Hey Kula-verse! I'm so thrilled to be introducing Britany Freeman from @11thessential today! Britany is not only a passionate stewards of public lands, she also happens to be a Kula Cloth™ Ambassador!
On April 19th, her first event... a virtual Earth Day Cleanup called 'DO GOOD FRIDAY', launches! This event is sponsored by Kula, Granite Gear, Backpackers Bistro and The Grounds Keepers.
Britany is one of the most driven, determined individuals that I've ever met. Her dedication to creating a better world is contagious. As you read her words, I want you to think not of the few people who unconsciously discard garbage where it doesn't belong ... I want you to focus on the good that Britany is doing... and the millions of people who ARE working hard to make our planet a better place. When advocacy and stewardship start to become the norm, rather than the exception, true change is possible.
1. Tell us about who you are and how you developed such a passion for wild spaces!
I was blessed with a childhood where I ran around the woods and spent summers splashing through the creeks. My grandpa took us camping, hiking and fishing at every opportunity. He instilled a respect for nature and a love for everything it contained. My cousin and I competed every summer to see who could earn the most Jr. Naturalist badges at our state parks and completely immersed ourselves in all things outdoors.
Those things I learned in those sessions stuck with me. They taught me valuable skills and how to recreate with purpose and, most importantly, how to do it responsibly. Over 20 years later, I find myself high-fiving younger me. She would be so proud.
However, I know not everyone was able to have those opportunities or education and, today, the influx of people finding happiness in our outdoor spaces is outpacing the availability of funding and outdoor education like Leave No Trace. Less educational programming, more people visiting parks and other public lands. This is unfortunately a horrible equation for those places. My hope is to help decrease the consequences and bridge the gap the best I can.
2. You started "The 11th Essential". Tell us where the inspiration for this initiative came from and most importantly... WHAT is the 11th essential?
The 11th Essential was born from passing on those skills I learned to my nieces. Every hike together, I would teach them something new from the 10 essentials to LNT principles and fun nature facts. We always picked up trash on the trail together and spoke of stewardship and our responsibilities to the places we were visiting. Every hike we seemed to find more and more litter on the trails. The size of our extra bag grew until one day I joked with them a full-size trash bag had become our 11th essential.
The light bulb came on. The initiative was born. Over the last year, I have used the 11th Essential to spread a message of stewardship, focusing on how easy it can be by simply adding an extra bag for litter to your essential items.
Encouraging people to not just walk past the trash, but to pick it up. If everyone did this on every adventure, we could help protect the places we love. Help our parks and public lands who don’t have the funding or manpower to clean-up all the trails all the time.
3. What have you learned from leading this mission?
Stewardship is contagious. That is what I have learned with the 11th Essential. That is what I have learned on the trails myself. When I am out and someone sees me with a bag of trash or just picking up a bottle, a conversation almost always ensues. I use this as a chance to talk about LNT and the importance of stewardship and following park rules or whatever organically comes from the conversation but always, always as some sort of teaching moment.
More often than not, the response I receive is a good one. Most say they never even thought of bringing an extra bag and they plan to on their next adventure. Some have never heard of LNT principles and I urge them to research them and learn about things they may have been doing unknowingly that could be causing unintentional harm.
4. What does Leave No Trace mean to you?
Leave No Trace education is so important yet so underfunded because of the funding issues plaguing outdoor recreation. The 11th Essential is so much more than picking up trash from trails and outdoor spaces. It is a vessel I hope can help supplement the lapse in outdoor education through the conversations it creates and, eventually, could help financially by supplying parks with signage and programs to encourage visitors to do so responsibly. Leave No Trace principles are the key to protecting the places we love the most.
Those spaces are worth so much to so many of us. I know I am the person I was meant to be when I am in the wilderness and lost amongst the peaks and trees. I will not stop fighting to protect the places I love.
5. You have a big event coming up on April 19th - tell us about it!
This year in honor of Earth Day, we have teamed up with Granite Gear’s The Groundskeepers to put on a virtual clean-up event called #DoGoodFriday. The event will take place on Friday, April 19th and encourages everyone to pack their 11th Essential, hit the trails and leave it better than they found it. Afterwards, they will take to social media and post about the impact they have made in hopes that a wave of stewardship takes over and continues to spread. There is also a chance to win some awesome prizes from Granite Gear, Kula Cloth, Backpacker’s Bistro, and the 11th Essential.
On top of the virtual event, there is a registration option to help raise money for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics so they can help spread their message far and wide. There are currently 4 in-person clean-ups available to sign-up for as well. I will personally be attending the clean-up at Fox Ridge State Park as my friend Jenny holds her inaugural event for her passion project, the Illinois Park Project.
One of my favorite parts of the 11th essential is being able to take it on the road. I am an avid part-time #fakevanlifer in my SUV conversion. I get to travel around with one of my many adventure pups, usually to National Forests, and explore all the beauty they have to offer and hopefully leave it even better and more beautiful. The outdoors is the place where I am able to feel like that happy kid running through the forest again with no other cares or responsibilities other than those in that exact moment and that is absolutely the most beautiful thing to me. I want my nieces and nephews to have those same opportunities when they get older. I want those places that fill my soul to still be around to give them that same feeling. This is why I will fight to protect those places any possible way I can because if we won’t protect the places we love, who will?
Connect with Britany:
A little bit more about the #DoGoodFriday event:
The 11th Essential and Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers want you to join us on April 19 as we celebrate Earth Day a little early and #DoGoodFriday for Mother Earth! The best part? You can join from wherever you are!
On Friday, April 19th, hit the trails or waterways and pack your #11thEssential and leave it better than you found it! When you return from your adventure, post the photos of your stewardship on Instagram with the hashtag #DoGoodFriday and tag the @11thEssential and @thegroundskeepers. That’s all it takes to be entered to win some awesome prizes including a Granite Gear backpack, 11th Essential swag, prizes from Kula Cloth and Backpacker's Bistro and more!! Just make sure your photo is posted by April 21 to be eligible. 5 winners will be selected on Earth Day, Monday, April 22nd!
In addition, you can also take part in our fundraising efforts for Leave No Trace Center by checking out the registration options below. All packages except for "donation only" will include two (2) 11th Essential stickers and (2) Grounds Keepers stickers. One option includes the items and an extra $5 donation. All profits will be donated to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics at the completion of the event.
Ticket prices also have fees passed on so we can make our donation as large as possible. The fees are $2.24 for the $10 option and $2.55 for the $15. The donation only option will charge based on a percentage.
**Please be sure to enter your address as we will not be able to ship your items without it.**
The 11th Essential will also be co-hosting a clean-up on the same day! We have teamed up with Illinois Park Project to clean-up Fox Ridge State Park. If you want to attend the in-person event, please add the Free ticket to your order as well because group size is limited.
The address for the park is: 18175 State Park Rd, Charleston, IL 61920
More locations are listed below for clean-ups happening in conjunction with the event including 2 in Northeastern Ohio.
Join us in keeping our Mother clean, protecting our public lands and supporting outdoor education!
Find the @11thessential on Instagram, visit www.britanyinwanderland.com/11thessential
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information! You can also find Granite Gear and the Grounds Keepers at @granitegear and @thegroundskeepers. Check out our other awesome sponsors while you are at it! @BackpackersBistro and @KulaCloth on IG! You can find the Illinois Park Project at @illinoisparkproject