8 ways to reduce your environmental footprint in the mountains

8 ways to reduce your environmental footprint in the mountains

8 ways to reduce your environmental footprint in the mountains

By Emily Jerome, National Environmental Treasure

Mountain ecosystems are under increasing human pressures, but you can take small steps to reduce your environmental footprint.

Mountains provide us with so much. From their rocky folds comes abundant freshwater, rich plant and wildlife diversity, and breathtaking beauty. But, mountain ecosystems are under increasing human pressures through habitat degradation. The good news is that you can take small steps to reduce your impact and help the regeneration of valley to alpine mountain ecosystems. Here are 8 ways to reduce your environmental footprint in the mountains.

1. Short-cuts are overrated

If you’ve ever been hiking in a popular mountain destination, then you’ve probably seen the effects of hiking off-trail. Rogue trails braid through forests, steep short-cuts slice through to the soil or entire areas are trampled. By sticking to the main trail, you can ensure that vegetation stays healthy and help protect the integrity of the surrounding environment. Plus, staying on the trail means you won’t risk getting lost!

Hiking trail sign in forest
Photo by Cnicbc from Getty Images/Canva.

2. Buy it and burn it all in a bonfire

There’s nothing like sitting by a campfire to roast marshmallows in the summer or to stay warm in the winter. But, invasive forest pests such as emerald ash borer can travel in firewood and spread to new areas. The emerald ash borer is an invasive species that arrived in North America in the early 1990s. According to the Government of Canada, “up to 99% of all ash trees are killed within 8-10 years once the beetle arrives in an area.” To prevent unintended hitchhikers from coming back home with you, burn the wood where you buy it. If you have extra, consider giving it to fellow campers or picnickers in the area.

Roasting marshmellows in campfire
Photo by LightFieldStudios from Getty Images/Canva

3. Savour your tasty treats

Even though that adorable Canada jay or red squirrel may be pestering you for a piece of your sandwich, feeding wildlife can change their natural behaviours. This includes a loss of fear towards humans which can increase the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict. Human food can also be harmful to wildlife and lead to health problems including the development of Angel Wing Syndrome in waterfowl that are fed excess bread. So, all you have to do to be a part of the solution is simply keep all your snacks for yourself. After all, you deserve it!

Canada jay eating seed
Photo by Ballycroy from Getty Images/Canva

4. Short and sweet wildlife viewing

One of the amazing things about driving through the mountains is the chance to see wildlife up close including bears munching on dandelions in the ditch or bighorn sheep licking salt off the road. This is an exciting experience for us humans, but for wildlife, it can be stressful. Roadway jams can also be hazardous for road users. If there’s wildlife on the roadside, slow down instead of stopping, put on your hazard lights, snap a quick photo and carry on. 

Black bear crossing the road
Photo by Ironman100 from Getty Images/Canva

5. Bring back what you take out

It may not seem like a big deal to toss aside an apple core or banana peel, but food waste can attract wildlife to parks, trails and roadsides. This can increase the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict and motor vehicle collisions with wildlife. Simply toss any leftovers into an extra bag and pack them out with you to keep both humans and wildlife safe.

Hikers with tea and sandwich
Photo by Geber86 from Getty Images/Canva

6. Give your watercrafts some TLC

Before transferring your boat, canoe or kayak to another body of water, make sure you clean, drain and dry your watercraft. This prevents the spread of invasive aquatic species such as zebra mussels and diseases such as whirling disease. After habitat loss, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide. Not only will rinsing all the sand, mud and plant remnants off your watercraft keep alien species at bay, you’ll also have a spick and span ride next time you’re out on the water.

7. Keep wildflowers wild

Wildflowers blooming throughout alpine meadows are truly a sight to behold. While it may be tempting to pick these budding blossoms to bring home, leaving them in place will allow wildflowers species to thrive. It will also leave more nectar for the local pollinators and allow other visitors to appreciate the colourful mountainsides.

Wildflowers reflected in pond
Photo by Photos.com from Photo Images/Canva

8. Be a garbage guardian

Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon to run across a granola bar wrapper on the trail or a water bottle along a riverbank. Plastic pollution is harmful to both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, so it’s important to actively be a part of the solution. If you spot litter while exploring outdoors, consider picking it up safely and disposing of it properly. Even better, organize a clean-up using the Solo and Small Team Cleanup Checklist developed by the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up.

Kid picking up garbage in forest
Photo by Daniel Chevron from Canva