Studies show that spending time in nature, in green and blue spaces – in mountains, fields, rivers, and beaches – for at least 120 minutes a week, is linked with good health and wellbeing (White, 2019). In my observation, the number of Palaweños spending more time in the province’s priced natural environment is also increasing – to exercise, meet new friends, observe nature, pursue their passion and just enjoy! Locals of varied ages are seen biking, hiking, strolling or just spending time with friends, families, and strangers in many different outdoor spots in the city and the province. However, this trend also brought issues related to the impact on the environment – trashes left behind, trails expanding, and flora and fauna are disturbed and altered among others.
In response to the growing issues about these threats to our natural environment brought about by these activities, here are the things that we can do as groups and individuals whenever we are outdoors to minimize our impact and sustain nature to continue enjoying it as it is through time.
Planned outdoor activity is a safe and responsible adventure. In planning, consider your number in a group and opt for a manageable number of eight to ten especially if you are hiking. A smaller number means lesser tramples in the trail and smaller camping space – thus reducing impact in the natural surface and the flora as well. If going in groups, opt to carpool or commute, this can reduce our energy consumption and emission (Shaheen, 2018) and makes the travel more cost-effective.
Avoid single-use plastics
The majority of litters left behind the campsites and trails are single-use food containers, styro foams, single-use water and soft drinks bottles, wrappers and even shoe soles. We know that this stuff takes years to hundreds of years to disintegrate into micro-plastics. Instead of buying food and drinks for outdoor adventures from fast food and other stores minutes before your departure from the meeting place, prepare food at home, and opt for reusable food containers, cutleries (spork) and water bottles. If you do not have time (because I know this is always the reason), you can always bring your container and use it whenever you buy food. Aside from reducing and reusing plastic use, you can also say no – refuse plastic, you’ll be cooler.
Only use the established surfaces
When hiking, make sure to queue and walk in a single pile and stay along the old established trail. In setting up the camp, use the existing campsite and if you will have to make a fire at night (if it is necessary, or else it is discouraged), also use the designated fire ring (and make sure put it off completely before leaving) — this way we can make sure that the existing durable spaces won’t expand that may disturb the habitat of the resident flora and fauna.
Clean as you go
In managing the waste, please always remember to “trash your trash” and clean as you go. Do not leave anything at the campsite or the trail may it be wet wipes, cigarette butts, candy wrapper, coffee cups and even biodegradables such as banana peel and tissue paper. Please leave the site as you would want to find it.
When camping near rivers, beaches, and lakes, please make sure to set your site 50 meters from the water. When washing your dishes, use organic soaps and do not throw your leftovers in the water.
“Leave what you find” and “respect nature”
In setting up hammocks, avoid hammering nails and use “tree hugger” ropes to avoid scarring the tree. Do not make new facilities such as wooden chairs and tables. Do not pick the flowers and do not touch and feed the wild animals – observe from the distance. Please, avoid carving or writing your and your partner’s name in the tree trunks and rocks in the outdoors, please.
Aside from environmental consideration, please also be kind to your fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Reduce the noise while hiking and use earphones while listening to music – some of us want to relish in the sound of nature. If walking on trails, let the hikers going up to go through first all the time and always say “hi!”, who knows, some of them might be your future adventure buddies. always get an accredited community guide and If you are new to hiking, go with experienced mountaineers.
Outdoor enthusiasts usually adhere to the Principles of Leave No Trace and the majority of the considerations above are derived from this guide and my learnings from hiking and going outdoors. Should you want to learn more, you can find a detailed description of these on the web. You can also share in the comment section if I forgot something. As I read somewhere, “let’s stop the hate and begin to educate” — please do not find this rude. Let’s protect and sustain Palawan by reducing our impact because as we learned, nature makes us healthier and happier – see you on the trails!