Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Plans for Living Sustainably


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Growing up as a big sister, I relished the perks of having a younger sibling to take under my wing — or in the crook of my arm in a wrestling match. My sister and I grew up inseparable for the most part, but sometimes I liked to push her buttons. One of the best ways to do that was to try to force her to do something she didn’t want to, like eating a new food. Usually I would say something like this:

“Maddie, I think you’d really like this watermelon. You like water, right? And you like melon. So you’d love watermelon!”

After my impressive display of mental tenacity, I would dangle the food in Maddie’s face, at which point she’d turn a threatening red in her cheeks, and a fight wasn’t far behind. Nowadays, my sister is my best friend; we can laugh at those moments — and yes, we both like watermelon. But that conclusion wasn’t reached by me shoving fruit in my sister’s face. It came about after we both had the chance to try it on our own and make our own decisions.

The same, I personally found, goes for something like an ecological footprint. It wasn’t until I made it a personal experience that I could really understand it and make plans to create change — and I encourage you to do the same!

If you’re just tuning in to this blog series, you can find the first part at “Tracking Our Ecological Footprint.”

Earth Overshoot Day

Screenshot from Global Footprint Network

Analyzing the Calculator

Taking the Footprint Calculator test, to me, is a great way to make the topic of sustainable living a personal one instead of just cold numbers floating up there on the internet or in a science textbook. Because the number you see on the screen isn’t the world’s number — it’s your number. It shows what you personally contribute and take away from the planet. And with something personal like that, it has the potential to create a spark in our minds to make changes.

I hadn’t taken the calculator test since college, so I recently went back into Global Footprint Network (GFN) and answered those questions again. Presently, I have about 2.8 planets — better than my college days, but the number can improve. What I was curious about was how to raise and lower that number. What would it take to get to two planets, one planet, less than one? And what was in my ability to change? Those two questions, I found, can unfortunately have two different answers.

Thus began some trials into what it takes to shrink my footprint. The first thing I tried was to see how I could lower my number in ways that was feasible for me right now. I went back in and increased how much I recycled, lowered how much meat I ate, increased how many times I carpooled, scaled back my monthly and annual purchasing estimates …. And even then, I only got down to about 2.5 planets. That was frustrating. I tried a few more trials on the calculator, and I still couldn’t reduce the number to below two.

So I went another route. How could I just get down to one planet, in hypothetical terms? So I re-calculated: This time around, I didn’t eat any meat, didn’t drive a car, only bought local and fresh foods, lived in a free-standing house without electricity or running water, and so on. That time, the number plummeted to 0.3 planets. That was exciting to see, but more so frustrating, because that was describing a living scenario I couldn’t access.

For those of you who have taken the test, you might have noticed that your number of Earths is also accompanied by an “Earth Overshoot Day,” which is an estimated date as to when you would use up a year’s worth of the planet’s resources if everyone lived like you (see image above). Beyond that time, you would be dipping into stocks and creating emissions Earth couldn’t replenish or reduce within that year, hence overshooting and creating an overflow into the next year. That type of living isn’t sustainable.

This brings me to a point that worried me and I’m sure many others: how can we try to live waste-free lives, not overshooting on our resources, when the infrastructure of our society almost seems to be working directly against it? How we commute, how houses are built, where food comes from, what we eat, it’s all built into how we live. It’s hard, albeit at times seemingly impossible, to live any other way. And it makes it even harder to change when our schedules, financial situations, or other societal struggles keep us from living sustainably. And even if we were to reduce our planets to one or below, for some that raises the questions of health and safety. So, now what?


Photo by Karsten Wurth on Unsplash

A New Game Plan

Increasingly, people have been asking those same questions and seeking ways to live sustainably — live, not just survive. As the GFN also makes clear, steps need to be made so that people are not damaging the planet but also not damaging themselves. Countries should help those in need and provide sustainable and healthful means to live, while still honoring different cultures’ ways of life.

So yes, some of the obstacles we may encounter in this challenge may be hard to figure out, but the one thought that stood above the rest when I researched and brainstormed ways to live sustainably … is that it takes time. When shrinking our ecological footprint, sometimes it goes against the grain of what’s quickest or easiest. For example, throwing my banana peel in the trash at work might be the easiest route, but making the walk outside to put it in the compost bin is the greener option. For other things, we may know the more sustainable option but can’t make the change right now. I know an electric or hybrid car is more environmentally friendly than my gas-powered car, but I don’t have the money to make that investment. Perhaps there’s something we can’t do right this very instant, but we can plan for the future. What we drive, where we live, how far we travel…. Those are big questions and big changes, and if that’s a change that happens over time, we need to be patient, keep learning, and keep planning. And I believe that over time we can see those footprints shrink if we plan to make those investments for the future.

But some things we can change right now, so why not do it?

Looking Ahead

For now, start thinking and getting pumped to embrace a new way of living — one that is more waste-free and fulfilling. Make this a personal experience by taking the calculator test. Note where you can start changing how you live. Set aside longer-term points to keep thinking about. This will take some time, but don’t forget to value the journey — and have some fun along the way! We don’t want this to feel forced, like someone trying to make you do something you don’t want to. We want this to be enjoyable, personal, satisfying, and beneficial.

In my next blog post, we will be discussing how we can record our present living habits and then break down some of the main categories in which we can start shrinking our ecological footprint. I’ll also be sharing my personal experiments — some successful … others not so much. In the meantime, send me your questions and comments about living sustainably at jmitchell@ogdenpubs.com. My plan is to cover some of the big topics that come with shrinking our ecological footprint, but I’m learning about this right beside you; questions and comments are welcomed, and it’s always encouraging to see other ways people are living sustainably, too!

I want to jump into different sustainable living tips and experiments, but it’s still very important to stay educated and aware of the facts and changes regarding our ecological footprints and everything connected to it. Be sure to check out the Global Footprint Network, the Environmental Protection Agency, and trustworthy articles like this one from the New York Times to get you started as you prepare to make some changes to help the planet.

Jess currently works as an editor for Mother Earth Living after she packed her bags and moved from her Pennsylvania home to Kansas. When she’s not writing and editing, she loves to snuggle up with a book and a pot of tea, embark on long hikes outdoors, read and study plays, eat too many chocolate-covered banana chips, and binge-watch animated shows and movies. And she still occasionally teases her sister. You can follow Jess on Instagram @jess_mitchell95.

5 Ways to Be More Eco-Conscious Without Drastically Changing Your Lifestyle

Many individuals don’t realize the negative impact that their everyday activities, such as cooking, doing laundry, and running errands, have on the environment. That, combined with the misconceptions surrounding the idea of eco-friendly living (it’s expensive, it’s inconvenient, it’s not my style, etc.) may be holding you back from reducing your carbon footprint.

However, there are several ways to live greener without overhauling your entire lifestyle, and these small adjustments can still make a big difference over time. If you’d like to be a little friendlier to the planet, consider putting the following tips into practice.

chopping onion
Photo by Caroline Atrwood

1. Cook Smarter

An enormous amount of energy is used while cooking. To ensure that you don’t waste energy while you cook, use a microwave instead of an oven when possible, put lids on pots and pans to heat food more quickly, and unplug small appliances when they aren’t in use. When it comes to eating, ditch the disposable dishes, utensils, and napkins and invest in reusable plates, bowls cups, silverware, and cloth napkins to reduce your trash output. You could even consider starting a compost pile to repurpose waste for your garden rather than adding to a landfill.

2. Optimize Your Laundry Routine

Laundry is another huge energy suck. To conserve energy while washing your clothes, wait to wash until you have enough for a full load, avoid using high-temperature settings, clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer, and air-dry clothing when possible. You may also consider switching to natural detergents and stain removers, which are often specifically formulated to perform well in cold water.

rustic pendant lights
Photo by Kari Shea

3. Be Conscious of Electricity Usage

Electricity usage can greatly increase the size of an individual’s eco-footprint. Take care to turn out the lights when you leave a room and replace your current bulbs with LED lights when they burn out. If you live in a deregulated market and have the option to choose your utility provider, select a company that generates energy from renewable sources. If you don’t live in a deregulated market, consider investing in or leasing a solar energy system to offset your electricity use.

4. Reduce Water Waste

Overusing water in your home means that you’re wasting the energy-intensive process of filtration. You can be more eco-friendly by taking shorter showers, installing a low-flow showerhead, turning off the water while you brush your teeth, waiting to run your dishwasher until you have a full load, being careful not to overwater your lawn and garden, and cutting back on bottled water purchases. If you live in an area where tap water isn’t the tastiest, you may want to consider investing in a water filter to purify it.

grocery carts in parking lot
Photo by Clark Young

5. Run Errands More Efficiently

Going out and about to run errands can have a significant effect on the environment. To lessen this impact, combine multiple errands into one trip, bring your own reusable shopping bags from home, and take stairs instead of the elevator when possible. Avoid excess packaging by purchasing local and buying in bulk, and recycle packaging whenever possible.

A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on BestCompany.com. You can also find her work on Twitter.

Tracking Our Ecological Footprint

footprints in the sand

Photo by Getty Images/PeopleImages

At 10 years old, everyone predicted I was going to be the height of a basketball player — because in elementary school, I was always one of the tallest in the class. But more than height, the tell-tale sign was my feet: size 7 in fifth grade. All I had to do was wait for the day I’d shoot up like a geyser.

I waited. And 12 years later, at 5 feet 4 inches and size 9 feet (on a good day), I’m still waiting. It turns out, though, I did end up growing big feet in another way. In fact, most of the people I grew up with did. Not with physical foot growth, but an ecological one. That, I learned, is where basketball player proportions is a lot more detrimental than we think.

This discovery about ecological footprints, for me, happened in my senior year of college when I enrolled in an introductory environmental science class. I loved it because most of our labs consisted of us taking field trips to different off-site places: walking through an old-growth forest, wading in a cold mountain stream, hiking up an abandoned mine, driving through a landfill. Those trips alone opened my eyes to the state of the local environment — what was thriving, what wasn’t — but what really stuck in my head was a test we all had to take during one of our first in-class labs.

Our professor introduced it as the Global Footprint Network’s ecological footprint calculator. We had to answer a series of questions online that measured how you lived: what you ate, how much garbage you estimated to throw out, where you lived, who you lived with, how far you drove, the list went on. At the end, our results revealed our ecological footprint: how much of the earth’s resources we consumed, and hence how big of a consumer “footprint” we left. Those results were measured in planets: the number of planets you had revealed how many Earths it would take to sustain your type of living if everyone else in the world lived the same way.

Being a college student, there were some questions I was proud to answer. I didn’t really drive much, since I lived on campus, and compared to what I saw other students toss in the dumpster on a weekly basis, I didn’t produce nearly as much waste. Pleasingly, I clicked away at the questions, anticipating that my score wouldn’t be so terrible. After all, I was a fairly self-aware person.

And in some ways I was right. I got three and a half planets. Compared to many other students in the class who got five or six, my score was glowing. But still. Three and a half planets. I knew it was better than some, but that was relative. It was still cause for worry.

To make matters even more stinging, our professor took this score one step further. A soft-spoken yet passionate man, he came to every class with a mug full of hot coffee or tea. He’d spend morning lectures roaming back and forth across the room, trying to engage sleepy students and ask them tough questions about the state of our world, most of whom didn’t respond too readily. When he got excited about a topic — which was quite often — he tended to jump octaves and swing his arms, always in a good-natured way. But maybe it was this earnestness that really drove the point home for me. Especially as I stared at my little collection of planets gleaming on my computer screen.

“Think of this a different way,” he said. “If you have, say, four planets, that means three people’s share of the planet is being taken away from them.”

I knew that the calculator’s result was just that: a theoretical calculation. I knew that what my professor said might not exactly play out that way in the real world with all its complications. But it was more true than false in my mind. So that meant I was depriving two and a half people of the resources that they were entitled to as an inhabitant on this planet. How did their lives look without those resources?

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), that class changed the way I looked at how I lived. And from then on, I knew that even if I physically never met my fifth grade height expectations, I made up for it with my large ecological footprint.

small plant in hand

Photo by Getty Images/PeopleImages

Several months later after graduating college, I found myself working as an editor for Mother Earth Living, and the more I did research and writings and edits on environmental subjects, the more my old science professor’s lectures came flooding back to me … and the more I wanted to do something about it.

I had moved out to Kansas for this job from Pennsylvania, my life-long home up to this point, trading the mountains and big cities for flatlands and the open sky. In some ways, I feel more connected to nature out here than I did before. It still can’t make up for the ancient rolling mountains I’ve come to see as part of my home, but the contagious Kansas air and the long, stretching farmlands and prairie grasses spark that feeling of re-connection with the earth. And this time around, I’m not a student. I’m in the working world, a little more able to make changes.

The first thing to do is to tackle this multiple planets problem — essentially, to shrink my ecological footprint. That’s one area in which I don’t want big feet.

I want this to be a journey I share with you: my goals, what works, what doesn’t work. For several more blog posts, I will be recording my journey toward a more waste-free and sustainable lifestyle, using trusted and tried resources and my own experimentations.

You’re invited to join this journey with me! Whether it’s just to read or to try yourself, keep up with my blog posts to stay updated on my process, and hopefully it’ll inspire you as well.

To start, visit the Global Footprint Network to learn more about this organization, what they do, and of course take the ecological footprint test. I found that out of the several that I’ve looked into, this one is the most well-covered in its queries and calculations and has an equal balance of “reality-check,” urgency, and a hopeful optimism for the future. How many planets do you use?

For my next blog post, I will be looking more into this ecological footprint number (what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and several questions I had along the way) and start lining up some resources to get started on the road to a more waste-free and sustainable life! I hope you join this journey with me, and together we’ll shrink our feet for a better planet.

Jumpstart to Sustainable Holiday Shopping

Americans spend over 1 trillion dollars on holiday shopping. The Environmental Protection Agency reports a 25 percent increase of waste from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It's our responsibility to reduce the environmental impact through shopping sustainable. Inspire yourself with earth-friendly gift suggestions, so you won't end up with last minute, gimmicky trinkets. 

Charitable Giving

Donate in someone's honor to organizations like T1International, which is currently working to make insulin available to everyone around the globe. Add charity memorabilia, like a t-shirt, to the gift. 

The Sierra Club Foundation focuses on conservation and preserving the planet through grassroots campaigns and advocacy. A donation in someone's name is the perfect way to say you care about them, and what they believe in.

Repurposed Giving

Scrap pieces of wood can be made into works of art with a Piranha FX, an ultimate wood “repurposer” that can carve, etch or engrave items that would have otherwise made their way to the landfill. A spare wood block can become a precious keepsake; add handmade detail with a Klingspor’s Pyrography/Wood Burning tool. Multiple tips allow for a variation of textures, and it's simple enough for anyone to use. Smaller burning kits, like the Weller 15-Piece from Highland Woodworking are exceptional for beginners.

soy candle
Photo courtesy Bedrock Tree Farm

Bedrock Tree Farm transforms needles from their sheared Christmas trees into natural candles that fill the room with a scent of fresh cut firs. Once the candle is gone, the jars, with their airtight tops, can serve another purpose.

Beauty and Fashion

Patyka's Huile Absolue Skin Booster Serum was originally created by a Hungarian pharmacist in the 1920s. The serum is 100% natural and comprised of organic essential oils, like Rose Hip and St. John's Wort. A little dab goes a long way, treating everything from wrinkles to cuts. 

Pedag shoe liners are actually vegan, and can bring back to life a favorite pair of boots or sneakers. Zederna offers all-natural cedar and cotton soles, which are remarkably comfy and antibacterial. Not only do they smell amazing, they can cure common foot issues like athlete’s foot.


Snuggle-Pedic pillows are made with excess Biogreen foam from mattress production. Each hypoallergenic, customizable pillow provides optimal neck support and is vacuum packed for eco-friendly shipping.

Photo courtesy Avocado Green Mattress

Every handmade Avocado Green Mattress is crafted with organic materials that are naturally fire retardant. Specially designed springs reduce back pain and support spinal health.

Beantown sheets naturally resist bacteria; after using for a few weeks, they can be composted with zero toxic residue. Have a kid living in a dorm, or perhaps you don't trust hotel sheets? Here's the answer. 

Hook and Loom’s eye catching rugs are ethically hand woven in India, from all-natural materials free of chemicals and artificial dyes. The earthy colors are stunning.


Plant Addicts is an online company that stocks rare plants you just can't find anywhere else. Add a personalized touch to your favorite gardener’s landscape.

Payne Mountain Farms sells heirloom seeds like Mullein and Chickweed, which have countless benefits for the environment and our health. Payne Mountain also creates herbal jewelry, ointments and other goodies from the garden.


polarized sunglasses
Photo by Erick Wofford

Native Eyewear green reflex lenses provide advanced sun polarization. Vision is crisp through the special design which boasts an eco-friendly construction.

The NAU Introvert Jacket is the perfect rain coat or winter shell with its water resistant, organic cotton construction. Another great feature—it can be tossed in the washing machine. 

POW gloves are not only ridiculously durable, proceeds from certain styles go toward breast cancer awareness.

winter boots
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Ice bug is an independent company inspired by the Bark Beetle, which can move in all directions on ice. The Metro 2 boot is the newest, with fun colors and exceptional gripping capability on dangerously icy surfaces. 


Natural teas from Teami kill sugar cravings, detox the system and nourish the body. Their on-the-go cups are nice for infusing, making it easier to incorporate tea drinking every day. 

Tea tastes better and stays hotter in a cast iron tea kettle. Primula's Japanese inspired kettle with hammered detail is not only useful, but gorgeous.

Ecolution’s Bakins can replace toxic cookie sheets; they’re free from harmful chemicals like BPA, PFOA, and PTFE. Cookies come out better too.

Little Ones

Ecogear bags are chlorine free and designed to reduce pollution. With sustainable, traceable materials, an adorable line of kid’s packs are available along with streamline selections.

Either kid or adults can use non-toxic Natural Earth Paint. Perfectly hued for fun projects or serious art, packaging is recycled and compostable as well.

cruise trip
Photo courtesy Royal Carribean

Purposeful Trips

Not only does gifting a trip reduce holiday waste, it can raise money for those in need. Royal Caribbean's Cruises for Charity allows groups to book and raise money for their cause. Through The Ocean Fund, the company has granted over 11 million dollars to marine conversion, in addition to their outpouring of hospitality to hurricane victims.


The Exotic Bean's Coffee is organic, fair trade, sustainable, and shade grown, meaning it develops within the rainforest, rather than on a plantation that has destroyed natural habitats. Pure methods result in a clean, flavorful taste, evident in the chocolate and citrus noted Thailand Peaberry blend.

Umland's Pure Dry vacuum dries Gouda, Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses into crunchy morsels of Kosher, low carb, all-natural goodness. The packs are great stocking stuffers.

caramel candy
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Kwoka Caramels go back to the way caramels were meant to be, with a natural Scandinavian recipe. Flavors like pistachio and sea salt add a twist to the tradition. 

Make a new holiday meal tradition with smoked fish instead of turkey or ham. Compile a tasting of sustainably caught delicacies like oak smoked filets from Springs Smoked Salmon, sustainably caught variations form Alaska Gold Brand,  and Northern Waters Smokehaus’ mouthwatering trio of dill, Cajun, pepper and coriander smoked salmon. It’s the most beautiful pescatarian centerpiece. Browne Trading’s boxed, Scotch-cured salmon with all-natural ingredients makes for a beautiful gift to round out your list. Happy shopping!

Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

Eco-Touring the Maine Coast

From the lobster industry to preserving its pristine shores, Maine takes conservation and sustainability to heart. Dedication from businesses all over the state has encapsulated the “pine tree state” as a stunning retreat.

Higgins Beach Inn

History is treasured in Maine; businesses look to preserve current buildings rather than build something new and modern. Higgins Beach Inn has existed for over a century and its recent renovation only added modern conveniences like private bathrooms. The feel, inspired by owners before, is still there and the repurposing of gorgeous structures has rooted such a deep vein of character. The ocean is mere steps from the inn, so you can ditch the car for the duration of your stay. Shade, the onsite restaurant, offers breakfast and other local dishes.

view from kayak tour
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Coastal Maine Kayaking

Although only operating in warmer months, Coastal Maine Kayaking takes tourists on a scenic route through the Kennebunks, which partly cannot be accessed by boats, which prevents pollution. Areas that couldn't otherwise be seen up close can be reached by paddling out in a kayak and the tour guides keep it interesting with facts, history and wildlife sightings.

Bar Harbor Inn

Repurposing in action again, the heart of the Bar Harbor Inn existed before World War I. The inn served the military during World War II, as a Red Cross base after a massive fire in the harbor, and now hosts guests from all over the globe. Enjoy a local cheese plate while watching the sunset; there’s no better view of Frenchman’s Bay than from a Bar Harbor Inn balcony.

guide on lobster boat
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Lulu Lobster Boat

Lulu is an actual Lobster Boat manned by two crew members who give visitors a glimpse into the world of lobstering. Sustainability is the core of the industry: Locals know a healthy supply of lobsters depend on following rules to keep the population flourishing. The guide talks about those rules, including sizes that can legally be caught, why you can't keep certain ones, while also giving a little information on anatomy. It's a fun way to educate the family about sustainable lobstering, while serving up some cool views of islands and lighthouses.

Bob's Clam Hut

Bob’s Clam Hut started out as a backyard stand in the 50s, but is now a Maine tradition, still in its original location along Route 1. The ingredients have always been simple and now Bob's is working to remove waste from landfills by opting for reusable baskets and plates in addition to compostable cutlery. Keeping it straightforward and focusing on ways to reduce waste makes this quaint clam hut a great depiction of the area’s efforts.

oceanarium sign
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Mount Desert Oceanarium

Possibly one of the coolest surprises in Maine is this oceanarium and lobster hatchery. It's a small business run by a long-time crew who are wholeheartedly dedicated to informing others and preserving marine life. The marsh walk, hatchery demonstration and discovery tank are a few of the hands-on tactics used to teach tourists about local ecology and marine biology. When people understand their environment, they understand the importance of preserving it.

The Nonantum Resort

The Nonantum is one of those places that just feels magical the moment you arrive. Perhaps it's the fairy village in the front garden, or maybe it's because all the lush greenery, flowers and herbs are organic and tended to daily. Green cleaning products are always used; water and energy are conserved through specific fixtures; and food is sourced from local farms, as well as the ocean, of course! Soaps and shampoos left behind by guests are donated to Clean the World, an organization that recycles hotel toiletries and delivers them to countries in desperate need.

apple orchard
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Hope Orchards

Apple picking is essential when visiting Maine in the autumn, and Hope Orchards is a local business growing a variation, while also offering apple butter, maple syrup and other natural treats. Eating an apple on-site is encouraged to find what you like. If an apple you don’t want should fall, they only ask that you place it in the wooden bins to be used for something else.

250 Maine Hotel

When the 250 Maine Hotel didn't become the luxury apartment building it was intended to be, the new owners reimagined and proposed the highest building in Rockport as an eco-conscious, artsy boutique hotel. Compost, recycle, conserve are appropriate mottos that are evident through the building. Each room is refreshingly unique, and the rooftop deck has a spectacular view of the harbor.

ocean view and waves crashing
Photo by Karyn Wofford

Acadia National Park

Pure, mountainous, seaside beauty; that's how I'd describe this breathtaking park that melds two distinct landscapes together. Natives and tourists alike have a deep respect for the area that houses a pond that serves as drinking water. Jordan Pond's water can be tasted at the Pond House, a farmhouse that has operated as a restaurant since the 1800s. Popovers and lobster stew are items that have been on the menu since the beginning and a bike ride up the Carriage Roads will take you right to it. It's awesome to work up an appetite, eat great food, then bike back to your starting point. But if you're wondering, you can drive there if you'd like.

Maine promises mountain hikes, crashing waves, wildlife and lush landscapes, all because citizens are committed to keeping it that way. By being a "green" tourist, you also support their efforts.

Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

Live Better: How Getting Outdoors Can Transform Your Health

With each passing day, our lives continue to move with speed — and, by not stopping once in a while to take in the great outdoors, we miss out on opportunities to see life and the world through different perspectives.

In the outdoors, we can breathe deeply and briefly let go of our endless obligations. Our body, minds and soul yearn for it, whether we choose to simply spend time in our backyard, stroll through a park, or set off on a weekend backpacking trip.

group of friends around campfire
Photo by Shutterstock

But if planning your next outdoor getaway isn’t at the top of your priority list just yet, here are five reasons to motivate you to get outside.

1. Seek Out Bonding and Camaraderie

"Happiness is only real when shared." This famous quote from the 2007 film Into the Wild expresses how exploring and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors brings about true happiness, particularly when you have someone with whom to experience it.

Camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, lying in a hammock — all of these outdoor activities create bonds among friends, memories for families, and special moments in relationships. Of course, solitude has its place in nature, but experiencing the tranquility of it all with those we hold dear soothes the soul.

Moreover, spending time in nature can provide you with stress-relieving rejuvenation, while spending time with friends and family often leads to joy and comfort. Together, when both elements are part of the equation, you're adding meaning to your life and enriching your overall health.

2. Pack Healthy Campfire Fare

The camping experience is all about eating good food just as much as enjoying some good times and laughs. In fact, you and your family or friends might typically enjoy:

• Cooking hot dogs, brats and bacon cooking over a fire
• Enjoying beer for drinking games or plain-old enjoyment
• Chowing down on various flavors of chips
• Roasting gooey s'mores for dessert

Good campfire food can also be deliciously good for you. With a little recipe research and preparation, you can indulge without the guilt, yet keep the charm of camping. To enjoy meals you would typically have at the comfort of your home, consider packing some of these foil-wrapped recipes:

• Chicken with chopped fruits and veggies
• Cilantro lime shrimp and corn on the cob
• Lemon salmon, zucchini and asparagus

Meantime, some good cast-iron recipes include:

• Roasted chicken and Brussels sprouts
• Sweet potato breakfast hash
• Mushrooms and wild rice
• Fireside fajitas

Of course, you can't forget about snacks to tide you over, including:

• Nuts, oats and dried fruit granola
• Veggies with hummus, guacamole or Greek yogurt herb dip
• No-bake protein or energy balls
• Edamame and hardboiled eggs

3. Seek Adventure

The everyday monotony and stress of our work life, family routine and household responsibilities wear us down from time to time. Office walls can close us in much like prison cells, and even our homes seem to shrink over time with added clutter. But one way to break free of it all is to escape to the outdoors for adventure — either off road or on foot.

Off-roading and backpacking are two ways to become intrepid in nature. Once you invest in the right off-roading essentials (like appropriate vehicle tires, a toe strap, suspension and winch), you can handle any type of tough terrain on four wheels. While backpacking, you'll need to pack some solid gear, including a backpack, water filter, hiking boots and sleeping bag. Indeed, taking part in some outdoor adventures here and there may be just the antidote you need to reboot and enjoy your outdoorsy side.

4. Detach and Disconnect

Did you know a majority of Americans spend five hours a day on their smartphones? Whether we enjoy this screen time at the kitchen table or inside a coffee shop, many of us spend more time with our head down and eyes locked on these devices when our attention and focus should be elsewhere.

With that in mind, make it a point to occasionally put down your smartphone and use the outdoors as a chance to ditch technology (this includes taking photos), enjoy nature and live in the moment without any digital distractions. While there is certainly no Wi-Fi in the forest, you'll ultimately find a stronger, better connection while being one with nature.

5. Venture to Find Meaning

Chasing happiness seems to be a perpetual pursuit in our lives. We hope work, relationships, hobbies and passions can make us happy. Yet, research indicates pursuing meaning in our lives, rather than pleasure and enjoyment, can actually lead to a deeper and more lasting form of well-being.

Indeed, the calmness of nature creates a serene, meditative environment in which you can discover how to invest in something bigger than yourself. How can you help others and strengthen your relationships? What’s your life's purpose, and how do you ultimately matter in this crazy world?

No matter our surroundings, these are important questions to routinely ask ourselves and consider. Yet, ultimately, there’s no better place than spending time in nature that allows us to explore a more meaningful, vibrant part of life.

Abby Terlecki is a marketing copywriter for a university in Phoenix, Arizona. At 5 o’clock, Abby heads to happy hour at her CrossFit gym to hang out at her favorite bar. In between writing and lifting, She explores the Grand Canyon state and enjoys the outdoors. She earned her journalism degree from Ohio University and has since made the desert her happy home.

The Doug Coombs Foundation: Elevating Youth in Jackson Hole

Doug Coombs was a skiing legend; he passed away in 2006 after trying to rescue a fallen skier. Several years after his death, his wife Emily started a very special foundation in his memory. The Doug Coombs Foundation helps lift up children of poverty by giving them the opportunity to become involved in outdoor activities, specifically skiing, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Emily started simply by enrolling 28 kids into Snow King Mountain's ski school with her own money. It didn't take long before people noticed and wanted to help. Soon, sponsors like Marmot, K2 Skis and Smith Optics jumped in.

doug coombs foundation participants

Snow King Mountain

“Snow King was the key component since the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation. Without Snow King, introducing the Hispanic population to the sport of skiing would have had many more challenges,” says Emily.

Snow King Mountain is a secondary ski resort in Jackson Hole, with the other being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Snow King’s lift setup, low avalanche incident rate, and less rugged terrain makes it a safer place for kids. “Snow king is the ideal solution given it’s in town location, close to the homes of the families we serve, as well as its limited natural hazards, compared to the terrain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,” Emily adds. “Snow king has always been and remains a critical element in the mission of getting our low income work force into the sport of skiing, and then providing a place for them to continue skiing throughout their years living in Jackson Hole.”

Changing the Sport of Skiing

The Doug Coombs Foundation is changing Jackson Hole, and the world of skiing, in a particularly profound way. "Prior to the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation, Latino kids and adults were not present on the ski slopes, and very few were present in the many sports organizations outside of the school programs," Emily explains.

A beautiful form of integration is taking shape, allowing friendships and lifelong bonds to be formed. Talented young individuals are being introduced to sports that they will greatly influence. Jackson Hole has morphed from a privileged ski town, to an iconic ski place for all. Emily has enriched not only a town, but an entire sport and 180 kids are now involved in the program. Once winter winds down, these children continue to participate in a variety of sports, such as rock climbing, soccer and hiking.

children skiing

Lives Changed

Many lives have been changed through the foundation, but a few have struck a chord with community.

Emily met the bubbly Karoline in 2013, and the two instantly bonded. “Like Doug, her enthusiastic personality is magnetic, and you simply can’t help but enjoy the time you spend with Karoline, as she is always happy and always nice to others,” Emily gushes. Karoline’s family has become increasingly involved, as well. In addition to mastering the slopes, she’s excelled in soccer and, at such a young age, has already accomplished so much.

Dario grew up in extreme poverty and was introduced to the foundation after his young boys became involved. He blazed through rock climbing and skiing, while having no prior experience. Seeing his great potential, Emily wanted to get Dario into the Exum Program, where he would be trained then experience a once in a lifetime climb up Grand Teton. Dario made the climb, stating “I didn’t do this for the world to see me, I did it to see the world.” He is described as a wonderful father with two intelligent young boys and a devoted wife.

In Honor

Doug Coombs was a man adored and admired by all; he was a role model and an ambassador for pursuing dreams. He lived an incredible life, which left behind an impactful legacy. The Doug Coombs Foundation is an appropriate way to honor him.

“He would be blown away and would likely cry with joy as he watched all the kids (with his name on their jackets), zooming around Snow King, on skis, discovering the spirit of adventure that we all remember him for,” says Emily. “The one thing Doug missed out on was knowing his own son; skiing with his own son. We can’t change that, but we can provide many kids the opportunity to ski, in his memory, who otherwise wouldn’t ski. I know Doug would like that.”

Emily says Doug didn’t like talking about the possibility of dying, but after Emily’s father passed in a car accident, they discussed what they’d want if the unthinkable happened. “We agreed that whatever the survivor chose to do with us, our remains, our legacy; we trusted it would be good, and we would do it out of our love for each other. We believed that we truly knew each other better than anyone else. We would know what to do in the event if one of us died.” Emily certainly knew what to do to honor the name of Doug Coombs.

doug coombs foundation

Lend a Hand

Grants and sponsorships fuel the nonprofit, and anyone can donate to the cause. The Doug Coombs Foundation's slogan "Lifting Us Up", sums up its powerful accomplishments. They are laying the groundwork for effective methods of integration and it's an incredible thing to be a part of.

Photos courtesy The Doug Coombs Foundation.