How You Can Be More Sustainable Every Day

By Sarah Zimmerman

Apr 22, 2016


Photo by Austin D.

At NOLS, we try hard to incorporate earth-friendly practices into our work every week, every day, around the world. We try new ideas, like planting native flower seeds, and stick with the old practices that we’ve been working on for years, like repairing gear to keep it in use.

Here are just a few examples from a long list of sustainable practices from each of our locations around the world and plenty of ideas about how you can practice sustainability in your own way at home!

NOLS Alaska


Cookies made at NOLS Alaska with local ingredients. Photo by Fredrik Norrsell.

What we do: Grow most of the vegetables consumed by students and staff and raise our own pigs and poultry for the kitchen.

What you can do: Try planting a garden this spring. Even in small spaces, you can use pots or window boxes for herbs and vegetables. And if you’re feeling up for it (and local regulations allow it), try a chicken coop!

NOLS New Zealand

A group of NOLS students sits and looks at a far-off peak

Photo by Nick Garrett

What we do: Coordinate trips into town between departments to reduce gas use.

What you can do: Reduce your emissions by coordinating rides with friends or through a rideshare service.

NOLS East AfricaFarmers market

Photo from Pixabay.

What we do: Locally source our food, which is prepared by employees who walk to work every day.

What you can do: See if you can prepare a whole meal made of locally-sourced ingredients.

NOLS Headquarters, Wyoming

NOLS Headquarters

NOLS World Headquarters. Photo by Brad Christensen.

What we do: Used recycled materials in the construction of the headquarters building.

What you can do: Next time you think about buying or building a new piece of furniture, check your local thrift store, yard sales, or ask family and friends if they have any old pieces you could reuse.

NOLS India

NOLS students hike wearing backpacks on a path in India with colorful village buildings in the background

Photo by Richard Hsieh.

What we do: Feed nearly 95 percent of food scraps to the cows on the property instead of throwing them in the trash.

What you can do: Try saving food scraps and starting to compost. Or, if you’re raising chickens, feed your scraps to the birds!

NOLS Mexico

Solar panels

Solar panels. Photo by Asia Chang.

What we do: Run 99 percent of our operations on energy from solar panels.

What you can do: Most utility companies have a green power program, which lets you help fund renewable energy grants for businesses and nonprofits so they can install renewable energy on-site.

Noble Hotel, Lander, Wyoming

Noble Hotel

The Noble Hotel. Photo by Katherine Boehrer.

What we do: Install newer, more energy efficient windows to maintain better heat control in this historic building.

What you can do: Try weatherstripping your home to save energy lost through windows and doors.

NOLS Northeast

NOLS students smile and look over green mountain ridge

Photo by Hannah Darrin.

What we do: Only use air conditioning in areas that are occupied.

What you can do: Adjust your thermostat before you go to sleep or leave your home.

NOLS Pacific Northwest 

A tent at night in the snow with bright stars filling the sky

Photo by Reece Robinson.

What we do: About 40 percent of NOLS vehicles are dual fuel, meaning they can run off both unleaded gasoline and ethanol 85. The tractor here also runs on biofuel.

What you can do: Consider alternate forms of transportation, such as riding a bpacifipaicycle or choosing a hybrid for your next vehicle, if that's possible for you.

NOLS Patagonia

Buildings of the NOLS Patagonia campus

Photo courtesy of Alex Chang - Cornell Leadership Expedition.

What we do: Each semester course student plants a tree at the Patagonia base at graduation.

What you can do: Improve your quality of living and add habitat for native species by planting trees around your home or workplace.

NOLS Rocky Mountain

Building with solar panels

What we do: Modify routes and use bigger buses to transport students in fewer trips, and install solar panels to rely more on sustainable energy.

What you can do: Use public transportation to make vehicle use more efficient or carpool with friends.

NOLS Scandinavia

Person pouring dried food into pot

Tasty bulk rations. Photo by Liz Schultz.

What we do: Purchase more than 90 percent of the rations in bulk, which reduces packaging.

What you can do: Locate stores in your area that sell food in bulk where you can reuse your own containers (like the NOLS Store, which ships items bought at the NOLS Store in recycled cardboard boxes that we call Ugly Boxes).

NOLS Southwest

Two hikers look at waterfall on Gila River

Photo by Kyle Duba.

What we do: Save about 5,000 gallons of water per year by collecting and using rainwater.

What you can do: Try setting up a rainwater collector and use it to water your garden.

NOLS Teton Valley

Person skiing and pulling sled pauses to look at Teton Mountains in the background

Photo Jared Steinman.

What we do: Use wood stoves as a supplemental heat source.

What you can do: Consider using a wood or pellet stove this winter instead of central heat.

NOLS Three Peaks Ranch

Horsepack train

Horsepacking at NOLS. Photo by Kelsey Wicks.

What we do: Ride horses that are fed on local pastures to deliver student re-supplies.

What you can do: Surprise a friend at work with lunch delivered by bicycle or on foot!

NOLS River Base, VErnal, Utah

NOLS Students paddle an inflatable raft

Photo by David Morgan.

What we do: Winterize our facilities during the winter months, shutting off all utilities.

What you can do: Think about ways you can use less energy during different times of the year—like relying on natural light rather than electric lights during long summer days.

NOLS Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

NOLS Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. Photo by Brad Christensen.

What we do: Built a certified LEED Platinum Education Facility

What you can do: Research various ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home and integrate some projects into your spring cleaning routine.

NOLS Yukon

Group of people standing on a lakeshore with mountains in the background

Photo by Jack Friedman.

What we do: Repurpose wood from old canoes for new construction projects.

What you can do: Find things lying around the house that could be used for decorative or functional pieces. Get creative!

[Editor's note: Post updated 6/21/24]

Written By

Sarah Zimmerman

Sarah Zimmerman works through words, images, events, and the outdoors. She has experience as a kayak instructor and an agency coordinator, and she loves to combine her passion for nature with her strategic marketing and PR skills. Sarah strives to create and share engaging, useful content while bringing people together for worthy causes.

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