Supporting the environment comes naturally for Mountaineering Scotland – it’s built in to their ethos and it’s what their members want.
All mountaineering activities, from hill walking to climbing and ski touring, take place in the great outdoors and members understand the importance of this.
This was outlined in a 2019 members’ survey when 93% of respondents said climate change was important to them. Similar numbers also expressed support for rewilding initiatives such as natural tree regeneration, tree planting and other measures.
Addressing the issues
In 2019 Mountaineering Scotland had already started work on their first Conservation Strategy, which aims to safeguard and conserve the environment of cliffs, crags, mountains and hills in Scotland that are popular with hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers.
It was also the first year of Mountaineering Scotland’s award-winning Tak It Hame campaign, which asked members and clubs to make a difference with the problem of litter in the countryside and on the mountaintops. The campaign urged hill-goers not just to take their own rubbish away but also to pick up any additional litter they see with the help of reusable TakItHame bags, made from sugar cane.
Following the publication of the conservation strategy, and the knowledge that addressing climate change is important to members, a working group, CRAG – the Climate Response Action Group – was set up to explore how the organisation and wider mountain community could take action to address climate change.
The group has so far explored ways to reduce energy consumption and waste in the working environment, and staff have calculated their work-related carbon footprint to provide a baseline from which they can implement measures to reduce this further.
Taking the next step
Most people have to travel to a base to access Scotland’s hills and mountains, and most wild land isn’t easily accessible by public transport. This means that no matter how environmentally aware we are when on the hill, just getting there can have an impact on the sport's carbon footprint.
To provide a way for members to mitigate their own carbon footprint, while supporting wildlife and biodiversity, Mountaineering Scotland, in partnership with the charity Trees for Life, has created Tree A Trip to offer members the opportunity to have a tree planted on their behalf for every trip they make.
Each donation pays for locally sourced saplings to be planted on a hillside near Loch Ness, storing away carbon for the rest of its natural lifespan. The initiative has captured members’ imagination and even with lockdown travel restrictions in place, uptake in the first few months has been enthusiastic.
Respecting the environment
The easing of Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions will be welcomed by hillwalkers and climbers all over the country, allowing them to once again enjoy Scotland’s natural beauty after months in lockdown.
However, some may be new to the activity and unaware of how to walk or climb responsibly. Mountaineering Scotland are supporting a national public awareness campaigns by VisitScotland, Nature Scot and the National Parks to promote the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and sustainable tourism.
At the same time, Mountaineering Scotland will also be relaunching TakItHame alongside their Considerate Camping campaign for wild campers to promote a Minimal Impact approach to camping and walking. As the saying goes, we hope everyone enjoying Scotland’s stunning landscape will “take only memories, leave only footprints”.