Going Green - 5 steps to making the right choices

Written by Nick Brown, Founder and Owner of Nikwax and Paramo Clothing

I wonder how many of us can remember the first really big hill we climbed, and looked down to see an expanse of greens and blues below us and above, and experienced wonder and passion. There is no doubt in my mind, that whatever our personal beliefs, feeling the beauty and power of landscape unencumbered by machines and human noise, is one of the great spiritual connections. It is about love.

The first big hill I climbed, at about 12 years old, was Snowdon. Subsequently I have had the privilege to visit the Andes, and walk up to a point near Machu Picchu where I could look down 3,000 metres to a river bed and lush tropical forest, and up 2,500 metres to massive snowy peaks, and know that it took me 4 days to walk there; it is about sensation.

And you know that the fact that you sweated your way up the hill and burst your lungs to arrive at that point becomes an integral part of the experience. It was all worthwhile.

And the closer you look at nature, the more you find that same expanse of beauty in something you can hold in your hand.

It is entirely natural that we would want our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be able to feel the same wonder. Therein lies the core of sustainability; we want to keep the world for future generations.

Awe-inspiring landscapes
Awe-inspiring landscapes

How green is my jacket?
But do we stop to think at that point on the trail about the fuel we burned to arrive at the start of our walk, or the energy and materials consumed in the clothing we wore to protect us from squalls and down pours? Or the wear on the pathway that we used, that may be destroying the very hills that we care for so much?

Walkers are as concerned with the bigger picture of global warming and environmental manufacturing, as they are with footpaths and countryside protection. We all want to be green, but we need to tread a path between being an environmental Taliban or eco-puritan, and being an irresponsible outdoor hedonist. We must not ban the music of trekking in wild places, but equally we should keep 4x4 drivers out of irreplaceable avian habitats in wetland national parks (a sore point for me, having seen the damage on a walking trip in Sardinia just last month)!

A brief “countryside code” for going greener..... something we can all have a go at.

The power of nature
The power of nature

5 steps
1. Get yourself more informed, and therefore motivated. If you become more aware, then you will become more motivated to act. I was really spurred to act was when I attended a fantastic international conference in Perth in 2005 about change in the mountains that I first appreciated the scale of change taking place through listening to properly informed scientists (Mountain Research Institute). If you want to read about environmental change, the BBC News website in excellent, as is the Met Office, and also New Scientist.

2. Start small and improve. Continuous, small improvement is (literally) infinitely better than no improvement. Start small. Just getting a few more waste bins for your kitchen is a small investment which makes re-cycling easier. A loft insulation will save you energy and money in the long term. In Nikwax we have controlled down our energy consumption, so now we are putting in some solar panels, and using rain water for some of our production.

3. Support companies that take the environment seriously. One retailer said to us: “We want to be seen to be green, so you need to make you label greener.” I nearly boiled over. Look deeper than the eco-label – progress is about empirical, measurable, verifiable action. Starting questions might be: “Does the company have a corporate and social responsibility document? Are they audited? Do they declare how they measure their environmental impact?” If any of the answers are no, then you may as well ignore their environmental claims. Start with the easy things, like choosing a low emission car, where measurement is transparent.

4. Support people who communicate the importance of environmental protection, and work on protecting the environment. Get involved in spreading the word: sustainability is not about pain and self-flagellation. It is about intelligent living, and looking after the global family. It is a good idea to choose an organisation and then work with it. Nikwax and Páramo support the World Land Trust, and use them to offset carbon emissions. I am on the governing body of EOCA, European Outdoor Conservation Association, which collects money from Outdoor companies to support conservation projects.

5. Don’t get stuck in the past and discouraged; be aware that we have already changed our environment. Sustainable thinking should also be about adaptation and conservation in a changing world. Massive change is now inevitable, but a sustainable approach to living will make a brighter future for our global family.

Finally, none of us can be perfect, but if we aim for continuous improvement and positive compromise, there is a chance of a better future for the generations to come.

If you are an individual who loves the great outdoors and would like to support our projects, please click the donate button below.
"It was a great experience to receive the funding with the support of the people through an exciting voting contest. With the funding we managed to ensure preservation of another 10,000 hectares of wilderness in Küre Mountains National Park in Turkey providing safe haven for endangered species such as wolves and bears. We contributed to saving the last remaining priceless untouched natural areas in Europe so that future generations can also enjoy them."
Zoltán Kun, Executive Director, PAN Parks Foundation