day was in 1970, created by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Congressman Pete McCloskey, and young activist Denis Hayes, after many years of concernment regarding the deteriorating environment in the U.S., April 22nd was the chosen day for Earth Day, and Hayes gathered a staff of 85 to create events all over the nation to rally and protest against the negative effects we have had on the environment. Earth Day went global in 1990, and has continued to grow significantly over the years, with now having more than a billion people around the world recognizing the day. You can read more about the history of Earth Day here.
I have always had a love for the outdoors, but the passion for creating a positive impact on the enviroment really sparked in 2017 when I first learned about Leave No Trace. I attended Central Michigan University and took a Leave No Trace class where we learned the 7 principles and became Leave No Trace Trainers. Most of the principles seemed like common sense to me since I had grown up camping and was taught things like not leaving garbage around and not bothering any wildlife. It was cool to gain a deeper knowledge of each principle and why they are important. In 2019, I took a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course, where I learned even more about the ethics and principles. I am happy to have been able to take these courses and can spread the knowledge of Leave No Trace.
The Leave No Trace Principles are important in both the front country and the back country. Next time you go on an adventure, make sure to refresh your knowledge on these principles so you can recreate responsibly.
In the time leading up to your adventure, plan ahead so you are prepared for anything. A lot of thought should go into your planning, whether it's just a day trip or a multiple day trip. What will the weather be like? Do you have enough food and water? Will there be bathrooms, or do you need to bring a trowel? Are pets allowed at the location(s) you're going to? What are the experience levels of everyone in your party? These are just a handful of questions that should be on your mind while planning for any outdoor adventure.
While in the outdoors, it is important to leave as little impact on the environment as possible so that it stays in good condition for others to enjoy.
Whatever you are doing in the outdoors, hiking, biking, etc., it is important to stay on trail. Going off trail can damage trailside plants, flowers, and small trees. Some things may not grow back if they are trampled. If you are staying overnight in the wilderness, only camp in designated campsites or on a durable surface. Leave No Trace states that "good campsites are found, not made."
Before leaving a campsite or pit stop on trail, pick up any garbage that you see and carry it out. If there are no bathrooms available, find a spot about 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water sources, and dig a hole 6-8 inches deep for human waste. Remember that if you pack it in, you must pack it out.
While on your adventures, you'll find a lot of beautiful treasures, but make sure you leave them how you find them. Taking plants, rocks, or historical items out of their enviroment is harmful and will also take away the opportunity for other visitors to enjoy them. Taking a photo of the things you find in the wild will be just as great, I promise.
If you plan on cooking outdoors, use a stove when you can. Stoves create less of an impact on the enviroment and are easier to cook on than a fire. If you do want to have a campfire, make sure you check the fire and firewood regulations in the area. Don't build your fire up bigger than it needs to be, do not burn your garbage, and make sure the fire is completely out before you leave it.
There is a good chance you'll see wildlife on your adventure. Keep the wildlife wild by not feeding, approaching, or following them. Do not leave any food on the ground and make sure to securely store all meals and waste. If you want to watch the wildlife, view from a safe distance. A helpful trick to see if you are far enough away from wildlife is to hold your arm out straight, give a thumbs up, and close one eye -- if your thumb completely blocks the wildlife you're looking at, you are at a safe distance, but if you can still see the wildlife around your thumb, you should back up. It is important to respect the wildlife because we do not want them to get used to humans, form bad habits, or attack visitors. Remember that we are entering their homes, so we should respect them.
Lastly, it is important to be considerate of other visitors, both visitors you may see and interact with, and visitors that come to the area after you. Leave room while passing others (or being passed) on the trail, leave sites better than you found them, and avoid being loud. Other visitors are outside to have fun and enjoy nature, just like you, so it's great to ensure that everyone else is able to enjoy themselves.
For more information about the Leave No Trace Principles, visit https://lnt.org/
There are events put on all over the globe for people to attend and participate in to celebrate Earth Day.
A specific event that I have participated in is the Bob Ross "Run for the Trees" Happy Little (Virtual) 5k, hosted by the Michigan DNR. I ran this virtual 5k race for the past two years, and the proceeds from registration went towards tree planting and forest protection efforts in Michigan State Parks. Participating in this event was awesome because I got to spend time outdoors celebrating Earth Day, while also helping out the parks.
Be on the lookout for any events near you! Other ways you can celebrate Earth Day is to do a trash pick-up in a nearby park or trail, or just spend time out in nature and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. If you do a trash pick-up, don't forget to share it with us using #TrashFromTrails! Our trash collection cylinder Mountainous Trashicus is currently at 4 feet!
What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day? Leave a comment below!