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Let's have a low-impact day trip

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

With all the talk about our environmental footprints, and the issues with carbon and fossil fuels, I thought I might help you plan a low-waste low-impact outing, as we head into the hottest part of the summer.

Okay, so first of all, you need to decide where you are going, what you’re going to do and how you might get there. If you live in the city, public transit, e-bikes or e-scooters might ease the impact on the environment, but for many of us, those options are not realistic, so we have to default to cars, generally. Of course, if you’re younger and athletic, you can cycle to your favourite nearby spot, depending on what it is you plan to do today.

So let’s say you will stay in rural areas in Durham and Kawartha Lakes and use your car. How many of you are there? Four adults easily fit in a car, so maybe invite a couple of friends to join you, to reduce the impact of having chosen to use your car. While driving to your destination, be cognisant of how fast you are going and what condition your car is in. If the tires are underinflated, and the engine needs tuning, you should have this corrected before you leave.

Wait, shouldn’t you do some stuff before heading out of the driveway? You certainly should. A bit of pre-planning is an essential way to start your waste-free journey. Okay, you planned your route, to ensure you could get there as economically, environmentally and thoughtfully as possible. You have decided what you need to take to ensure you have a good time. However, you haven’t packed a lot of extra stuff, as it only adds weight to your gear and likely won’t be used for the outing.

If you are going some distance, make sure you make coffee at home, or at least go to a coffee house and use your refillable cup, not a throwaway variety, and never use the drive-through! Think you might be hungry on the journey to your destination or when hiking later? Pack your snacks in reusable, lightweight containers and avoid the wasteful packaging of fast food options. Granola bars can be either homemade or repacked at home, by unwrapping them and then putting the wholesome contents into your reusable containers. Think about water. Throwaway water bottles are never a good option, so use your refillable one or get one of those backpack water bladders.

One of the trickiest things to consider is meals. Do you just eat sandwiches you made at home or do you want something more substantial? Doesn’t matter; prepare things at home, as much as is feasible, and then package it sustainably. Avoid plastic bags, which are hard to reuse or recycle. Don’t bring disposable cutlery, cups or plates, bring reusable ones, then take them home and wash them for reuse another day. Instead of napkins, bring a small container of environmentally friendly detergent and a cloth and use that to clean up messy fingers and faces.

Once in the park, think about what you need, toys for the kids, chairs, umbrellas for shade, sunscreen, etc. Most of this can be brought from home, so the impact is minimal. However, for bug juice or sunscreen, think a bit about its impact on the environment; always choose the most environmentally friendly option.

Once your day is complete, it’s time to pack up our gear. Did you leave anything behind? Check twice before you decide to hit the road. What about stuff you might have brought which couldn’t be recycled or reused? If possible, dispose of it properly onsite, but if that is not an option, bring it home and do it there. Often the waste bins at parks are very full, yet depositing waste on the ground beside them is counter-productive.

Travelling with the environment in mind is actually quite easy, we just have to think a bit before we head out. Plan a careful and thoughtful route and think about what we need, not what we want!

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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