Home to endless recreational opportunities, the outdoors provide people of all disciplines with an outlet to have fun, experience new things, and make memories. A rewarding way to pay homage to the many great experiences had outside is taking a moment to have fun while also taking care of the environment you’ve enjoyed in your time playing outside. Here’s a list of methods fun, creative ways you can give back to nature.

1. Leave no trace: keep trails clean
Hiking trails are essential in creating an open and inviting way for people to come and enjoy time outdoors. That time would not be nearly as enjoyable if there weren’t people dedicated to maintaining trails and cleaning up trash left by others. An important factor in the mindset to maintain and preserve the trail is the idea of ‘leave no trace’. The concept is to leave nature without a trace that you were there and to never inflict harm upon the ecosystems, plant life, and wildlife in the area. By going forward with an attitude to leave a hiking path better than you found it, it doesn’t only improve the hiking experience, but is also a responsible gesture in taking care of the solace-filled landscapes all around. Group trail cleanup days are common throughout the spring and fall for those who want to dedicate time with a large group to improving specific trails in the blue ridge mountains.

2. Contribute to clean, healthy rivers

Student participants at the 2016 Tuck River Cleanup
Photo by WCU News

As you make your way downstream of any river, whether it be by kayak, SUP, or a raft- take a bag along with on the journey to collect any litter from the banks to the rocks and even the bits that float along with the current. Many big event river cleanups happen throughout the warmer summer months such as the 33 year tradition of Tuck River Cleanup that serves to cleanup the Tuckasegee River in Jackson County, North Carolina. Starting at the campus of Western Carolina University, volunteers are provided with a full day of rafting fun for free complete with PDFs, paddles, rafts, and trash bags as many locals and students come together for the event, credited with being the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from a waterway.

3. Get planting.
Get involved with the green side of the environment and get involved in your community garden, a garden of your own, or just plant a tree or two. The simple act of planting a few seeds quickly and easily can start the emission of fresh oxygen to the environment while being a new source to absorb carbon dioxide. Alternately, community garden involvement is sure to connect the planter with others passionate about gardening and the community members of the area. Besides, could there be a better feeling than growing your own fruits and veggies and being patient until you can one day eat them fresh with the sense of pride that you made it all happen while producing oxygen for the environment.

4. Shopping…with a purpose
With a shopping atmosphere that is shifting to be more and more online, companies have picked up on the trend. Many companies have taken their business a step deeper than just surface level profits and choose to give back some of their proceeds to specific charities or use the funds to make differences all over the world in multiple ways. For example, there are bracelets that help keep oceans clean, t-shirts that half of the profits go to children’s education in foreign countries, and many more opportunities out there that make it possible, with the right search, to find something you need that can somehow in turn benefit the outdoors, a specific animal type, or a specific organization such as the U.S. Forest Service. The relationship between the outdoors and those who thrive in it is very much a two way street. The terrain will keep on providing wild adventures if those who are partaking in it make a conscious effort to take care of all it entails.