AORE Association News June 2017 - Page 14


AORE’s mission statement includes the phrase ‘promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment.’ This phrase, or similar ones, have been adopted by outdoor programs all around the country. Every program should do their part in determining a sustainable future through practices that prioritize resource management, minimize environmental impact, create inclusive spaces, and enhance social, environmental, and economic sustainability. But how are these ideas being practiced? The answer varies widely among programs.

Making your program environmentally conscious can range from easy to difficult, from inexpensive to budget-busting. Challenges are numerous when trying to make your program more sustainable. The Environmental Stewardship Committee went to talk with a program that has been trying to lower its footprint for many years-- Washington State University’s (WSU) Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC).

WSU representatives had a lot to say on the topic. It can be summed up as follows.

First, is to start small. Try incorporating community service into some of your trips. You can contact local land managers to see if they need volunteers. WSU has adopted their ‘loved-to-death’ crag, Granite Point. They work with the land manager to clean up litter around the cliffs, road, and the Snake River. They have also helped plant trees to minimize erosion. Volunteers learn the positive and negative impacts they can have on their local parks, while land managers get much-needed volunteers. Half the day can be service oriented and the other can focus on recreation. If the budget allows, the cost of this trip could be reduced, or waived completely to incentivize people to participate.

Another easy step is “Leave No Trace” (LNT). Almost every program teaches the LNT principles, but WSU goes one step further. Two of their professional staff are certified as LNT Master Educators who train and certify all trip leaders as LNT Trainers. They include LNT education and certifications on nearly all overnight trips, which total about 200 LNT Awareness certifications every year. This awareness certificate opens patrons’ eyes to how they can be more mindful of the environment on their future trips and to share these ideas with their friends and family.

Any program that teaches LNT in the field misses a great opportunity if they do not practice it in the office. At WSU they embody the principle of “Dispose of Waste Properly.” The ORC was the first office on campus to voluntarily compost, setting the example for the rest of the department. They were able to upgrade their old trash cans to combine recycling, compost, and trash. The large area for recycling and the smaller compost area are up front. This forces you to reach across both of these areas before you can throw something away, making you think before you toss away items that could be recycled or composted. This little change is inexpensive and can start to get everyone in your department thinking about sustainability. The ORC program went smoothly for a couple of years, so the entire department decided to switch to these new waste bins.

The LNT waste disposal plan can be extended even farther, into non-common wastes like old batteries and fuel canisters. At WSU, they invite patrons to recycle their old batteries and fuel canisters at the ORC. They partner with Waste Management to ensure that these items are recycled properly. Recycling is the third step of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In order to prevent equipment from hitting the landfill or even being recycled, WSU hosted an annual Ski and Gear Swap Event. This way the gear can have a new life, with a new owner, which delays it from getting into the waste stream.

Being mindful of the waste stream, WSU’s University Recreation purchases staff apparel and incentive items that are produced sustainably. Their Patagonia staff jackets are made out of recycled soda bottles. They also purchase Nalgene water bottles, limiting the number of plastic bottles being recycled or landfilled. As an added bonus, Nalgene bottles are made in the USA, reducing the supply chain footprint.

Transportation is another major facet of sustainability, so WSU created a Green Bike program in 2008. Although a bike share program can take a lot of work and bring a lot of surprising challenges, it decreases traffic, carbon emissions, and increases student health by lowering the number for trips taken in motorized vehicles. Today, their bike program boasts 20,000 uses every year.

No matter where your program falls along the sustainability spectrum, there is always more to do. Looking to other programs that are taking environmentally conscious steps can inspire and encourage us to do the same. We all have something to learn from one another and together we can have a profound impact on our local and global environment.

The Environmental Stewardship Committee will be contributing quarterly to this newsletter. Each article will focus on something different, such as sustainable vendors, programs, products, and initiatives. If you have anything you would like to see or if your program has a sustainability practice in place that you feel is worth sharing, please contact Dylan Blaskey at

Steps Toward Environmental Stewardship