As I hike a lot, I have a lot of time to think about the environment.
Most effective to protect the environment would be to change and to question your personal behavior again and again.
As this is a hiking blog, I will cover environmental issues related to hiking only. If you live on the trails for months, you already do more to protect the environment than if you live in a fancy house with heating or climate control on.
However, seldom people live on trails for months. There are maybe 10’000 long distance hikers per year but hundreds of millions of ordinary hikers, just out for a day hike, overnighters or just half an hour.
It has a huge impact how these people move to the trail and go home again. Where I live, it is common to load the dog into a ridiculous gas-guzzler and drive out of the city. Not just on weekends but every time.
Some organizations recommend the usage of toilet paper because it decomposes quicker but they also say you can cover it with stones…
If you have the need to join an advocacy-group for mountain environmentalism in Switzerland, Mountain Wilderness is probably a good choice.
Smokers don’t pack out their cigarette butts here. However, I hike often in semi urban environments. As Switzerland is a rich country (don’t ask why), we have excellent cleaning services, the city I live in, gets cleaned round the clock by the authorities with superb methods.
When I do hike on the weekends however, these brave women and men simply can’t cope with the size of their task, especially not in summertime.
If you hike through certain areas here, you can forget your private groundskeepers initiatives. Unless you have the logistics at hand to remove 1000 pounds of trash during just one hike.
Even on my hike on the via alpina, through the heartland of Switzerlands most touristy alps, I wasn’t able to remove as much trash as I wanted. There was simply too much.
LNT should only be the beginning. As a hiker I try to reduce my impact further.
This starts with gear: I never buy throwaway gear and I buy the most responsible food possible (depending on budget and availability).
Another possibility is to combine your hike with activism. Carrot Quinn, for example, raises money to protect the arctic while she hikes trough the brooks range.
Where I hike, cutting switchbacks and walking right next to the path is usually no issue. As the entire neighborhood of the path is sometimes a cow swamp.
In more sensible areas you should never cut the switchbacks and stay on the trails always, regardless if the area is protected somehow or not.
The same is valid for camping while hiking. It starts with the size of your tent and the places you pitch it. Always search for the place you do the least damage to nature. Never start a new fire ring, regardless if its theoretically allowed or not.
Since 2015 I have done extensive research into sustainable methods and gear
Now it is no longer a secondary thought but one of the main drivers towards my adventures. It is clear to me, that I need avoid air-travel everywhere.
There is Internet, you can reserve a place on a ship in advance. Shall I try to do the Te Araroa in New Zealand? No problem, often people walk to Peking (just need to fix my income situation before – if you have money laying around unused, consider my Patreon account ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
Do you eat meat? Congratulation, me too, still. However, most meat is trash, produced under horrible conditions (don’t understand German? Doesn’t matter, you will get it – thanks to the Corona virus everything was allowed).
Met industry is horrible for the environment, for the (underpaid) workers and for the animals. Therefore I will follow a vegan diet in the US.
With meat I guess it is like with alcohol. As long as you take it everyday, you can’t imagine not to have it regularly. Don’t take it for two weeks and hooray, it feels strange next time. Problem solved, at least on a personal level.