Conservation Means More Than Minimalism

Hello, nature lovers!  Let’s talk conservation!

When Brad and I started talking about how I could bring this topic to this community, I thought I had a pretty good handle on conservation.  I mean, living in a van, you get forced into being more conservative without even trying—there just isn’t the room to stockpile food, clothing, or material possessions. Plus, with 75-sq.-ft., you don’t even have to try to use less water or electricity, you just will. My van is biodiesel, so I like to pat myself on the back for my reduced carbon footprint, and I’ve always recycled. My mom showed my siblings and I how to take labels off cans and what cardboard could go in the bin since I can remember having memories. It’s ingrained in me. I tried to throw away recycling once because there wasn’t a bin around, and it was so uncomfortable to my brain that I went back and dug it out of the trash.  

However, being a minimalist out of part desire and part necessity is not the same as conservation. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely helps—my utility bills are zero! Conservation, though, is about so much more. Not only is it about preventing the wasteful use of our natural resources, but it’s about preserving them, and protecting our animals and lands, too.  

Photo by Meghan McNichol

Fortunately for me, this community is already going to be highly conservation-minded. I’m not going to explain how to pack-in/pack-out, because that’s just something us nature lovers innately do. You don’t need tips on how to pack a bag for your hike so you can help clean up other people’s trash, because we want to leave our parks better than we find them. You don’t need a lecture on using a reusable water bottle because disposable water bottles are now among the leading sources of garbage in our oceans. We already know these things, because we already care.  

What I discovered in my research is that there is so much information already out there about conservation—what it is, how to do it, who’s doing it, and how you can get involved. Type any of these questions into Google, and you’ll find endless resources, just like I did, and I was overwhelmed with how much I didn’t know. But as Neal deGrasse Tyson says, not knowing is the basis for learning.  

Recycling efforts at Indiana Dunes National Park/Photo courtesy of NPS

There is so much information out there that it can be confusing where to start. Or, like most of us, how to add to what we’re already doing. So what I’d like to do is cultivate an open sense of curiosity; let’s find a fun way to learn about what we’re doing right, ways to do better, and how to not only apply this at national parks and public lands, but in our lives. We’ll explore the resources and programs out there advocating for this delicate ecosystem, our planet, and ways we can create lasting habits and lifestyle changes so that we too make a positive impact with the precious time we have here.  

Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Homework: can you name all seven principles of the “Leave No Trace” philosophy? I only knew one! I thought pack it in/pack it out was the same thing as leave no trace, but that’s actually just one of its principles. What are the other six?

Header photo: Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park/NPS

Meghan McNichol has been wandering around the country for the last 15 years before deciding to put her house on her back and move into a van, where she’s been finding ways to live minimally, reduce her footprint, and live in harmony with the Earth.


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