An interview with Will Gadd; UN Environment Mountain Hero
Will Gadd, Red Bull Sponsored Athlete and UN Environment Mountain Hero.
Root’s Founder and lead Consultant Tracy is passionate about the environment. She spends the vast majority of her personal time in the great outdoors hiking, climbing and mountaineering. An avid Ice climber and follower of Will’s adventures, Tracy read about the great work that Will has been doing as a Mountain Hero for the United Nations* and wanted to know more about Will’s experience of brands, packaging and the great outdoors.
Can you tell me why protecting the environment is so high on your agenda, was there anything particular that sparked interest of has it always been important to you?
I live and work in the mountains most of each year. Whether it’s climate change, litter or new roads I see it all first hand in a way few people have the chance. I’ve made a career bringing stories back from the outside world and I would hope everyone can get outside and experience that joy. In the last 20 years I’ve seen the pace of change accelerate, from Greenland to the Andes, the Alps to Africa, and I just can’t ignore it.
With adventures in mountain ranges like the Alps and the Andes I’ve seen stark evidence of climate change in glacial retreat that I’ve found upsetting. What’s your experience of this throughout the places you’ve travelled?
The first time I really understood how quickly things were changing is when I saw my local glacier, the Athabasca, retreating farther and farther even in my relatively short lifetime. It’s just so clear and obvious that it’s disappearing. I see glacial recession everywhere, often at rates well above my home mountain range. Climate change isn’t a theory to me anymore than sunlight. It’s happening, and fast.
This article (LINK) highlights how microplastic has found it’s way into remote parts of the Pyrenees. I expect you’ve seen all sorts of litter, especially when high altitude mountaineering?
Yes. In deep in caves, in glaciers, even on the Greenland Ice Sheet. You really can’t find any place on earth where humans haven’t had a significant impact on the environment either directly through soot from pollution, or indirectly through climate change and chemicals working their way around the world. It’s understandable to think of pollution as a local problem, but we’re all locals on earth…
My work focuses on what big brands can do to take responsibility for the packaging they create. Are any of your sponsors doing anything great that you can share?
Packaging is important, and I know that all the companies I work with are thinking about their packaging from an environmental perspective. Arc’tery is going a step farther and doing a really cool project where they will fix your old Arc’teryx gear for a nominal fee. A lot of zippers blow on jackets that are still fully functional, and now Arc’teryx will fix all of their old product for relatively cheap. It’s so high quality that the materials often outlast everything else. Black Diamond Is also working on a similar program, and I run a program that sends old gear to climbers globally who can’t afford the new stuff.
Is there anything that you think the Canadian Government are doing a great job or specific to packaging?
Bottle deposits are positive in a lot of ways and we have that in Canada. Recycling is also good, but the global problem is that a lot of industrial and consumer packaging simply isn’t easily to recycle or compost. Even if it is recyclable it’s often hard to find a way to recycle I’d like to see more countries follow Germany’s lead and simply outlaw plastic bottles, along with more stringent packaging and production rules. The absolute mountains of plastic in everything from kid toys to disposable razors is horrific when you start really looking at it. I’ve personally decided to cut my “recyclable garbage” in half by buying bulk in the grocery store with my own containers and avoiding plastic packing as much as possible. If we can cut the amount of garbage we buy in half then that’s a lot better than a lot of the faux recycling that’s going on.
Great to learn about your role as a UN Environment Mountain Hero. Can you tell me what that entails and why you chose to get involved?
Mostly doing what I’m doing, but with the support of the UN. The pictures, films and stories I’m working on are mostly sports documentaries, but they reach some really important people: Those who either aren’t aware or wavering on whether or not to politically support policies that will help our planet stay habitable. I have kids, which from an environmental perspective is an issue, but I hope to effect both their attitudes and the world they will inherit. Right now I think we’re all really damaging the most precious thing we’re going to leave future humans: our planet.