The pandemic boosted outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and camping, but the Covid-driven spike in people flocking to public lands for these pursuits also created problems for communities like Crested Butte, Colo.
While more people exploring the great outdoors has been a boon to the local economy, it also ignited an increase in trash, illegal campfires, and camping in undesignated spots throughout the Gunnison Valley.
That rankled Travis Underwood and Lisa Cramton, the owners of Chopwood Mercantile in Crested Butte, who could see this overuse in their backyard but also knew it was an issue in mountain communities around the U.S.
It also caught the eye of the shop’s marketing manager, Whitney James, who lives in Boulder but spends plenty of time in the Butte. She saw how the ongoing outdoor renaissance was ravaging public lands.
“Gunnison Valley was overrun, particularly on the Fourth of July weekend last year,” James told Outside Business Journal. “The Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) pulled out almost 60 pounds of trash from one dispersed camping area after the Fourth. That’s putting so much pressure on those ecosystems and areas that they’ve had to crack down.”
“We want this to be positive. It’s not like we’re slapping people on the wrist, but rather preemptively encouraging responsible behavior so that we can continue to be welcoming to people who are maybe coming to Crested Butte for the first time. Hopefully, this message grows.”
As the proprietors of a beloved outdoor shop where locals and visitors alike not only buy gear but also seek recommendations on the best trail to hike or lake to SUP, the Chopwood crew realized they had the platform to raise awareness about the importance of protecting public lands.
With another summer of record visitation expected, they knew their beloved public lands couldn’t take another beating like last year. So James devised a public pledge—the Conscious Camper Pledge—that would alert the public to the official and unofficial rules of camping and help “spread an attitude of responsibility and stewardship.”
“We want to raise awareness about how to camp responsibly,” she said. “We assume that people know this stuff, but maybe not, especially if they’re new to camping.”
Those who sign the pledge—which is done by sharing the message on social media—will receive a free sticker designed by renowned artist Eric Junker to keep the movement and the message alive.
Chopwood is asking people to post one of the virtual Conscious Camper stickers (images available here) to their Instagram page and tag the shop, @chopwoodmercantile, and the artist, @ericjunker. Afterward, they can head over to the checkout page and Chopwood will mail them a free Conscious Camper sticker pack.
James said the shop just started promoting this initiative organically on social media, and now the goal is to spread the pledge of responsible camping and environmental stewardship far and wide—all while keeping it fun.
“We want this to be positive,” James said. “It’s not like we’re slapping people on the wrist, but rather preemptively encouraging responsible behavior so that we can continue to be welcoming to people who are maybe coming to Crested Butte for the first time. Hopefully, this message grows.”