Kylie Fly Photography Hero Image

environmental optimism

Kylie Fly is a Mountain Hardwear ambassador, climber and photographer. For Earth Day, she was featured on the She Explores Podcast. Check out the episode here.

It was just one tiny mosquito. Smaller than my fingernail, for goodness sakes. I could hear him buzzing around the tent, getting close to my ear, and then zipping away again. For such a tiny bug, he sure had a huge impact. The next morning, I woke up covered in bites all over my arms and legs and even face. It only took one mosquito. Just the one!

Maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’ve had a similar night camping under the stars where the infamous singular mosquito transformed your trip, and in turn, your worldview about the little things. In many ways, we are like a mosquito. We live on a planet with over 7 billion people, yet we wonder if we really have an impact. How are we really making a difference? Besides, we are just one tiny speck on a planet full of billions of specs, right? It is far too easy to fade into the crowd and let other people worry about taking care of the planet.

However, when it comes to climate change and environmental sustainability, it’s our responsibility to enforce positive change. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like there’s not much we can do on our own. There’s simply too much to be done! Approaching a big issue with optimism and enthusiasm makes all the difference.
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Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors. My parents raised my siblings and I to be thoughtful of our impact on nature, always teaching us to pick up little bits of trash we saw along the trail, to not pluck wildflowers where we weren’t supposed to, and to always leave places better than we found them. The same types of principles applied in our own home, thus going forward with that philosophy into the outdoors felt natural.

I remember as a kid loving to climb trees. Every time we’d get to a campsite, I’d hope there’d be a pine tree just short enough for me to find a way up and tall enough to climb. My mom would remind me to be careful but also to not break the branches or knock off bark, so it stays intact. She explained that bark coming off a tree is like our skin getting scraped and cut open or like a scab being ripped off. This was both relatable and believable, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a tree the same since. It was these little things my mother taught me that added up and instilled in me basic ways to avoid leaving unnecessary impact.
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Many years later, I am thirty years old and still love to go outside. As an outdoor enthusiast and recreationalist, it is my duty to help take care of the earth. Anyone who enjoys being outdoors and reaps the benefits by moving through it in various ways is therefore a steward of the land. We are all responsible to keep the earth healthy and to preserve the land we have. Being an advocate for the environment is to simply give a damn.

It’s easy to walk by the old crunched up beer can and not bother picking it up, especially when it wasn’t yours to begin with. It’s much better, however, to take the few seconds to lean over and put it away for recycling once you’re off the trails. It’s easier to throw out your scraps of old food into the trash bin, but it’s much better to compost for future use in your garden and to reduce food waste.
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When I learned about Mountain Hardwear’s new sleeping bag (™the Lamina Eco AF) made of 82% recycled materials and that all their tents are made without flame retardant chemicals, I was stoked. They are making bold moves to be innovative and sustainable in their production, looking to make less of an impact on the environment and more of a difference. They, like us, want a healthier planet.

Supporting brands and using their products is especially relevant when the philosophy and values of a company align with your own. The work Mountain Hardwear is doing in their recycled material sourcing inspires people to care a little bit more about their carbon footprint and to be thoughtful of the products we consume. When more people care, more people are propelled into taking positive action and creating a movement of change. With an optimistic approach to environmental conservation, innovative ideas will continue forward and increasing amounts of people will be inspired to be better.

Spring always calls climbers to Southern Utah’s desert. The vibrant reds and oranges of sandstone walls jutting into the bright blue sky makes for prime climbing this time of year. It’s a great opportunity to climb hard, push your grade, and crag with friends and pups alike. I hadn’t seen my friend Allie in over four years since we had originally met, and although we’d been in touch for years, it was wonderful to reconnect on the rock as climbing partners.

As I pulled into Moab on the first day to meet Allie, it began to sleet. I had never experienced wet snow in the desert and watching the swirls of white stuff spin against my windshield was discouraging. I knew this meant we would not be climbing.
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For the first few days of the trip, rain continued. Dirtbags everywhere circled up their vans and turned to jamming on the guitar, grabbing coffee in town, and hanging out in the library as a reprieve. The code of ethics in the desert is after it rains, no climbing for at least one full day of sun. Sandstone is sensitive and nimble, and if a climber attempts a route too soon after a storm, holds can snap right off and break. This changes the climbing route and is overall not cool. Gratefully, people are pretty respectful and stay true to the wait. This is one way climbers express their love and appreciation for nature, leaving less impact on the rock than is necessary.
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Eventually, the storms passed, and we enjoyed a few full days of sunshine at the crag. Gale and Laura from She-Explores joined us for some time at Wall Street climbing area and we shared meaningful conversation around the campfire and on the road. It’s always a pleasure to share time with people who inspire you in big ways. The work Gale and Laura are doing at She-Explores is nothing short of phenomenal—it connects women in the outdoors and provides a space where love, camaraderie, honesty, and safety abide.

When faced with challenges and environmental issues alike, we get to choose to see the silver lining in the darkness. Instead of focusing on what is failing us, let’s celebrate what is working and going well! Big changes take big moves, which ultimately demands the attention and caring concern of the collective as a whole. Big change starts with you. Be the mosquito and smile while you do it!