“Our national parks embody that space where astonishment is the atmosphere we breathe. Those moments of transcendence provide a strong foundation for a future where all our dreams of a truly inclusive democracy can take root, grow, and become kin to that luminous entanglement we call a forest, a desert, a wetland, a homeland, a home.”
– Shelton Johnson, Yosemite National Park Ranger
Imagine sleeping under thousands of stars, waking up to climb a lichen-covered cliff, and gazing above the clouds at mountaintops peaking through. Outdoor adventure looks different to everyone. For some, it’s summiting mountains or surfing big waves. For others, it’s a leisurely walk on a new path or eyeing greening in your neighborhood. Opportunities to get out into nature are endless and all around us.
Respect and appreciation for the natural world is the basis for a sustainable society, one in which humans and the Earth exist harmoniously. Not only does spending more time outdoors allow for people to understand the importance of protecting our environment, but it has also been proven to alleviate stress and provides opportunities for healthy exercise. If we protect our natural spaces, our natural spaces protect us!
Everyone deserves to enjoy the great outdoors, although not everyone can. Many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and LGBTQ+ community members report feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in outdoor spaces. Although white people make up only 60% of the population, they account for more than 95% of all visitors to public lands and over 80% of National Park Service employees. This underrepresentation extends to media campaigns for outdoor gear and planned excursions that consistently overrepresent white people. BIPOC communities are even likely to be deprived of nature in their own neighborhoods, with 74% of non-white people living in nature-deprived areas, and many lacking direct access to nature.
Let’s look at historical context to get a better idea of where this accessibility gap comes from. In 1964, the US passed the Civil Rights Act with a provision allowing Black people to visit state and national parks for the first time. People like John Muir were influential in the creation of many parks, but their idea of a “pristine wilderness” intentionally prevented Indigenous groups from living on and utilizing sites on their own land. Not only that, but Indigenous groups’ land management in the Sierra Nevada mountains were largely responsible for the “pristine” image that Muir sought to protect. By removing them from the land, he not only stripped away important parts of their culture, but also imperiled the pristine image he wanted to preserve.
Yet, underrepresented communities are finding a way to push back against exclusion from nature. A number of organizations and activists are working to facilitate access to the outdoors for historically excluded communities. Diversity Outdoors is one fantastic example of an organization dedicated to promoting “equity and access to the outdoors for all, that includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities.” In addition to organizations, hiking clubs created by and for People of Color are popping up all over the world, from Vibe Tribe Adventures to Latinxhikers
You don’t have to start an organization or a hiking club to promote diversity in the outdoors. We can all help ensure that natural spaces can be explored and enjoyed by wider audiences. Start by learning more history of the outdoors. Act on your values by contacting elected representatives to advocate for inclusive policies for recreation, as well as conservation policies and climate action. Call further attention to the economic value of nature by supporting sustainable outdoor tourism that benefits local communities and environments. Follow and support diverse outdoor explorers and activists. Read the Atlantic’s “Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive.” And on this Saturday, we will get outside with Project Green Challengers worldwide!
We are far from alone in this fight! Mission-driven organizations leverage their platforms to effect equitable change and advocate for environmental protection. Our partner Patagonia Provisions makes foods that are a part of the solution — nutritious, ethical, regenerative, and ready for life on-the-go. On hikes, during outdoor activities or in a dorm room with no stove, anyone anywhere can sustain themselves for new adventures. And while you’re at it, be sure to Leave No Trace, the fitting name of our partner organization today, that works to sustain healthy, vibrant natural lands by addressing damaged trails and natural areas, polluted water, at risk wildlife, destructive fires, crowded parks, and the disconnect between youth and nature.
Is there a destination that you have always wanted to explore, whether close or far? It could be a nearby old growth forest, the ocean you yearn to dip your toes into, a desert perch at sunset, or a mountain trek on the other side of the world. Perhaps there is a specific activity like rock climbing, surfing or biking you want to try in a new spot. The options for outdoor adventure are endless, so dream big!
Choose one location and activity. Tell us why such an adventure would be meaningful to you. Find photos online that capture your vision, or snap your own.
Post the picture/s on Instagram with a caption about the meaning of your dream outdoor adventure. Tag @TurningGreenOrg, @PatagoniaProvisions, @LeaveNoTraceOrg and #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF Document with your response, and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload.
Outdoor adventure must be universally accessible, though that is not always the case. Many inspiring organizations are working to reinforce, champion, and advocate for this goal. Brown Girl Outdoor World provides tangible solutions to diversifying outdoor recreation. Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. Diversify Outdoors promotes diversity in outdoor spaces where BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other communities are historically underrepresented. America Outdoors with activist Baratunde Thurston showcases diverse relationships with the outdoors. These are just a few of the movements changing the face of conservation in the US and leading the way for inclusion in outdoor recreation, nature, and land preservation.
Find an account on Instagram that highlights diverse voices and experiences in the outdoors. Explore organizations like @outdoorafro, @latinooutdoors, @fatgirlshiking, @browngirlsurf, @diversifyoutdoors, @browngirloutdoorworld and more.
Share a favorite post with us. Why did it resonate with you? Explain how it has inspired you in 150 words. Repost the image on Instagram with proper attribution and a caption that includes one way to expand accessibility of the outdoors, tagging @TurningGreenOrg, the account you explored, and #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF Document with your response, image and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
“It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Your destination is important, as is how you go about getting there. Consider gear, transportation, food, even the contents of your backpack. Whether hiking, biking, climbing, surfing or other outdoor activities, there are many ways to make it truly sustainable! When adventuring, Leave No Trace in the places you visit, so everyone can enjoy the natural world for generations to come. It’s adventure time, PGCers!
Are you ready for an adventure? Think about what you’ve learned so far during PGC about how to reduce your ecological footprint, and let’s start the adventure!
Pick your destination. Make it a local (even hyper local) adventure you can reach safely and easily. Write out a plan. If the outdoors aren’t accessible to you, consider virtually visiting a national park or other outdoor destination. Read up on and incorporate the seven principles of Leave No Trace into your plan. If your trip is virtual, imagine what gear and supplies you’d bring. Consider the following:
Let the adventure begin!
Reflect on your experience.
Share a reflection on Instagram that includes your photo/s, intention, important planning details, at least one inspirational takeaway, and a call for others to explore the outdoors! Tag @TurningGreenOrg, @LeaveNoTraceOrg and use #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF Document with your response, photos and screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each Greener Winner will receive:
Each Greenest Winner will receive: