Story By Amber Burke
Photos by MING POON
North Lake Tahoe’s natural beauty speaks for itself. But if we don’t speak up for it — read: do what needs to be done to preserve it — our lakes, meadows, rivers, and all the secret places of the forest won’t retain their magic and biodiversity.
The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, in partnership with the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitor Bureau, compiled a list of actionable items for visitors and residents to help protect this precious resource that is Tahoe. Below are a few suggestions on how to incorporate responsible behavior into daily practices. A few extra steps can go a long way toward preserving community, the environment, and our sense of place. Join us and show your commitment by signing the Traveler Responsibility Pledge at gotahoenorth.com/sustainable-travel-pledge/. And help spread the word to others!
1. Be a Tahoe steward
• Help Keep Tahoe Blue. The Tahoe Blue Crews volunteer program organizes visitors and residents for cleanup efforts at litter hotspots.
• Taking care of your surroundings includes caring for yourself. Pay attention to signage and observe trail advisories. They’re in place to keep you safe. Failure to observe them can endanger others, including our emergency responders.
2. Respect the environment
• Cut emissions and take advantage of our public transportation system which includes (free) buses, trams, trolleys, and shuttles, many of which run on electricity.
• Rent a bike — no emissions necessary. Bike lanes and trails let you hit the road on two wheels safely. It’s good for your body and the environment.
• Skip single-use products. And if you forget your reusable water bottle, support Tahoe Fund by purchasing a “Drink Tahoe Tap” water bottle at a local Raley’s grocery store.
• Reduce microplastics. Small pieces of plastic from items like water and soda bottles, fishing nets, and plastic bags, harm aquatic wildlife and water clarity. Reduce plastic use and keep the problem of everlasting plastic out of our water systems. Anything you dispose of may end up in the lake.
3. Stay educated
• Get up to speed on your boat and watercraft inspections. Lake Tahoe’s waters are a pristine ecosystem that should not be disturbed by species that don’t belong. Local authorities work to protect our waters from aquatic invaders primarily through the institution of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) inspections, and you can help by complying with best practices.
• Know what can be recycled, composted, or disposed as waste — and don’t litter. Keep Truckee Green provides a guide to help you know what’s recyclable and what’s not.
4. Keep wildlife wild
• Do not feed wild animals. The Lake Tahoe Basin is home to more than 1,000 plant species and over 290 animals including the Sierra red fox, the Lahontan cutthroat trout, and the mountain beaver. Don’t touch them or disrupt their natural lives. Let them find food in the wild and roam their natural routes. Sharing your lunch with them teaches them to go after human food.
• Be “bear aware.” After all, there’s a good chance you might run into one while you’re here. Visit the Tahoe BEAR League website to learn what you can do to keep them — and yourself — safe while you visit. Important: Dispose of your food waste in bear-proof receptacles, and always close the hatch. Store uneaten food in bear boxes and remove all trash from vehicles to prevent break-ins or other encounters.
5. Be fire safe
• Get county fire alerts. Before coming to Tahoe, subscribe to these updates so you can act wisely at a moment’s notice.
• Be in the know about wood, charcoal, and other fire safety. Did you know that most wildfires in North Tahoe and California are started by accident? Improper grilling, stray cigarette butts, and all sorts of other human activities can devastate the environment. Get familiar with the many restrictions in place around the region during fire season (see p. 20).
• Watch for Red Flag Warnings. While every fire season warrants caution, some days are more dangerous than others. Red Flag Warning Systems alert us to these conditions.
• Be ready to evacuate. Fires can happen anytime and are often unpredictable. Arm yourself with knowledge before an emergency at tahoelivingwithfire.com.
6. Blaze a trail of kindness
• Take a mindful approach. Consider visiting midweek or during lower volume seasons, which are the destination’s hidden treasures. This helps manage traffic, mitigate pollution, and retain quality of life. Plus, you’ll have more room to roam!
• Observe your impact. How do your choices impact others? Drive and park safely, speak kindly to others, keep noise down in residential areas, and greet the people you meet with friendliness and warmth.
• See a crowded area? Consider choosing another activity. Overcrowding can produce safety hazards and make it hard to care for the land. With hundreds of acres to explore, by revising your plans you’ll be doing yourself — and the community — a favor.
• Gift your time. Nonprofit organizations work tirelessly to keep people and our environment safe. Join them by signing up for volunteer work at Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Tahoe Fund, and North Tahoe Business Association — among many others.
• Clean up your dog’s mess. Nobody likes a smelly surprise on the bottom of their shoe. Bring waste bags for Fido, and dispose of dog refuse.
• Support a local organization. If you don’t have time to volunteer, try financially supporting an organization that’s doing work you appreciate.
• Buy local. Take home fresh regional produce from special places like the Tahoe City Farmer’s Market, or do holiday shopping here. Use North Lake Tahoe’s gift card program and pay ahead for lodging, dining, materials, and other adventures online.
Editor’s Note: This guide was originally published on gotahoenorth.com/north-lake-tahoe-sustainability/. It has been edited for clarity and brevity here.