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Published on December 18th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Eco Friendly Outdoor Recreation

The more time we spend in urban environments, the more important it is to get away from life as we know it and venture into the great outdoors.  Outdoor sports and recreation do much more than simply promote mind and body wellness.  Being out and active in nature facilitates our connection with the world around us, even if our time investment extends to just a few moments everyday.

And while many of us appreciate the wonder of the outdoors, probably very few of us head off to our recreational activities with a concept of what eco-friendly recreation really is.

Although you might assume that outdoor recreation is 100% environmentally friendly, the commercialization of the sports industry over the last several years has birthed various forms of outdoor recreational activity that are technology dependent, and are not necessarily synonymous with protecting the environment.

The good news is that in recent years, people have become more aware of the trends toward commercialization, and some organizations are taking notice and gradually beginning to consider the environmental impact of organized sporting events.  The Olympic movement for example, has upheld the cause of the environment and sustainability for its much loved games since the early nineties.  The committee plans the lifecycle of each Olympic Games several years in advance, taking measures to minimize its environmental footprint and maximize the efficient use of resources.

But you don’t have to wait for the Olympic Games in your effort to go green with outdoor sports and recreation.  Closer to home, there is a lot that you can do on a smaller scale.

Get Up and Go

Camping SceneWhen it comes to health and fitness, the world is at your fingertips.  You can save money and resources by cutting down on costly gym memberships in favor of an outdoor fitness program instead.  Remember, it does not take much to get out into the open for a run or a walk.  Green hiking and green biking opportunities give us the chance to smell the morning air, or the earth after a good rain.

Camping is a great activity when the weather allows it.  However, it has become an issue recently since there are so many campers out there during the summer and fall seasons, many of whom are not responsible or respectful of their outdoor lodging.  If you do go camping, remember not to throw your waste just anywhere—most campsites will have pre-marked garbage disposal areas.  You might also want to plan in advance to use eco-friendly camping supplies such as biodegradable products, phosphate-free soap, solar tents, and green dishes and utensils.  Above all, watch out for Styrofoam and other items labeled “disposable” because, chances are, they will not provide a natural fit for the environment.

For a centering and restorative activity, consider the practice of outdoor yoga (the mountains and forests of ancient India, birthplace of yoga, provided the original outdoor studios for sun salutations).  Outdoor fitness opportunities help to connect your soul with Mother Earth, build strength while allowing you to breathe in fresh air, and supply you with plenty of natural Vitamin D courtesy of the sun.  These activities come at no cost, except for maybe a good pair of shoes that you can purchase from a green sporting goods store.  For activities like yoga, walking, or water sports, up the ante on your commitment to green recreation by looking for earth-friendly recreational shoes made with a combination of natural and recycled materials.

…(when camping) plan in advance to use eco-friendly camping supplies such as biodegradable products, phosphate-free soap, solar tents, and green dishes and utensils.

Swimming is great exercise and probably the easiest outdoor activity to consider, as long as the water source is clean and is left that way.  See if you can find a lake or a natural reservoir to visit.  It is so much more fun to keep within the constraints of nature rather than visit commercial swimming pools which require immense amount of maintenance and the addition of harsh chemicals like chlorine.  You might turn swimming into a therapeutic experience if you can find a hot spring to visit.

If you need help finding the ideal hiking trail, visit for a comprehensive list of trails and topographical maps for hiking, mountain biking, paddling, skiing, hot springs, and climbing.

Organized Green Sports

Plenty of green recreational activities abound for the more adventurous.  Sailing enthusiasts can partake in one of the oldestKayaking means of emission-free travel.  So why not take up sailing as your recreational activity of choice?  Choose a sailboat or yacht that is powered up and propelled by water or wind.  Or if you must use an engine-powered yacht, select one with an eco-friendly generator that puts the boat on auto-pilot, helping to cut back on fuel consumption and pollution.

Outdoor recreation companies offer group-led trips for those new to the sport, as well as for seasoned enthusiasts.  Scope out seasonal trips that offer green biking (which includes mountain biking as well as road cycling), green hiking, and other eco-friendly recreation options like surfing, kayaking, and snow boarding.

Buy Consciously

Developing a love for the outdoors naturally leads to researching green sporting good options that are produced and designed to be used with a minimal impact nature.  While it is no doubt extremely important to select outdoor gear for its performance ability, bear in mind that green sporting products offer the same functionality with less cost to the environment.

Look for snowboards made of bamboo, kayaks made from by-products of fossil fuels, or hemp-covered surfboards made from balsa wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Plan for multi-day green hiking trips using recycled plastic underwear and fleece, recycled rubber-soled walking boots, and organic cotton climbing pants.  Campers and backpackers also have an abundance of eco-friendly product options for the choosing, such as shakable flashlights, and waterproof or UV-protective clothing.

Go Fish

Fishing is an activity that although still very popular, has become far less accessible for those that enjoy it.  Aside from giving you the opportunity to bring home the meal of the day in a perfectly eco-friendly manner, it provides the opportunity to get away from people, crowds, and the noise of the city.  Green fishing is about much more than just the catch—it is about understanding that like all wild animals, fish play an important role in our eco-system and your recreational fishing trip should therefore be focused around preserving the integrity of marine habitats.  Choosing good fishing gear is essential for minimizing the incidence of by-catch, the accidental catch of other marine species.  If you are new to fishing, it is a good idea to educate yourself about the particular fish that you’re setting out to catch.  Educating yourself prepares you for the accidental catch of a baby fish or another, perhaps endangered species, so that you know to return them to their aqueous habitat.

Whatever your choices of eco-friendly recreation, the basic objectives are the same.  Green recreation:

  • Conserves resources by enabling you to take advantage of what nature readily provides.
  • Cuts down on pollution by minimizing activities which require the use of sophisticated machines that emit harmful gases.
  • Helps to build innate mind and body strength and foster your connection with the natural world.
  • Contributes to preserving a legacy that future generations can enjoy.

Article Contributors: Reenita Malhotra Hora

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