How to Maximize Your Outdoor Life While Creating a Minimalist Lifestyle (Meg Carney)

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Meg Carney on Humans Outside Podcast

If you spend time with nature you might start to feel like the great outdoors is a friend that you want to take extra care of. Even if you’ve been interested in conservation before, it might now seem more personal, more important.

But spending time outside also means you’re using nature more than you used to. So how can you maximize your time in nature while also creating a minimalist lifestyle? Today’s guest, Meg Carney, offers help for environmentally-minded outdoor uses through her podcast Outdoor Minimalist and upcoming book of the same title.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:51] Meg Carney’s favorite outdoor space
[4:01] How Meg learned to love to go outside
[5:54] Why people get into conservation
[7:15] What is “minimalism?”
[11:45] Meg’s book and podcast
[13:55] How to be a minimalist without also living in a tiny house
[23:40] Does one person’s minimalism matter in the big picture?
[30:00] How should the outdoor industry fit into this?
[36:34] Simple steps you can take towards minimalism right now
[40:00] Meg’s favorite outdoor gear
[44:30] Meg’s favorite outdoor moment

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Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go heading outside is always worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while learning from fascinating outdoor minded guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 18 years, but life, including my husband’s war injuries had burnt us out.

So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if a change of scenery and new focus on outdoors was just the ship we needed. Since September, 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day. No matter what to explore, how nature can change my life, ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same. Let’s go.

I never spent much time thinking about whether I was interested in conservation or keeping my impact on the natural world around me low until I started spending a lot of time outside. Sure. I was interested in being a good earth citizen. I recycled, I didn’t litter, but that was about the extent of my thought.

And then I started spending a lot of time with nature. And of course, how I felt about it changed. All of a sudden the outdoors was like a close friend of mine and keeping it awesome wasn’t just some kind of good behavior, but it was taking care of something I valued. If you spend a lot of time in nature, you probably feel that way too.

And if you’re just building that outdoor habit and think you don’t care, just wait. Today’s guest Meg Carney has journeyed into environmentalism, conservation and by extension minimalism over her career as an outdoor enthusiast and a writer. She’s worked as an outdoor wilderness therapy guide, backpacking guide, rock climbing instructor, and even an organic market farmer. Today she’s a writer and podcaster focused on environmental issues, the outdoor industry and personal action. You can hear her on her podcast, Outdoor Minimalist, which is a great listen by the way, or in her upcoming field guide of the same title. And of course, today you can hear her on the Humans Outside podcast, here to talk about what we can do to guide our own minimalism.

Meg, welcome to Humans Outside.

Meg Carney: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to talk about all of this with you.

AB: Yeah, thank you so much. So I love your sort of trajectory because you have journeyed into this space yourself in a way a lot of people kind of arrived there, which is incrementally. But first talk to us about your favorite outdoor space. Wed like to scene set on the podcast, , like we’re hanging out outside with you in a place that you love. So describe it for us.

MC: Sure. Um, Gosh, I don’t really know, like a favorite outdoor space is really hard for me to decide. And a lot of times. I think that that is because I’ve been really nomadic. So I’ve been in a lot of different environments in places throughout my life. And I’ve just found joy in so many different types of ecosystems. So I often associate my favorite outdoor place with an activity, which is biking. So, that is a very like mobile outdoor activity. So it’s hard to associate with the place.

Anyway, I think. And I do a lot of gravel biking with my dog. And so really my happiest place outside is any time I’m biking with him.

AB: Awesome. Okay. So we are going on a bike ride and talking maybe like during a snack. Okay. I am pro activities, but also person snacks.

MC: I am also pro snacks. Yes.

AB: See, we have that in common.. And in my experience, it is very difficult to have a meaningful conversation while doing something challenging. But man snack conversations, peak, peak awesome. Okay. So how did you become somebody who likes to go outside? Walk us through your jounrey.

MC: Yeah. So I think thank you for the wonderful intro. And I think that kind of gives a brief glimpse into how that all kind of started. But really I was one of those lucky people that grew up in a very rural area and mostly spent a lot of time outdoors out on the prairie in Minnesota, growing up on my grandparents farm. And my grandfather was a conservationist. And so spending a lot of time with him outside, I was just, it was just a part of my life and a part of my family’s life.

So day to day things, we just spent a lot of time outside together. And then when we moved off of the farm, it was the same. We, every summer, we spent time outside, whether it was just sitting on the deck, going for a walk, going to the beach for a swim or family vacations were really centered around traveling and camping, other activities I’m trying to think. My older brother and my dad were both very involved in Boy Scouts. And um, because both my parents were working, I often would just tag along to all of the Boy Scout, trips and adventures. And so it was just an honorary boy scout before all genders were welcomed into the Scouts. So I think that was basically how I got involved in outside recreation or outdoor recreation, because it was just, it’s always been a part of my life. So I haven’t ever had a moment that I was like, I don’t want to be outside because I’ve just, was basically born outside.

AB: Yeah. So , you know, as I mentioned in the intro, I think for a lot of people conservation or minimalism, or reducing your footprint, comes down to this idea of, it goes from being a good thing that you do because it’s the right thing to do to being how you take care of a friend. Did you feel like that was true for you?

MC: At its core I mean, conservation, minimalism, environmentalism. I think they all have a really similar why, like, why are we doing this activity? And if you’re associating that with preservation of outdoor spaces, especially if you’re someone participating in those things, then nature is essentially one of your best friends.

So like in the mindset that you’re going forward with is, yeah, you are taking care of a friend in that way because mother earth is your friend. And really like, as you integrate more into those environments, you feel the stronger connection as well.

AB: So when I dive in into some of these subjects, like we’re tackling today minimalism and environmentalist and that kind of thing. I want to define stuff. Okay. Because so much of what we talk about here on the podcast can have broad definitions, but we’re not always working with that. So I think that’s true with the words minimalism and minimalist that can make some people. Like tiny houses, right?

Like minimalism or like Marie Kondo or minimalist, like be one of those people who somehow manages to never have any personal trash, so they’re like, it’s like a very broad range of how that can look from a practical standpoint. So when you say minimalism and outdoor minimalist, what do you mean?

MC: Yeah. So I do think everyone listening to this probably has some type of preconceived notion of what minimalism actually is. Like in a traditional sense, minimalism was associated a lot with the arts, so sculpting and painting different forms of expression, like music using shorter, more repetitive phrases.

And then when we think of it, as people in today’s society, we think of it more as approach to life and focus on those material possessions. So like Marie Kondo, like you’re saying that’s very much a material possession focus when it comes to minimalism. And so in a sense, minimizing the number of items you own becomes very, very tied to that recommendation or how we recognize minimalism today.

And to some that will look like being able to fit everything into your backpack, or like you were saying into a tiny house, but for other people that includes owning a four bedroom house, a two car garage and raising a family at the same time. So there’s a bunch of different individual versions of minimalism.

And to me, my understanding of how minimalism fits into my life is that phyiscal possessions aren’t necessarily the core. The way I view it, minimalism is a lot closer to a essentialism. So it’s me asking what is essential in my life. And so for me, minimalism brings forth this level of self-awareness to what you truly need in your specific life circumstance, and then a realization that your needs are relative to all of your life changes. So what is essential can then be associated with a person’s ability to be fully present and in the moment when, whether it is you’re sitting down to eat a meal or you’re out on a bike ride, or you’re getting dressed for the day you’re present and in the moment.

And basically without being too ranty here. What I mean by this is like consumerism for many of us is an escape from reality and we use it as a distraction of excess to hide from other things that might be stressing us out in our day to day life. And a mindset of minimalism is what can gradually push you from feeling like you should consume more or you need to consume more and it becomes an evaluation of your needs versus wants.

And so you’re shifting from feeling like something other, and I’m trying to think how to say this. You’re shifting from feeling like something other than your own being can make you feel fulfilled. And as I’ve continued to grow and learn, and the journey of minimalism, because I don’t think there’s really an end point for me on this in this space, is I now see minimalism as that self discovery that is bridging my ability to identify necessity while pairing it with intentionality in my own self-expression.

And so my foundation here is outdoor minimalism, just because that is what applies best to my life because outdoor recreation is so integrated and that is like my day to day activity, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. And in writing the Outdoor Minimalist book, I did actually end up writing a more succinct definition of what an outdoor minimalist is and I’ll read them quick, there’s two parts.

So an outdoor minimalist defined in my book is an individual striving to minimize their impact in their relationships with nature and one who consumes thoughtfully and only what they need leaving the wilderness better than they found it. So there’s a few layers there and some of the listeners may recognize like parts of that definition coming from different areas.

And that’s because all of the values and ideas of outdoor minimalism already existed. I didn’t reinvent anything here. I just compiled a lot of different concepts that already exist and put them in a new place, basically. So I took things like minimalism, zero waste, essentialism, environmentalism, and took pieces of that that were really, really relevant to the outdoor industry, and then applied it into that.

AB: Two things, one, there’s nothing new under the sun. So, so how we create and apply things to ourselves is the act of making something new in that moment. So good job. Um, or you know, slash there’s nothing wrong with that. Two people are going to say, but why can’t I just read your book?

And the answer is it does not come out yet. So real fast, tell us when your book is being published. Because I of course had the same question in prepping for this interview. And of course rapidly discovered that the book is yet to come. So when can people find that?

MC: Yeah, so pre-orders are available for the book, but the book is not hitting any shelves until September 1st of this year.

So 2022.

AB: And if uh, the book interests you pre-orders to an author, I can tell you do matter. So feel free to pre-order it.

MC: Yeah. And that was kind of the, the genesis of the podcast as well. It was like, I knew that there was the book was a long ways out, but I was really passionate about these ideas and kind of wanted to keep the conversation going. So a lot of the concepts in the book are discussed on the podcast, but in a, like a bra, a broader light.

AB: We like to be very, very practical here on this podcast. So we’re going to talk about that here in here in a second. So like minimalism in the definition that you just gave can be also very broad or very narrow, right? Because it’s really led by how you interact with what you’re doing. But can also still be a little scary sounding because it can sound like, especially if you default towards being somebody who buys things new or who I know one of the things that people tend to do is buy is sort of over gear in terms of like, they don’t know what they needed, so they get everything.

That can be a little scary or people maybe think about it in terms of being like reducing that footprint, like lean towards that part of the definition. And then they feel guilty. Cause the response when you’re not doing that is saying, oh man, like, I really appreciate the ability to use plastic silverware when I want to. And that doesn’t sound like that fits in there. So uh, so like is there like, what’s a happy middle ground for people who are just getting started with this idea?

MC: Well, really it is it’s all about your current lifestyle and areas of change that you’re able to identify and sustain. And so, I think for a lot of people, especially when they hear the phrase zero waste, that can be really jarring and overwhelming because we do have those images of a lot of the zero waste activists or influencers that are like the last five years I have created only waste that fits in this tiny Mason jar.

And for a lot of people that is not realistic, that’s not approachable. I think there’s value in that. Yeah. Yeah. They find a value to that, but it creates a barrier, I think like a big barrier to entry ,where I think minimalism is a little more approachable because it feels more like easier to personalize at least. And I think because our culture is so focused around consumerism and consumption, it’s kind of impossible for people to do a hard stop and cold turkey, I’m not going to buy anything. It’s just, it’s that is a scary thing to just all of a sudden you’re making all of these changes when you’re approaching minimalism or zero waste, whatever you want to call it, a lot of it has to do with building new routines and habits. So you can really think about any type of habit or behavior you’ve had to change before in your life. And for me, that usually looks like sitting down, doing some type of evaluation, assessing things in my life and then identifying goals that I deem essential.

And so when I think of that, I I’m trying to think of a current example. So like at the start of 2022, I wanted to reconstruct a better morning routine, something that would set me up in a better mindset for the day. So a couple of things in that where I want to stay off my phone for the first 45 minutes of the day, do a short stretch or yoga session and a journal or work on therapy homework.

And for me, if I were to all of a sudden say tomorrow, wake up and be like every single day I’m going to do these things. And if I were to add all those things up and maybe take like two hours or something, that’s not realistic for me. I’ve maybe last three days, if I was being optimistic and I’d get really burnt out.

And so you have to build up to any type of change. And so maybe that means I’ll stretch for 10. And I won’t be on my phone then while I’m stretching and making coffee. And then instead of journaling at first, I’ll just sit and have coffee with my dogs, like I have been doing. And then I can add other things later.

And it’s the same thing when you want to make other lifestyle changes. So say you are identifying where waste is in your life. And in episode 22 of my podcast, I talk about how to do a waste audit. And that’s kind of what I’m going to talk about here is say you track your kitchen waste specifically since a lot of our waste is coming from food packaging.

And you iden-

AB: Yes so much of it.

MC: And you identify, okay a lot of my food pack or food packaging waste is coming from.

AB: Salad bags!

MC: Yes, there that’s a good example.

AB: My food waste is like doing a conga line before my memory eyes right now, while you’re talking, like all of my like little plastic packaging is like doing a little dance.

Okay. Keep going.

MC: So we’ll just. The salad bag example. So you’ve identified one area where you’re like, okay, well we have a salad for lunch three days a week. So are there ways that I can eliminate this one piece of trash? And so maybe that means that you buy full heads of lettuce and integrate that with spinach or kale or other types of greens that you can buy unpackage. I guess you can’t really buy spinach unpackage, but anyway, yeah.

AB: Well, you can but it’s full of sand.

MC: Maybe you grow in your garden. I don’t know. So you can then integrate that, so like next week I’m going to buy heads of lettuce and cut that up ahead of time and store that in my fridge in containers I already have. So then you cut those bags out and then say you do that for a month and then you can identify a new area of waste. And maybe that is sparkling water cans.

AB: Why are you talking about the things I love?

MC: I also love sparkling water and a friend of mine was doing kind of a purge on their kitchen appliances cause they’re remodeling their kitchen. And so they were trying to find people to give away appliances they didn’t use any more too. And I lucked out and I got to be the friend that got the soda stream. Cause she’s like, you drink so much sparkling water. I was like, wow, thank you for cutting all of this waste out of my life for me.

AB: Yeah, I’m feeling a little convicted right now. Keep going.

MC: So those are just like a few minor examples, but then I think as that becomes, as those things become a habit and you feel that’s more second nature, you’re practicing it daily and you no longer really have to think about it. Like, what do you go to the grocery store now and you’re going to be making salads. You’re just going to gravitate to the non-packaged options, because that’s something that you have built in and that’s something that you’ve created as a habit and it won’t be something you overthink as much. Yeah.

AB: Yeah. So, I mean, you’re like singing the song of our people here on Humans Outside, because what you’re talking about is exactly what we talk about with building an outdoor habit.

So when we talk about deciding that you want to be somebody who spends time in nature every day, we’re talking about adding a habit.. And some of the very practical, basic steps of that are to pick what you’re going to do and do pick something that you’ll actually do, which you just touched on.

Because if you say I’m going to go outside for an hour a day, probably not every day, I mean, you might do it some days, but it’s not going to work out every day because life happens. And although it’s a fantastic goal or if you say that you like any sort of, of these laudable big goals, it’s so much simpler start small with something that, for a fact that you can actually do, as you were saying with your morning routine and scale it in. And then once you have a handle on that and it becomes that second nature, like, I don’t even think about. When I, I guess there are some days that I’m busy, that I do think, okay when will, when am I going to go outside today? But I never forget to go outside. I think that’s the difference. There’s never a day that I get to the end, like, oh crap I did not do that today. There are days that I go through the day, like, I’ll do that later. I’ll do that later. I’ll do that later. But it’s always in my mind that I need to do it. And then by the end of the day, I’m like, oh man, later it’s now. And usually that’s when the weather’s bad, right? Like, oh, it’s really windy let’s wait until the wind dies and we’re waiting and we’re waiting and now it’s nighttime.

So that still happens, but I think that there’s really something to be said for using the things you already know about habit to impact other parts of your life. So when it comes to a minimalist habit um, in your life that’s already building this habit about going outside, maybe that’s the next step. Maybe it’s not extending your outdoor time, although that’s a great next step to maybe it’s thinking about how this habit that you had of going outside every day is now impacting the rest of your life and cutting yourself off from the cans seltzer water, which why do keep talking about me. It’s rude.

Oh, okay, my listeners know that I’m dry. I don’t drink alcohol, but man, I spend more money on that seltzer water than I ever did on alcohol.

MC: It is expensive. And I think sometimes um, that is a part of going into minimalism and even more sustainable swaps is I think people will be pleasantly surprised with just general more intentionality, especially when it comes to things like grocery shopping that you’re probably going to be better at sticking to your budget.

AB: Yeah. I mean, straight facts.

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So what we’re talking about though here is individual decisions, right? Like you are making individual decisions for your own habits in the grocery store or as a part of your day or in your own home. One of the things that people sort of ways that people talk themselves out of doing that is that they’re just one person. And being environmentally minded seems like something we all have to do for it to make an impact, instead of just making your one person, you know, salad bag, habit um, change.

So is that true? Is that not true? Why is that not true? Talk to us about the importance or lack of importance I guess, could be possible, but I don’t think so of individual I don’t think that’s what you’re going to say so what’s important about the individual decisions and why they matter,

MC: That is one really big debate in any discussion regarding environmentalism and those types of changes in your life. And one of my favorite quotes is from Jane Goodall and she says “think globally, but act locally.” And so I think we can really apply that to individual change where it’s, you’re looking at the big picture, but really you only have control over so much. So control the life around you and the things that you can actually change and implement. And, unfortunately, there isn’t really a cut and dry answer because individuals and large corporations are relatively integrated in the grand scheme of market and behavior and things like that. And so I’m going to get really nerdy for a second and turn out a little bit about numbers and greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re cool with that. Okay, great. I love talking about these things. And so, but when we’re looking at things in this realm, it can become discouraging, which is partially why I want to bring it up.

So in the United States specifically the adverts household is producing around 7.5 tons of CO2 per year. And that doesn’t seem like a big number, especially if we’re talking about households. And the average household is like between two and three people. And we also have to take into account that some people are going to, or some households are going to have higher consumption, usually people with more money that have bigger houses travel more, et cetera.

But the average overall is 7.5 tons per year. And most sources could agree with that. So if you go and Google, this, you’ll probably find a number similar to this. Anyway of that 7.5 tons per year that each household might be emitting, most of that is coming from things like heating and cooling our homes, including refrigeration. And then the rest comes from the food we eat and the impact that that food has on the environment while it’s being produced. And alone, that number doesn’t feel very dramatic, especially when we compare it to say like a corporation that is having greenhouse gas emissions around 107 million metric tons per year. I think that’s one of the top ones in the United States. And so side-by-side, yes, that corporate corporation is obviously producing more than your household or my household or both of our households combined. But then, we can look at the population as a whole. So in the United States, there’s around 329 million people, but we’re talking about households.

So let’s say 123 million households in the United States, just as a ballpark. And so if you multiply that 123 million by 7.5, we now have 922.5 million tons of greenhouse gases or CO2 specifically. And that means that all of our households end up admitting more than the biggest corporation. In this example.

And so that’s not a perfect example. There’s a lot of variables. So we can’t concretely say everything I just said is facts, we can’t concretely say that is true, but I think it’s a good generalized example to represent that collective action can influence and compare to large-scale or corporate change.

And so another example of this would be let’s talk about boycotts. Boycotts are really popular these days. And I think that’s really great, especially in terms of like corporate change. And so say everyone in the United States suddenly stopped buying Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola, because we all said we are boycotting them because they’re continuously the largest plastic polluters year after year.

And so if that boycott continued, maybe it spread across the world. Wouldn’t you think their dramatic loss in revenue would influence some type of change? Maybe they would sell in aluminum only strictly aluminum instead of plastic. And aluminum is an easier to recycle material. And so when companies and corporations are producing more pollution and emissions, we can’t argue against that, but individuals collectively, we also caused damage and we are also consumers and we can also influence those market changes. And so I would say that individual change does matter, but it can feel discouraging if you’re only looking at yourself.

And so you need to think larger scale, but then make changes individually. And if people want a more concise and like evaluative picture and answer to this question without me rambling on and on and on, I recommend checking out the podcast, How to Save a Planet.

They have an episode called “Is your carbon footprint BS?”. And they go into a lot of detail and they really, they compare it side by side. And so you can kind of have a better understanding and grasp of that.

AB: Yeah, that’s great. And this really dovetails into the next thing I wanted to talk about. So we’ve already pretty much touched on this, which is working with the outdoor industry or with all industry, I guess, to keep a minimalist focus. Um, But I think the outdoor industry is particularly interesting to talk about on this point, because theoretical, we’re all trying to do the same thing, which is go outside and use the outside. Um, you know, we all need to eat dinner. So making a, dime’s not a bad thing because it enables you to buy said dinner and your bags of salad.

Um, But right. Um, you know, At this flip side, there’s a lot of industry behavior that’s not environmentally minded, like it’s just towards making a dime and not towards um, preserving the use of the thing we all like to use. Um, so , is there an example of how to do that with the outdoor industry that maybe has an impact because it’s not the be, you know, it’s like smaller? I don’t know what I’m trying to ask, but you tell me .

MC: Yeah, no, I think I understand your question. But like you said, the outdoor industry, it’s still an industry and it’s largely driven by economics. So, we have companies that represent sustainability and create wonderful models for others. And we need more of that. But at the end of the day, people. Still need to put food on the table. They are running a business. And so they’re trying to sell consumer goods and I think when we’re considering those things, we do have to come back to some type of mindset and we do have to consider what is really fueling your outdoor adventures.

What is your why? And keep returning to that. So why do you love being outside? Why do you pursue these adventures? And for most of us that’s because it makes us feel connected to ourselves nature. But then. As you are getting more and more integrated into outdoor recreation, then you’ll also begin to consider what if those landscapes no longer exist? What if there’s less access like there is becoming now? And what if we simply run these landscapes to the point of no repair? Then what is the point of a fancy new ski jacket? What’s the point of getting a new bike? What’s the point of any type of gear when there’s nowhere to use it? And so the outdoor industry still in pursuit of selling to consumers, but I think a lot of our conversation around environmentalism is largely focused on things like leave no trace, which is very essential and very important. But we’re focusing a lot on simply how we recreate and not what brings us to the recreation, not how we are getting outside, like our transportation to get there, not the things we’re wearing or the gear we’re using. And I believe that needs to be more of the focus of conversation.

I think we need to keep the conversation going, but I think we could shift it more to talk about what is the impact of those consumer goods? What is the impact of the gear you buy? And as consumers, we can ask ourselves those questions we can ask, like, is this jacket going to last me 10, 15 years? Or is there some type of planned obsolescence that’s require me to buy a new one in two years?

Can I repair or repurpose those items? Companies need to be putting these types of models into place that allow for recycling, reusing, repurposing, instead of just extracting more virgin materials, because unless we’re treating them like finite materials, which they are, then we are going to use them all up.

And so there’s a lot, I feel like I’m really ranting right now, but there is a lot of positives happening, a lot of positive changes, but I think until we focus the conversation specifically on the damages happening around production in the outdoor industry, then I’m not sure we’re going to really be able to preserve or conserve a lot of natural spaces.

And if you want a more specific example, we can talk about petrol based materials or textiles like polyester, because that is a really commonly material. And a lot of our outdoor clothing it’s used in a lot of other fabrics, like for backpacks tents, polyester, nylon, and those are a synthetic material, right.

But there’s a reason that we use them so much. They’re extremely durable and they have all of the qualities that we really need to get outside and really want. So most of the time they’re generally moisture wicking. Like I said, they’re very durable. They’re generally easy to clean. There’s so many good qualities about them, but something that’s interesting is in the world of textiles, polyester hasn’t even been around that long, maybe 80 years or so. I think it was invented in 1941 and then it didn’t become popular until the seventies. But now if we’re flashing forward to today, about 60% or maybe a little more of all of our clothing in and out of the in outdoor industry contains some type of polyesters that I includes blends. And that type of growth in an industry seems crazy to me, but there’s a reason for that beyond the durability. And that’s because it’s cheap to produce and it’s more accessible to produce. And so if you’re starting a company in the outdoor industry, maybe you wanna make more sustainable hiking pants or something like that. It’s gonna be easier for you to start if you are making those pants out of polyester or some type of polyester blend, because it’s easier to source, it’s cheaper to produce. So you probably create more revenue for yourself, versus going after some type of natural fiber that in the long run has a lower impact.

It’s not having an impact, a negative impact on the environment during every stage of its life cycle is just more sustainable in general. But it’s gonna be harder to source. It’s gonna be far more expensive and it’s gonna be harder to sell to consumers because we’ve been told polyester is the go-to like, that is what we should want.

And, And since the indu, the outdoor industry specifically, it’s like a $374 something billion dollar industry. There’s a lot of influence there. There’s a lot of damage that could be done, either positive or negative. And so consumers in the industry can push for more change with established companies.

And then companies and corporations can also influence change in out of the outdoor industry. By being kind of a front runner being like, this is no longer acceptable and this is the change that I want to make and that we should be making, cuz we care about these spaces.

AB: Okay. Yeah. So, you know, I said earlier, we like to be really practical. You have already laid out a bunch of super practical steps for us. right. Being intentional, starting small looking at this as a new habit and then scaling up or scaling in to hold. Companies accountable for the kinds of things that you’re asking them to create for you. All of those things go back to another thing we touch on here all the time, which is intentionality.

So like you have to know what you want before you do any of those things. Uh, You mentioned an audit earlier, is there other practical um, or baby steps that we can take towards um, becoming more minimalist minded?

MC: Yeah. I mean, probably a lot of different things, but the biggest, I think the biggest thing or the biggest step people can take is to always, always, always start with what you have, because I think a lot of times we’re looking for a solution of ourselves and most of the time you’re going to find more sustainable swaps or it’s just gonna be more sustainable in general, if you’re starting with what you have. So that also includes your outdoor gear. So if you wanna do some type of waste audit in your outdoor equipment, you can do that. You can evaluate what you use, how you’re maintaining it, how often you use it, and also like whether anything needs to be repaired in general. And then like returning back to those types of questions and those types of things. When you begin seeking or searching for a new piece of gear, like, do you actually need it? What is your intention behind buying this? Do you have something that can already fulfill that specific desire in your life and fit that need? And then from there, if that’s not the case, there’s other small changes that you could make instead of immediately gravitating towards gear roundups online, which are very useful tools in terms of research and understanding gear, but making small changes. Like, instead of buying something online, maybe you go to a retail store and you experience that piece of gear in person and you learn more about it.

And then maybe you find a consignment shop near you and check to see if they have something comparable to the new one there. And so like it does take a, it takes more effort. I will say that may these types of changes takes more effort. But there are ways that you can get around buying something brand new, and that will help divert things away from the landfill. And then other really practical things in terms of minimalism, I would say, is to find community and build community because having those people as resources, because everyone’s kind of in a different stage can be really influential. Because if you’re not sure what to do with something or how to dispose of something or where to go for some, any question really like you will have a community, whether it’s digital or in person, that you can talk about those things and talk about your struggles and you can feel less alone.

And it keeps the conversation going, which I think is one of the most important things is if we’re continuing to talk about it, it’ll be top of mind and it’s easier to implement that stuff.

AB: Yeah, such good tips. Thank you. Thank you for those. Someimtes at the end of our podcast, I kind of chuckled to myself because the questions we ask don’t necessarily line up with the vibe we are going for.

But um, I do love to hear what people say about the, these two questions because um, of all the different perspectives we come at for it . I’m really excited to hear your thoughts from a minimalist standpoint.

So, do you have some gear that you use outside a favorite or most essential or both that you just particularly love? With the knowledge to this does not have to mean going out and buying something brand new that’s made a polyester from a certain large store.

MC: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m trying to think of a piece of gear that I use for a lot of different activities.

So it fits into like more than just something like cycling, cuz I really wanna choose my bike, but that’s not like really relevant or applicable to a lot of people. So I would say this is something that I bought used actually. So it might be interesting to people and it is um, an adventure towel and the company is called lava linens, and they have a bunch of different sizes of towels, but they primarily use flax linen.

I think some of their other materials are hemp and both of those are natural materials, but the towel itself, I have, I think I have the mini everything towel. I think that’s what it’s called. It could be wrong. And it is like a very packable towel. It seems like kind of heavy for the size, but of all the towels it’s probably one that I have used the most. And I literally use it every day almost, especially because I hike with my dogs a lot. And in the winter they get so wet, even not in the winter, they just find all the puddles. And so I like to keep it in my car. I bring it with backpacking. I bring it with bike packing. I use it all of the time and it is so, so absorbant like, it blows my mind. I have three dogs two of them are Huskies and one of ’em, he gets wet all of the time. And I used to have to use like two full size, like regular cotton towels to dry him off. And now I can use this like little travel towel to dry him off and it just blows my mind.

So that’s my favorite piece of gear by far. And it seems random, but I think outdoor people use towels more than they think. Yeah.

Also I think that the best gear recommendations I’ve heard when I ask this question are supremely beautifully practical, right?

AB: They’re items like the towel you’re talking about um, that can be used in all sorts of circumstances or across maybe it’s not, it’s like a wide variety of activities. Is the, Is the lean on there, right? Like, um, mm-hmm I am in love with these , puffy pants that are um, they’re like a puffy jacket, but they’re pants. Okay. And um, partially because I live somewhere very cold and because we like to spend a lot of time outside, I use those so often. I I go, I use them when we’re camping.

I use them when we’re not camping, you know? I just keep them around and I put, I do not hesitate to put on those pants. And so you might think of those as being like an outdoor item that you use when you are you know, chillaxing at the top of mountain or only staying in a cabin or something, but that’s not at all how I use them.

Um, And the, the towel kind of goes the same way. Right? Like maybe this is marketed as like a campsite towel or whatever. And you’re like, no, it’s like in my car, it’s in my garage. Like it’s, it’s here, it’s there, it’s everywhere. It’s the it’s the Roy Kent of towels, you know? And so you really use this thing and that’s what makes it a minimalist item for you. If I bought that towel and I never used it, it would not be a minimalist item for me. It would be just another piece of gear. Right. And that could go for anything.

So I, I think it comes down to like, how are you using stuff? And are you being, here’s that word again, intentional about what it is that you’re purchasing to make sure that it is actually worth having. So I think that’s a very cool recommendation. Thank you.

Last question. Uh, we like to walk ourselves out, imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor moment.

So like just, you know, kind of leave us with this picture of something that doesn’t have to be your favorite because we’ve talked about the fact you have a lot of those, but like maybe a happy place sort of outside that you like to like to go back to.

MC: Like set the scene. That’s what you want me to do?

AB: Give us a scene, baby. Do some scene setting.

MC: Oh geez. Okay. I’ll think back. I feel like a lot of times we revert back to like childhood memories. So I’ll think back to like, we just had a wonderful picnic overlooking this um, valley on the prairie and there’s a nice stream kind of going through.

There’s some deer jumping through the woods and the sun is beginning to set and on the prairie there’s is a really nice breeze that has like a really unique sound. Because of all of the grasses wrestling around you, but also a unique smell because of that same reason, because the wind is blowing through those grasses and you really get you really feel a part of that landscape.

I have always, probably because I grew up on the prairie, but yeah, I don’t really know how to set the seed, but yeah, you just of walking away from that beautiful valley at sunset and you do have to turn your back at one point, but your senses are still so alert at the time you have all of the different smells and the different noises surrounding you, whether it’s like birds chirping or the grass rustling and yeah, the end.

AB: Yeah. I love it. The end. Beautiful. Meg, thank you for joining us on Humans Outside, man do I appreciate you.

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, give us a little love and lead a rating and review. To make it easier for others to find the podcast, too, what you say matters, it really truly does make a difference. And until next time we’ll see you out there.

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