The end goal for many outdoor enthusiasts is all about being green friendly.
But what does that term mean, exactly?
Does it mean purchasing compostable bowls that go in a landfill anyway buried under literal tons of other garbage? Eschewing certain clothing? Or buying objects with a green leaf prominently displayed with packaging in tasteful earth-tone colors?
I ask this because of recent events in the news about fires, flooding, and other calamities that get people talking about climate change.
You’ll hear people discuss how they are vegan or drive a hybrid or bike everywhere to do their part.
But is that feel-good activism that ignores what people can effectively do to limit their carbon footprint?
As usual, the most effective answer means hard choices. Choices about not having a family (the most effective option by leaps and bounds), and working and traveling locally. How many people, myself included, can make these choices realistically?
But, much like the “Don’t Litter” campaign of the 1970s. We take the onus of the hard choices away from government and corporations and put it on the consumer…with less effectiveness.
When so many companies throughout the world work in partnership with the government to help cause the mess we find our selves in, why are people all about buying Fritos with a green label on it?
Of course, just throwing your hands up and saying there is nothing you can do about it is not a healthy attitude, either.
But it takes more than just eschewing fleece because of microplastics. Or buying another pack you don’t need, consuming resources with transportation, packaging, manufacturing, etc. to save some grams on your pack weight.
Does reusing a fleece that never wears out better than a garment that is” greener,” but you replace every couple of years of hard use?
Is constantly maxing out a credit card for a dopamine fix of new goods an excellent way to support your values?
Is driving, or flying, many hours to go mountain biking, hiking, or climbing for a weekend more environmentally friendly than the local rancher with a MAGA hat driving a diesel truck for maybe 100 miles a week?
I ask all these questions because too often, Americans love simple slogans on a bumper sticker rather than nuanced discussion.
The theoretical rancher would never call themselves an environmentalist. Yet they have an older vehicle they maintain rather than buying new, live a less consumer-driven life, and stay local to go hunting, fishing, and camping in the nearby mountains. Arguably more sustainable choices rather than driving or flying across the country to go on trips with internet-famous people.
Yet our theoretical rancher may also support the expansion of extraction industries.
I think, in the end, to be so-called green friendly is not just buying feel-good products or the car you drive.
It is a lifestyle change.
For all of us.
What we can do is make a more minimalist life overall: buy fewer products, live in a smaller home, go out to eat less often, use current products longer, etc.
But it can also mean more challenging choices: Do you want a smaller family? What is the impact of your recreation travel? Can you work and recreate closer to home for a lifestyle that means less money?
And the most demanding choice: Voting for policies and politicians that put longer-term growth and health over shorter-term profits. Meaning research, activism, and not complacency, and most of all, not just burying your head in the sand to avoid these tough discussions. After all, corporations cause over 70% of the pollution despite whatever logo you have on your reusable shopping bag.
I don’t have any 100% correct answers. And I have flaws myself. What I do know is that you will not find the solution as a hashtag, a bumper sticker, or some heartwarming meme that makes you feel all verklempt.
We need to stop with this Green Catholicism that attempts to guilt and shame people for their sins while proving moral superiority.
We need discussion and nuance. And asking the hard question and do an honest assessment of your life and what you do to limit your impact overall.
And continue to fight the good fight and your best not to let the bastards get away with shirking their duty to society at the expense of us all.