Earth Day – Every Day; Some Thoughts on Living Lightly for a Gear Addict

I love the outdoors, snowboarding, bikes of all types, hiking, camping, and exploring the Sierras with friends and family. I am also passionate about yoga, and love teaching; it would be an honor to see you on the mat! As an ambassador for the Tahoe Mountain Bike Girls team, I enjoy shredding the trails of Truckee/Tahoe with a group of amazing women. I’m the daughter of hippies, studying environmental engineering and making my own gluten-free granola, while showering daily and driving way too much.

If you don’t know already, Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22, but our impact on the Earth can be mitigated daily.

Here are a few ideas on how to live lightly on this beautiful planet, so that we can continue to enjoy nature for generations to come.

Reduce the Use of Single Use Plastics

This one is hard, but a great one to put more effort into. The thought of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is enough to make me cry, and I’m trying hard to not be part of the problem. On that end, here are a few things I’m doing/trying to do!

I always try to bring a reusable water bottle with me. I usually carry my trusty KleenKanteen with me – it keeps my water nice and cool. When I’m snowboarding, I like to bring a Platypus (or other soft-plastic water bottle), since it can fold up inside my pocket. These water bottles are also great to put in your purse or pocket for a night out – easy to fill from the water fountain at the bar, without using a plastic cup! Also, if you didn’t know already, our tap water is MUCH BETTER than Flint, Michigan’s. I recommend you check out the annual water quality report from your local water purveyor, and contact them if you have questions about just how safe it is. #hydrateordie

I am addicted to coffee and tea, so when I’m on the go, traveling or going on a road trip, I bring a reusable coffee mug. I LOVE my HydroFlask mug, and highly recommend it – with the lid closed, I can turn this thing upside down and it doesn’t spill! Even better, I’ve learned from my sweetheart to enjoy sitting at the café and enjoying that latte in a cup ‘for here’ – taking the time to breathe and enjoy the moment. I also love bringing a large Thermos of tea with me for post-shred hydration; after a day out in the elements, resort skiing or back country split boarding, warm tea saves me from hypothermia on the regular.

Reusable utensils – I’m trying to up my game here and bring my own reusable utensils with me. My good friends Kara, Julie and Rachel always bring their own utensils with them, so if the only option at an eatery or picnic is plastic ware, they are prepared. If you’ve already got a camping spork, you’re set! Sea to Summit also makes a rad collapsible cup that can fit in a pocket or purse, for enjoying beverages in a range of environments/keg parties. Straws – who needs ‘em? Let your barrista or bartender know that you don’t need a straw, and then use one of these Snowpeak reusable straws.

I bet you probably already have a lot of these items with your backpacking gear, so if you aren’t already using them off the trail, consider this an opportunity for a value add!

Food Stuff

Is it dinner yet? Staying away from food-related plastic is pretty tough, but a few habits I’m trying to build are to (1) bring my own food container with me to the restaurant – no Styrofoam please!, (2) forgo the use of plastic bags for my produce by not using any, bringing in mesh produce bags, or bringing in previously used plastic bags, (3) buying food in bulk – did you know you can bring your own bulk container into New Moon Natural Foods, tare the weight, and then fill it with your favorite style of quinoa?, (4) use a cloth shopping bag – not just for groceries; bring it with you when shopping at any store, and (5) eating primarily whole foods rather than pre-packaged industrial foodstuff. I subscribe to the Mountain Bounty Farm CSA veggie box (and flower share!!), and am stoked on the value and quality of their produce! The Tahoe Food Hub also has a store at the base of Alpine which stocks local veggies and fruits.

New habits I’m trying to focus on to up my game are as follows – use BeesWrap (available online or at Bespoke) instead of plastic wrap. Buy meat from a butcher, or local farm, rather than packaged in plastic and Styrofoam – or don’t eat meat (I’m at omnivore status, for the record). Make my own personal care products or re-fill the containers from the bulk section at New Moon. Make my own trail food instead of buying pre-packaged items. As much as I LOVE shot bloks, I want to start making my own bars and energy food again. The Feed Zone Portables cookbook has some great recipes and the handful of items I’ve made are pretty tasty. I like that there are a lot of savory food options, and the introduction has some great information on nutrition for athletes.

Drive Less, Bike More, Smile Lots

I love bikes, but this epic winter has made it hard to bike commute, except for the hardiest/most belligerent or temperate climate dwellers. That being said, since I’m in Reno most days, I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of time in the saddle. Safe biking means that you get to bike more rather than hit by a car (bonus!), so wearing a helmet and light-colored reflective clothing, and equipping your bike with lights will make you more visible. The Bright Eyes bike light is really bright (1200 lumens!) and great for the dark streets of Truckee/Tahoe. I also have a rear light on my bike that creates its own lane, which is both functional and futuristic. A good bike lock (or two) is a must for securing your investment; I like the U-lock for urban biking and a small retractable cable lock. Learning how to work on your bike to keep it running smoothly is also helpful; the Reno Bike Project and Kiwanis Bike Program both have repair classes, with knowledgeable teachers and tools you can use. Learning, and following the rules of the road will also help keep you safe and help establish a positive relationship between vehicle drivers and cyclists; I always wave at cars to make sure they see me, and smile to help spread the stoke.

Energy Usage – Less Fossil Fuels

Reducing the amount of energy we use as well as minimizing the use of fossil fuels is a critical part of limiting our impact. The Truckee Donner PUD and other utility districts offer energy surveys, free fluorescent and LED light bulbs and other items to make your home more energy efficient. If you’ve got the scratch and own your home, installing solar panels, even if they are just for a solar hot water heater, can be a part of the solution. Turning off the lights when you’re not in the room and turning down the heater will save you money on your utilities as well.

Using less water also uses less energy (check out the Water-Energy Nexus for more info). This can be achieved by taking short or fewer showers (dirt bags rejoice!), turning water off when washing dishes and brushing teeth, running the washing machine and dishwasher only when full, installing a low-flow toilet (modern versions actually flush everything!), and installing native landscaping or drip irrigation systems with smart controls (soil water sensor, rain gauge, freeze sensor). Many local water companies have freebies and rebates that will help you save water and energy in your home or business.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

I know, I know, this is a blog for a retail shop, but being mindful about our purchases is a necessary part of reducing our impact. (That being said, I have two rooms and a shed full of gear, so I’ve gotten pretty good at justifying purchases!)

One thing I really like about Tahoe Mountain Sports is that you can rent gear for both summer and winter adventures. This is great, because you can test out various equipment, or get that giant pack for the one big through-hike you have planned, or the crampons and ice axe you need for your winter mountaineering trip. Also, if you have family and friends visiting that don’t want to travel with a giant bouldering pad or aren’t as enmeshed in the outdoor lifestyle, they can get the gear they need to play in the woods.

Repair your gear. This is actually pretty fun, and makes you feel like a bad ass, bona fide, back-to-nature mountain person. The folks at the Truckee Roundhouse occasionally have repair classes and love helping people learn how to use the sewing machine to fix the rip in your favorite hoody. I am a fan of Tenacious Tape for fixing holes in my outerwear/tent/sleeping bag, etc., and Patagonia has online tutorials for repairing various clothing items. I also use Nikwax to clean and re-waterproof my outerwear and gear, keeping it functional for longer.

Of course, sometimes you just want/need to buy new gear. Before purchasing, ask if this is something you’ll use frequently, if it can replace something you already have, if it’s something that fills a definite need for your gear arsenal. Is it sustainably made? Is it made from recycled or organic materials? (I like Prana for their commitment to sustainability, as well as the fit and styling of their clothes.) Once you’ve got your sweet new gear and clothing, can you sell, donate or recycle older items from your closet and gear room?

Vitamin N

As you all know, spending time outside, in Nature, is critical to our well being, and to the health of the planet. As more people form a connection with Nature, they become more invested in preserving our wild places. Enjoy your time outside!

Recipe Time

When I’m not preaching about saving the Earth, I love to stuff my face with delicious food. Here are a few things I’ve been gnawing on lately:

Punchy, Crunchy Ginger Salad

1 C pickled ginger, rinsed thoroughly in cold water, drained, sliced finely
½ C toasted pumpkin seeds

½ C chopped roasted peanuts

½ C lightly toasted sesame seeds

1 C shredded Napa cabbage

1 C shredded carrots

½ C thinly sliced radishes

½ C cilantro

¼ C fried garlic

¼ C fried shallots

1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp garlic or sesame oil

2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients except oil and salt in a bowl and mix together with your hands, blending well. Roll into balls. Add oil and salt and mix again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

This is almost as good as Burmese tea leaf salad, but the pickled ginger can be easier to find. It’s also very adaptable; add whatever veggies and nuts you have in the house.

* Adapted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor cookbook.

Turmeric Lemonade

4 C cold water
2 Tbsp fresh grated turmeric root

4 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

Juice from 1 lemon or lime

Juice from 1 orange

Pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, and drink. This beverage is refreshing and full of anti-inflammatory goodness. Great in a water bottle, for during a bike ride (I like a 1 to 1 water:lemonade ratio), or after a workout to aid in recovery.

Baked Date and Almond Rice Balls

2 C uncooked sticky rice

3 C water

1/2 C pitted dates

1/2 C sliced almonds

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 ½ tsp coarse salt (I like the pink Himalayan salt!)

(Add ¼ C almond flour if mixture is too wet)

Combine water and rice in rice cooker with a dash of salt and cook.

While rice cooks, place remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to achieve a uniform “minced” texture. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When rice is finished cooking, mix it with the other ingredients and stir thoroughly. Shape rice mixture into small balls and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool before wrapping.

These are great for a day on the trail, on the bike, or in the mountains.

* Adapted from Feed Zone Portables.

Enjoy your Earth Day and do what you can to celebrate this beautiful globe we live on! I know our modern mountain lifestyle can make it challenging to step lightly, but I believe that as we each incorporate more mindfulness into our lives, we will make a positive difference. I look forward to hearing other suggestions you have about your favorite ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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