Green Practices for Hiking: Insights from Youth Leaders

Jessica, Aksu and Heidi sitting at the terrace of a cottage

Jessica, Aksu and Heidi are participants in the adventure education project Jiippi, and youth leaders in the area of ecological sustainability

Embracing Sustainable Hiking

Hiking is not just about exploring beautiful trails and enjoying nature. It’s also about embracing green practices that ensure the preservation of our environment. I spoke with three inspiring youth leaders, Jessica, Aksu and Heidi, who are part of an adventure education project called Jiippi (funded by the European Social Fund). With their firsthand hiking and adventure experience from Finland, they shared their tips on sustainable hiking, from preparing for the trek to leaving minimal impact on nature. This interview is part of Erasmus+ KA2 cooperation project ”ECO-leaders for Eco-friendly communities” which aims to foster the development of critical skills in young people, such as eco-awareness, social and emotional learning, and leadership.

Preparing for the Hike

One of the first steps in sustainable hiking is gearing up responsibly. Instead of buying new equipment, consider getting it second-hand. In Helsinki, there’s a fantastic organization called Vempain that loans equipment for free to people under 30 years old. This initiative allows young hikers to access what they need without the expense or environmental impact of purchasing new gear. Moreover, it encourages a culture of sharing, as you can also lend your own equipment to someone else.

Getting There

Using public transport to reach the hiking site is another eco-friendly practice. It reduces carbon emissions compared to driving individual cars and often enhances the adventure, as public transport can offer unique local experiences and scenery on the way to your destination.

Skills and Appreciation

Hiking naturally increases your appreciation for nature. It brings everything into perspective and helps you think realistically about your actions towards the environment. Each hike is a lesson in minimalism, teaching you to carefully consider what you truly need and what you can live without. This minimalist approach is not only liberating but also provides a fresh perspective on everyday life and consumption habits.

Reflection is an integral part of hiking and adventures in the Jiippi project. Engaging with nature often means using natural elements for contemplation rather than relying on man-made tools like paper and pens. For instance, you might find something in nature that reflects your feelings from the day, creating a personal an eco-friendly connection with the environment.

Packing Smartly, Cooking and Living Lightly

When packing for a hike, the key is to go minimalistic. Think about what you absolutely need and what you can leave behind. Ascetic experiences in nature can be quite enlightening, helping you realize how little you actually need to live comfortably. This often leads to a deeper appreciation for the simplicity of life and encourages a more sustainable lifestyle.

View to the Baltic sea from Uutela, Finland.

View to the Baltic sea from Uutela, Finland.

When it comes to food, plant-based options are not only environmentally friendly but also practical for camping. These foods are inexpensive, have a longer shelf life, and are easier to carry compared to animal-based products. Moreover, they align well with the minimalist and sustainable ethos of green hiking.

Respect for Nature and Social Safety

Walking through nature makes its importance tangible. You learn firsthand the value of drinking water and the necessity of firewood. This experience fosters a respect for nature, motivating young hikers to leave as little trace as possible. They even adopt practices like using just one cup of water for washing dishes and choosing biodegradable detergents to minimize environmental impact.

A safe hiking experience is also about creating a socially safe space. The principles of safe space ensure everyone feels welcome and secure. In terms of environmental responsibility, providing for nature involves practices like burning toilet paper and digging pits for waste needs, ensuring that human impact on the environment is minimized.

Conclusion

Hiking offers more than just physical and mental benefits; it instills a profound respect for nature and teaches valuable lessons in sustainability. By adopting these green practices, we can enjoy the beauty of nature while ensuring it remains pristine for future generations. Our youth leaders have shown that with thoughtful preparation and a mindful approach, hiking can be a powerful tool for environmental stewardship.

Interview and photos by Jaana Härkönen