Psalm 104: 24: ‘How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.’
Psalm 19: 1: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’
While on a backcountry canoe trip, it is easy to notice our impacts on other members of God’s earth. When stepping on a beautiful flower, pouring soapy water in soil, or seeing litter floating down a stream, we can feel sympathetic with how our daily actions impact our surroundings.
Our relationship to creation extends beyond our actions during wilderness trips. Although the environmental impacts of daily living can seem most visible in a wilderness setting, God calls us to be attentive to our actions every day, whether we are canoeing, spending time at base camp, or going about daily life in our homes, churches, and workplaces.
It is both startling and humbling to comprehend that as U.S. citizens, we consume a disproportionate amount of the world’s natural resources. In the 1990’s it was estimated that one American used 30 times the resources used by one citizen of India. A vision of sustainability means living within limits so that all people have adequate resources, both now and in future generations. Deforestation, air and water pollution, species extinction, and the onset of global climate change are challenges that face our global community and call us to urgent action.
Below is a summary of Wilderness Wind’s current efforts towards sustainable living. Many of these goals rely on your participation, so we thank you for your help in these efforts! Please let us know if you have questions on what you can do at home, or suggestions for additional things we can do at camp to be faithful stewards in our daily operations.
Food – Our goal is to prepare food that is delicious, nutritious, and grown in a manner that is healthy for soil, water, air, and living beings. Specifically, we try to serve food that is:
- Primarily vegetarian: It takes less land, energy, and water to grow vegetables and grains for food than to raise animals for meat. It takes nearly twice as much fossil energy to produce a typical American diet than a pure vegetarian diet. Thus, meat eaters ‘consume’ the equivalent of 11 daily miles of gas more than vegetarian eaters.
- Produced by local farmers (lettuce, herbs, eggs, milk, cheese, and butter): Buying local food reduces fuels needed for transportation, helps our local economy, and provides us with fresh food.
- Grown in our garden: Fresh and local!
- Organically grown (grains, legumes, pastas, oils, canned goods, dried fruit, and breads): Organic agriculture supports fertile soil, clean water, habitat for wildlife, and safe food for you.
- Fair Trade (coffee): Fair Trade coffee provides workers around the world with fair, livable wages.
- Whole grain and homemade rather than highly processed: Whole grain foods provide you with the fiber and nutrition needed for a well-rounded diet.
- Purchased in bulk: Bulk food has less packaging, thus it uses less resources and less energy to distribute.
- No Seafood: Ocean fisheries are in serious decline. We occasionally serve local freshwater fish but we steer away from seafood transported from thousands of miles away to Minnesota.
- Minimize the amount of water used.
- Pit toilets in the bathhouses require no water for flushing.
- Our landscaping consists of native plants that are adapted to this climate and do not need irrigation.
- Our Staber System 2000 washing machine (a top loading, horizontal-axis machine) saves up to 60% of the water used by standard washing machines.
- Keep water clean and safe.
- 7th Generation brand laundry detergent is non-toxic and biodegradable.
- We use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, a naturally-derived biodegradable formula, for our dish soap and hand soap.
- Nature’s Gate Herbal Shampoo, also a non-petroleum based biodegradable solution, is provided for staff use.
- We sanitize dishes with Steramine rather than chlorine bleach.
- Our cleaning chemicals, such as ‘Creamy Cleanser’ and ‘Orange Clean’ do not contain harsh chemicals.
- Select products that have the least amount of impact when they are being produced or transported.
- We chose locally harvested and milled Cedar and Tamarack logs to build the circular Gathering Place at Lakeside as opposed to wood that needed to travel from afar. These logs are naturally more weather resistant than pine, so they require less treatment with toxic chemicals.
- The couch cover in the food prep building is made of True Hemp, a natural fiber that can be grown with fewer chemicals and less impact to the soil than cotton.
- Choose high quality durable items where needed, and avoid ‘dead-end’ products that cannot be re-used or recycled.
- We selected a tin roof for the Gathering Place at Lakeside rather than asphalt shingles, which are not recyclable and do not last as long as tin.
- Re-use products rather than purchasing new ones.
- 11 out of 12 phones at camp are re-used phones.
- 2 out of 3 computers are re-used.
- All camp printers are re-used.
- Lumber is frequently re-used from one project to another. For example, wood from the demolished Lakeside lodge has been used for making a woodshed and bathroom door dividers.
- Most of our furniture has been salvaged or purchased used.
- We use both sides of office paper before putting it in a recycling bin.
- Plastic ziplocks are washed and re-used after trips.
- Care for equipment so it can be used for many years.
- We avoid rocks and rapids while paddling to prevent scratches and dents in our canoes.
- All gear is cleaned and inspected after each trip.
- Recycle materials we can no longer use.
- Paper, glass, tin, aluminum, and cardboard are sent to local recycling facilities.
- Plastic bags are sent to the Twin Cities.
- Purchase products made from recycled materials.
- Our newsletter is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink.
- We use ‘Eco Soft’ brand toilet paper made from 40% post-consumer recycled paper with 100% total recycled content. (Post-consumer means it contains paper that was used in one form, then recycled. Non-post-consumer implies in-factory recycling of unused scraps.)
Energy and Air Quality – The cost of energy consumption affects more than our pocket book. Mining and drilling for fossil fuels impact human communities and wildlife habitat around the world. Carbon dioxide emissions are changing our global climate, thereby increasing severe droughts and storms, threatening agricultural systems, and stressing many species to the point of extinction. The United States, with 4 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 22 percent of world energy consumption. We recognize our current reliance on fossil fuels and have begun addressing our use of energy by:
- Learning about & supporting renewable energy
- Minnesota’s clean air fuel program ensures that the vast majority of gasoline sold in the state contains 10% ethanol, a fuel derived from corn. Ethanol is an oxygenate (it contains oxygen), so when blended with gasoline it reduces the amount of harmful carbon monoxide emitted. Unlike petroleum-based fuels, ethanol is non-toxic, water soluble, and quickly biodegradable.
- Wilderness Wind staff members annually attend the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in northern Wisconsin. Ideas are underway to implement a solar shower and solar oven at base camp, and to support wind energy through a program with our local electric provider.
- Installing energy-efficient appliances
- Our newly purchased refrigerators and freezers are energy-efficient. The Avanti brand refrigerator (made in Italy) in McComber Cabin is 30% more efficient than any refrigerator of comparable size made in the USA.
- We have a Staber System 2000 washing machine (top loading, horizontal-axis) that uses 40% less energy than standard machines.
- The majority of our lights are compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb.
- Making choices to reduce energy use
- A dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-using appliance in a home after the refrigerator, costing about $85 to operate annually. We hang laundry on a drying rack rather than using an electric drier.
- We have created meadow areas at Lakeside rather than mowing the entire landscape, to reduce fuel needs while also enhancing a beautiful habitat.
- We try to limit our use of electric lights by relying on natural lighting when possible, and by turning off unused lights.
- Power chargers for gadgets such as cell phones are unplugged when not in use.
- Power strips are used to fully turn off televisions and stereos, since energy is still consumed in their ‘standby’ modes.