By Lizzy Scully, Photos by Steve Fassbinder
The Dolores River flows 241 miles through Southwest Colorado. We launch our boats at Gypsum Valley, where thousands of tall, yellow reeds snap, snap, snap against each other in the cold, gray and rushing water. We paddle for hours. It is the first of a three-day adventure, where we will travel 35 miles through winding canyons of sandstone cliffs that rise from 200 to 1200 feet above the river. By evening we reach our first camp, nestled in a bend in the Dolores. Across from us is a smooth concave wall that echoes the sound of the river, the bark of our dogs and the murmuring of a dozen friends drinking beers around a campfire tray. I feel at home. This, to me, is the ultimate celebration of the earth. Every day is Earth Day.
I love multi-day trips in the backcountry for the outdoor smells, the stunning views and friendships deepened from shared adventures. So I try to escape the confines of my house nearly every weekend, preferring to “glamp” in my car or sleep under the stars. It’s also equally important to me that I maintain my minimalist and eco-conscious lifestyle both in the front and the backcountry. What does it mean to bring Earth Day into your backcountry adventure?
First and foremost, it means adhering to Leave No Trace principles. This set of outdoor ethics promotes conservation in the outdoors, and their seven guiding principles include: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. Each of these principles not only makes my overall camping experience better, but it leaves things as they are for future visitors. For example, every time my boyfriend, Steve, goes on a trip to the Southwest he finds Native American relics. On this trip he found a tomahawk. He stood on it for hours before realizing what it was. He left it at the camp that is pictured (actually behind the most prominent feature in the photo), hopefully to be enjoyed by a future boater ;)
As well, when possible (and if I’m able to do so without totally annoying others), I share these principles with my campmates. In a previous post I published, “Don't Put Chemical-Ridden Soaps & Sunscreens in Wild Rivers & Streams!”, I explain that it’s best to use camp soaps that are both biodegradable and biocompatible (such as all Green Goo’s perfect-for-camping Castile Soaps or even their new, better-for-the-bathroom Foaming Soaps). But, even then, it’s important to never put soap of any kind directly into water sources, but rather dig a hole a couple hundred feet from the river to allow soap-eating bacteria to actually biodegrade the soap. I was surprised to find that numerous people on our Dolores trip didn’t know this!
Second, I still bring and use all-natural products. If I have to apply Solar Goo on more often because it’s a natural product, so be it. I’d rather reapply it often than put chemicals on my skin, which I always then taste in my mouth. Yuck. Plus, it’s easy to tuck the Solar Stick into my PFD (i.e. personal flotation device), along with a Citrus Zest Lip Balm. Finally, I bring a “luxury” item—organic, natural deodorant. I like Green Goo’s Lemongrass & Sage Deodorant Travel Stick. It’s made with coconut oil, which is a natural anti-bacterial substance. I find I can reapply it frequently to control underarm odor, which I know is not important to a lot of people in the backcountry. But as I always say, there’s no reason to smell bad if you don’t have to.
Third, as I do in my everyday life, I use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs to minimize garbage. Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, but we only recycle 23% of plastics… So what happens to the remaining 38 billion? I hate to think about it. I also hate to see bottles bobbing in eddies while I’m on the river.
Fourth, I buy products from companies that are committed to making extremely durable and long-lived products, and I prefer companies that manufacture in the United States. For example:
- I recently acquired a fantastic Nemo Rave Spoon shape down sleeping bag, despite the fact that my original Montbell bag is going strong after 15 years. Many products from Nemo’s Ditto™ line are up-cycled, waste-saving and made in America.
- Alpacka Raft, which makes all their gear in Colorado and builds ridiculous durable boats;
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack makes all their packs in Maine, and I have one of indestructible Dyneema, which should last me at least 20 years.
- And, of course, though my Green Goo First Aid Salve (which now goes on every overnight adventure) and my Solar Goo don’t last as long as I would like because I use them multiple times per day, I'm a proud user because I know they source almost all of their ingredients in the United States, and they make everything in Lyons, Colorado. Cool.
Each of these companies offer their local employees a living wage. And, sourcing and building everything in the United States means that there is less waste of fossil fuels to transport the products. And durable products mean less landfill material. It's an all-around win, and it brings Earth Day into my every day camping experience.
What are some ways you bring Earth Day into your every day, whether in the backcountry or at home? Share them with us by posting on the Green Goo Facebook page or emailing Lizzy@GreenGooHelps.com.