Appalachian Mountain Club hikers circa 1920. Courtesy AMC Archives.

There is a lot of advice circulating this time of the year. Advice that inevitably encourages us to take advantage of the clean slate a New Year presents and start anew. To begin that diet or gym membership. To take a course, acquire a new skill or volunteer. For each of us, a New Year brings the eternal hope that we can become better versions of ourselves. But 2020 is also the start of a new decade. So I’d just like to take a moment to think about what a Decade Outdoors (D.O.) might look like…a “to D.O.” list of ten things each of us can do to help make this decade the best ten years for us and the planet.

  1. Prioritize the outdoors in your life. There’s a dreadful statistic that the average person will spend 90% of their lives indoors (from: The National Human Activity Pattern Survey). Imagine the positive benefits if we could increase the time spent outdoors by even a small percentage point. Become an Outdoor Citizen by prioritizing the outdoors in 2020 and by making a commitment to grow the time you spend outdoors each year – with a goal of improving your outdoor life each year throughout the decade.
  2. Join an outdoors’ community. Get connected to a community of outdoor enthusiasts (like the Appalachian Mountain Club at Most of these groups cost less than a monthly gym membership to join for the year. Research groups in your area and join one. Many of these outdoor groups not only offer you a community of like-minded people who want to get active outdoors, but they also offer hundreds of annual trips and activities.
  3. Become a policy advocate. Pick a conservation, environmental, nature-centric or outdoor recreational issue and learn, learn, learn. Take that learning knowledge and apply it to advocacy, whether close to home or at a national level. We need to give our full-throated support to conservation causes we care about.
  4. OutdoorCity. By 2030 nearly 75% of the planet will be living in urban areas. If you live in or near a city, think about how you can foster an OutdoorCity and take action to insure that your city prioritizes the outdoors and nature. Push for City investments in green spaces, outdoor recreational infrastructure (like cycling and walking trails), and advocate for the construction and installation of resilient ecosystems, including to support your community’s climate adaptation strategies.
  5. Know your footprint? Never before has it been easier to determine your carbon foot print – your impact on the planet. Take a second and measure what you’re doing today and set goals to lower your carbon footprint by 30% by 2030. ( Take an easy first step by embracing the sharing economy, including car sharing and other environmentally conscious services. Small changes now can become habit forming. The aggregate of all of our efforts will lead to positive change.
  6. Lead. Take a leadership role in a conservation organization; volunteer for a environmental clean up or policy related campaign; run for local office; learn an outdoor skill and use that skill to help others get hooked on the fun of the outdoors. The 2020’s are your time to lead. We need your leadership help to turn the tide of climate change and get more people active in the bounty of the outdoors. Give of your time, talent and treasure to make a difference and to make this our decade outdoors.
  7. Clean Energy. The next decade presents us with incredible possibilities to fully embrace a clean energy economy. We are at the intersection of renewable energy innovation, 5G, AI and other digital wonders, and the critical need to invest in resilient infrastructure. Adopting clean energy technologies will help us make the 2020’s the Decade Outdoors by insuring a more sustainable future, a new era of clean energy related jobs and a healthier planet for all of us.
  8. Understand where your money is being invested? I have had the opportunity to meet with some of the biggest investment and financial services firms in the past year. Each of these firms told me that they are/will prioritize, sustainable, environmental and conservation related investments – because their customers are demanding they do so. Understand where your money is being invested and take an active role in putting it where it can do the most good.
  9. Outdoors for everyone. The promise of the outdoors belongs to everyone. We are desperate for a rich diversity of people who are active outdoors, active environmental voters and are active in conservation stewardship. It’s our responsibility to take action and insure that every outdoor effort includes the strategic planning and actionable steps to make diversity, equity and inclusion a permanent part of the outdoors community.
  10. Make it fun. I’ve always found that the outdoors presents the unexpected. An awe inspiring moment, a time of complete quiet, a time to learn about oneself, a new bond with a fellow hiker or a nature discovery – the outdoors never lets you down. In whatever you decide to do in your Decade Outdoors, keep it safe and make it fun. Keeping a fun spirit in whatever you decide to tackle will help make the outdoors habit forming. It will keep you coming back for more. As you increase your skill level, you may increase the fun factor by setting your sights on new achievements – a new mountain to climb, a new river to kayak or a new trail or park to explore. By making it fun, I am confident that the outdoors will become a rich part of your personal journey. May your Decade Outdoors bring you joy in the New Year and beyond!