By Mr. Everest
We’re in the midst of a national crisis for kids. Studies show most children spend only minutes outside per day. They’re shifting their free time to indoor play with electronic devices rather than using their imaginations and sense of discovery in the great outdoors. I grew up exploring the woods of my parents’ home outside New York City and it served to shape my life, carrying me ultimately to the world’s highest mountains where I’ve made a living and continue to explore with my children. I always knew as a kid and now as an adult that I could find solace in the outdoors and rely on my skills to thrive there, indeed find answers there.
The Nature Conservancy has some sobering statistics on the national trend of kids become more sedentary: “The statistics are alarming: in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own and kids 8 to 18 spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media.”
We’re seeing an increase in childhood obesity in our country which correlates with the lack of participation in the outdoors. This impact on our health care system will reverberate for years to come. At The North Face, we’ve created The Explore Fund, a fund for non-profits aiming to get kids to spend more time outdoors. And my personal theory is that the more kids are indoors, the more they consume: Toys, food, electronics. When they’re outdoors, they only need the clothes they’re wearing and their 5 senses. A whole world of adventure awaits them there.
Whether you’re The North Face, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy or simply a parent, our obligation as a society is to get our children and families into the woods, on the banks of our rivers, in our meadows, on our beaches, and to the summits of our hills and mountains. The natural world has so much to offer our kids. Each day, a walk in the woods brings new discoveries for my children. We uncover archaeological finds like this relic found on the floor of our forest the other day.
We make biological discoveries about our wildlife and set up labs for their study, as my children did with the skeletal remains of a raccoon when they were 5 and 7.
Each year, we make a point of camping outdoors on several family trips, and we also spend about a month in the wilds of Nepal in a tent. But it’s the trips we do in the wildernesses nearby that have lasting impact.
My kids do their favorite things in the wilderness: They build forts and fairy houses, reenacting medieval fairy tales or archaeological expeditions there. The trees are climbed, the branches are used as building materials, the stones are overturned to look for minute critters, and the bogs are a source of endless muddy play.
Foraging for huckleberries or wild mushrooms for dinner add a sense of accomplishment for the kids, as they put more food on our table.
Henry David Thoreau said, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” Inspiring youth to enjoy, take solace in, learn about, and protect our wild places will no doubt enhance the survivability of our species. And it’ll help reduce our consumption of stuff, too.
For more reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink inspiration, please visit our Trash Backwards app where reducing consumption is central to our mission: