Incorporating Zero Waste into Climbing

First things first - you might be wondering “what EXACTLY is zero waste and what does that mean to me?” The phrase “zero waste” refers to the philosophy of refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling, with the ultimate goal of eliminating trash so that it does not end up in landfills, incinerators, or the ocean.

Initially, it may not seem like the two go together. BUT, the cool thing is, there are small things in all areas of our lives that we can do everyday to help reduce waste.

Simple ways to start incorporating the zero waste philosophy into climbing and your lifestyle:

  1. Bring your own reusable water bottle to the gym or to the crag, and minimize usage of disposable plastic water bottles.

  2. Opt for investing in a reusable straw instead of grabbing for a disposable plastic one.

  3. Bring your own snacks and meals from home! Great climbing snacks like oranges and bananas already come with built-in packaging, and for those that don’t - bring food items in glass containers or other reusable packaging like beeswax wrap.

  4. If your gym offers recycling - USE IT!

  5. When buying a climbing brush, consider plastic-free options such as brushes made from bamboo with boar’s hair bristles - sold by popular brands such as Evolv, Sublime, and Metolius. If you already have a brush with a handle made of plastic, whenever you are finished with the brush, recycle the handle! Want to take it a step further? The hair bristles can be put in compost.

  6. Shop second-hand next time you’re in need of some climbing apparel or shoes. Check local bulletins for climbers selling their used gear, or try checking out a used sports goods store or thrift shop.

  7. Donate your used climbing shoes and clothes. Not only does donating help free up some space in your closet, but as an incentive, some retailers even offer discounts.

  • The North Face offers an in-store credit of $10 to put toward your next $100 purchase in exchange for your donation of clothes and shoes

  • Levi’s will recycle virtually any clothing and shoes from any brand. Those recycling and donating their goods will receive a voucher for 20 percent off a single, regular-priced Levi’s item

  • H&M accepts any unwanted garments regardless of brand of condition, and in return gives a coupon to use toward your next purchase

  • Patagonia takes back old Patagonia clothing and resells them through a trade-in program at its Portland retail store and on its website. Patagonia offers a store credit of as much as $100 for each used garment


Feeling inspired and want to make a few more simple switches to help minimize your plastic use, waste, and impact?

  • If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, bring own mug to coffee shops

  • Bring reusable grocery bags with you to the grocery store

  • Use glass jars for storage or for drinking glasses

  • Switch from your usual plastic razor to a reusable metal one

  • Opt for cloth napkins instead of paper towels/paper napkins

  • Borrow books from the local library or shop books second-hand

  • Buy local produce and shop farmers markets when you can!

It is so important to reduce our consumption of plastic because of how it is affecting our planet, its oceans, its people, and its animals. Not all plastics are recyclable, and not all recyclable plastic is even recycled. Research shows that most plastics last forever and are so durable that they are able to combat even the harshest of conditions, everything from being submerged in water for decades, surviving unrelenting heat and sun, and even lasting through being frozen in ice and thawed again. Not only is the plastic waste persistent, because of its constant availability, it often ends up in the bellies of nature’s sweetest creature. One report even states that as much as 90% of the world’s sea birds and more than half the world’s sea turtles have been found with plastic trash in their digestive systems. By raising awareness and by making our own personal small changes, we are helping the planet, and therefore ourselves and each other.