Being outdoors and exploring nature in and around Madison has become a go-to activity of mine. It’s rejuvenating to visit a new place and to be among plants and wildlife, as well as a great way to get outside and socialize with friends.
Spending more time outside also elevates why I care deeply about sustainability projects and actions to maintain a healthy environment for future generations. As you adventure outside, consider these seven tips to be a more sustainable visitor in nature:
1. PACK LIGHT & CREATIVELY
Take time to think about what you’re bringing on your outing. It may be difficult to go 100% waste-free, so strive for improvements that work for you. Try packing your own snacks in reusable Tupperware. And, if you are packing a picnic or ordering food along the way, bring reusable plates and silverware.
Remember that you don’t need to buy fancy new hiking or biking gear — your regular clothes, long-loved Tupperware and everyday reusable water bottle are most sustainable.
2. CHOOSE LOW-IMPACT TRANSPORTATION
Consider walking, riding your bike or roller skating/blading (anyone else seeing more people around on shoes with wheels?). Or, rent an electric Madison Bcycle to reach your destination. Many people have already been using their vehicles less. Extend that new habit and find alternatives to solo driving. And if you drive an electric vehicle, then kudos to you for rocking sustainable travel.
3. LEAVE NO TRACE
Trash on the ground outdoors can be harmful to the local ecosystem. Even biodegradable items, like banana peels and apple cores, are still important to put in a trash can. They can take years to decompose fully and might teach animals to look for food from hikers.
If you don’t find trash bins along your trails and parks, keep the trash in your own bag to throw away, recycle or compost once you get home. If you’re unsure about what is and is not recyclable or compostable, the City of Madison has all of the information you will need.
4. GIVE BACK
Support local parks and check out their conservation efforts. If you have a favorite park, why not find out if they may need volunteers? Sustain Dane partners with local organizations to offer monthly volunteer events. For example, over the last few years we have worked with Lussier Family Heritage Center on various projects including removing invasive species from their gardens.
5. BE A RESPECTFUL VISITOR
Being sensitive towards and appreciating biodiversity and local cultures is important. Stay on the marked trail as vegetation can be unique and fragile. As tempting as it may be, don’t cut the switchbacks or pick wildflowers. Sticking to the path prevents further erosion to trails and disturbance of protected habitats. If you’re camping, try to choose a spot without a lot of vegetation or with a naturally-cleared flooring. Thicker trees are better for hammocking as well.
6. TAKE YOUR INSPIRATION HOME
Did you find inspiration outdoors? Consider ways to support sustainable choices in all parts of your life and in your sphere of influence so that our beautiful natural environments continue to thrive. Sign on to shared solar or green power tomorrow, start to compost or plant a pollinator garden, reuse materials in your home and say goodbye to single-use water bottles, silverware, etc.
On Friday, April 7th, Sustain Dane will be offering their Accelerate Sustainability Workshop. This workshop is a half day gathering that provides individuals and organizations with tools, people, and case studies that will help implement sustainability projects into the workplace or one’s personal life.
7. VISIT A HIDDEN GEM
Madison offers over 200 miles of trails and more than 270 parks. Instead of visiting the more popular parks and trails, consider opting for a location that is less sought-out. I often feel more comfortable with less-traveled areas and recommend a bike ride to the Middleton Solar Panel field (you get really up close!).
Dane County Parks is currently working on various projects to protect natural resources and improve the quality of parks and trails in Madison. One of their most recent completed projects involved constructing a portion of the North Mendota Trail which runs through Governor Nelson State Park. Check it out!
ABOUT SUSTAIN DANE
Sustain Dane is the sustainability organization of Dane County. Our programs, partnerships and initiatives advance the greater Madison region into a thriving place with environmental health, social wellbeing and a just economy. Through our network and beyond, we see that change happens when inspired people take action. Join us for the 15th annual Sustain Dane Summit which will be held on November 3, 2023. Save the date!