The outdoors is trending, in a good way, because everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy nature. Brands are encouraging people to take a hike, and websites promoting outdoor recreation have seen phenomenal growth, and while this is all great news—our enthusiasm comes at a cost. Let’s not pitch tents where we shouldn’t, or build campfires next to scenic overlooks, go into off-limit areas just for a good photo, or leave any garbage behind. And for those of us following all the rules—let’s pick up any garbage we find!
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has developed seven principles for responsible behavior in nature. The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace were developed to help educate and guide recreationists in sustainable minimum impact practices that mitigate or avoid recreation-related impacts. These Principles are the most robust and widely utilized minimum impact outdoor practices. Although Leave No Trace has its roots in backcountry and wilderness, the practices have been adapted so that they can be applied anywhere - from the backcountry, to local parks, to your backyard - and for any recreational activity. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts.
The Seven Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
The Principles are based not only on a respect for nature and other visitors, they are also based on and supported by scientific research. The majority of this research aligns with the fields of Recreation Ecology and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. Recreation Ecology research informs us about recreation-related impacts and how they can be reduced by managers and visitors, while Human Dimensions research tells us about outdoor enthusiasts perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors regarding enjoyment of the outdoors.
Below are examples that help drive the point home so we can all get outside for generations to come.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Know the rules and regulations of where you’re camping. Do you need a bear canister? Can you bring your dog? Also, make sure you’re prepared for bad weather and emergencies.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Camp in a designated campsite, or on rock, dry grass or snow at least 200 feet from rivers and streams, unless you’re in a designated area that allows it.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
If you’re in the backcountry, dig a 6-inch-deep hole for human waste (bring a trowel!) and pack out your used toilet paper. Also, do not wash yourself or any plates or utensils, including coffee mugs, in creeks or rivers.
4. Minimize Campfire Impacts
That fire by the side of the lake you saw on Instagram? It should not be repeated.
5. Leave What You Find
You stole that rock collection from Mother Nature. Leave things, big and small, where you find them!
6. Respect Wildlife
Don’t feed any animals ever, period, even if it’s for a photo. And don’t walk up to a bison at Yellowstone for a selfie.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Remember the time you had a terrible roommate? Don’t be that person at your local campsite, or even deep in the backcountry. Keep your voices and any music low. Let nature do the talking.
To learn more about Leave No Trace, make sure you check out their website!