Notes from the trail

Welcome to American Backcountry’s Notes from the Trail. Here we share stories and thoughts from some of our favorite contributors. Each mountain is different and each trip has a different story – these are notes collected along the trail.

Promoting Conservation in our Everyday Life

October 19, 2016

My life is wildly spinning as of late, but a news story caused me to pause and read when it flittered across my desk this weekend. For the first time ever, bees were placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We’re not talking about wolves or black rhinos; we’re talking about bees. You know, the insect that transfers pollen and seeds from one flower to another, making a large portion of our food possible?


According to the US Fish and Wildlife Services, a species gets added to the Endangered List by evaluating the following criteria:


  • Has a large portion of the species habitat been destroyed?
  • Has the species been taken over by commercial, recreational, scientific, or or educational uses?
  • Is the species threatened by disease?
  • Do current regulations inadequately protect the species?
  • Do any other manmade factors threaten its survival?


If one or more of the above questions are answered with a yes, the species can be listed under the Endangered Species Act.



PC: Will Rochfort


But the fact that bees have been added is eye opening. According to what I can gather online, the decline of bees jumped into the news back in the mid-2000s with a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder.” Bee keepers would come out to their hives and find the entire swarm gone without a trace of evidence. All that would be left was a lonely queen bee, her larvae, and a few nursing bees. Everything else had vanished.


But apparently colony collapse disorder is not the only cause of the bee population problem. In Hawaii, seven bee species were placed on the Endangered list thanks to feral pigs, invasive ants, and development of their environments. That last section was the portion I focused on the most: development. That means we did this; you and me. Us. Humans.


“If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end.… Click To Tweet




It’s no secret that humans have done a fair bit of damage to Mother Earth. I try to be realistic about it as best I can, but it’s heart breaking to see things like this happen. Having a family that works in agriculture, I’ve read dozens of reports about how pesticides are also negatively impacting the bee population. That’s not okay. None of it is okay.


If there is a silver lining to the plight of the bee, it’s this: it has made me once again evaluate my part in this massive circle of life. How can I be better about minimizing my impact on this planet? How can I help better the future of this planet? As a result, I came up with a few everyday swaps that each and every single one of us can enact in our daily life. And none of this are earth shattering; they simply require a slight change in routine. But honestly, isn’t a slight inconvenience better than the alternative?



PC: Will Rochfort

Pull the Plug

Did you know that most electronics still use 10-60% of power when on standby mode? Oy, that’s a lot. I’ve been trying to shut off my laptop completely at night, rather than leaving it in “sleep” mode. Not only does that save the electricity used, but it also gives the ol’ Apple a rest.


Switch Lights Off

We’ve all done it: you grab something from your bedroom and then run downstairs to make dinner. But did you remember to shut off the light in your bedroom first? Make a point to shut off lights in any room you’re not using. It’ll help be energy efficient which will also help your electricity bill.


Don’t Stress About Showering

Ok, sure: if you just got back from a 10 mile run, maybe you should jump in and rinse off. But I’m realizing so many American shower, and that’s not really necessary. Not only is it a waste of water, but it also is drying for your skin. Same goes for your dishwasher or washing machine; conserve your water usage by only using these appliances when you have completely full loads. {Besides, who doesn’t mind doing less laundry?!}



PC: Will Rochfort

Avoid Single Use Like the Plague

I love me some Starbucks as much as the next person {hello! It’s become my defacto work station while writing this book!} but it’s absolutely irresponsible to get a new paper cup every single visit. Bring a reusable travel mug when you get your coffee. Not only do you eliminate the cup from the landfill, but you’re also cutting out those silly paper sleeves that protect your hands from the hot drink. We also carry Hydroflasks in our cars with us at all times. If we pop into a restaurant for a quick lunch, we’ll carry those in with us. Instead of using the flimsy plastic cups they usually give you for water, we have our water bottles instead. And if we forget them? Will and I will actually go without anything to drink. Once I go thirsty a few times thanks to my forgetfulness, you better believe I don’t space out on the water bottle again!


Be Gone, Paper Towel

This was a change I made three years ago when Will and I first moved in together. He had already eliminated napkins and paper towels from his life. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around, but I made a concerted effort since I wanted to do my part. Turns out, it’s easier than it looks! Today, we have zero paper towels or napkins in our house. Instead, we have two dozen cloth napkins that we use when company comes over, and we use rags for cleanup and cleaning duties. We can easily wash them with our towels, so it doesn’t require any more water than we are already using. Win-win.


Ban Plastic Bags

We all know that plastic bags at the grocery store are an unnecessary evil; hopefully you carry cloth bags in your car! But the reliance on plastic runs deeper than that. Most Americans use dozens of plastic bags in the produce section, placing apples in one plastic bag and a head of lettuce in another. Assuming you eat a lot of fruits and veggies, that is a lot of plastic that goes directly home and into the trash can once you load up your fridge. Nix those bags from your life. Sure, you can get cloth ones, but honestly, you don’t really need anything. I just throw all of my fruit and produce into the cart, sans bags. I may get a few eye rolls at the checkout while my apples are rolling down the conveyor belt, but I let it go. Most people understand that I’m trying my best, and the impact is far more important than the red cheeks as my orange bounces across the floor.




Here’s the thing: there are dozens and dozens of other ways that you can help. These examples work best for me, but I’m sure many of you have other small changes that add up to big impact. Sound off below: how do you help with everyday conservation? I’m always looking for new ideas!