Leave No Trace is a set of Outdoor Ethics which were developed in 1994. They have now taken off, becoming the standard ethics shared by National Parks, and is the foundation of which Hike it Out draws itself from.
These key 7 points cover the best ways to be environmentally friendly when outdoors, I have explained how you can incorporate each of the principals into your next trip.
- Plan ahead and prepare
Plan your path, meals and water, know your exists and tell someone where you are going. Should you be overdue in returning it’s so important someone knows where to start looking. Safety first!
Try minimise your packaging before you leave. Remove unnecessary wrappers and labels, use reusable products like water bottles and food pouches and bring a bag to take any rubbish with you.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Delicate foliage can be destroyed by being walked or camped on. Stick to the marked paths and campsites to have the lowest impact on the ecosystem you are exploring. The smaller the group you go with, the smaller your impact. Having a large group contributes to natural trails being worn down, and generally ends up being noisy, disrupting other hikers or wildlife.
- Dispose of waste properly
Disposing of waste properly while outdoors is so important. If not done properly it’s unsightly and toxic to animals. If you plan on being out for an extended period, it’s a good idea to bring a spade and toilet paper. If you need to do a #2 then make sure it’s properly buried in a hole at least 20cm deep, and at least 100m from a water source so it doesn’t contaminate drinking water for animals (and humans…yuck!). Ladies, even toilet paper from a #1 needs to buried, most toilet paper really isn’t as quick to decompose as you’d think. Even more importantly, sanitary products need to be taken back out with you.
In alpine conditions (snow and ice) it’s not advised to bury anything. These conditions call for a poo tube to carry out waste; think of it like cleaning up after your dog at the park, use a plastic bag to contain the mess.
Another mistake that’s often innocently made is pouring soap into a water source as you bath or wash dishes. Either use environmentally friendly products available at camping stores or pour it out on land 100m away. Remember this is again the main water source for animals and other hikers.
- Leave what you find
A favourite past time of mine has been collecting shells at the beach, not realising I was jeopardizing some sea creatures of their next home. It’s so important to leave nature be and not remove anything; there are hundreds of ecosystems that are relying on even the pebbles on the ground and flowers in the trees. Appreciate from afar so nature can continue to be beautiful for everyone.
- Minimise campfire impacts
Campfire pits can be extremely harmful and take a long time to regenerate. Fire scars remain for years, and lead to bush fire threats if not put out correctly. Also avoid burning toxic products like plastics in rubbish, or human waste (definitely don’t burn that).
Use a fuel stove to cook on, leaving no marks or impact, and carry out your rubbish. The aim is to leave your site seemingly untouched, which is every hikers desire.
- Respect Wildlife
Imagine how scary it would be to have a curious bear come up close to look at you, and maybe even touch you. Now image how that poor little creature feels while you’re innocently getting into its personal space. Respect wildlife by giving it space, not making loud noises and by leaving its nest/burrow alone.
Most importantly, take your rubbish with you! Animals often mistake plastics for food, even feeding it to their babies. Hundreds of animals die each year from starvation, and when researched they are usually found with stomachs full of plastic. The harm we cause is very real.
- Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors
Noise is one of the biggest disruptions caused by other people. Music can make or break a moment, so use headphones to be considerate of your fellow visitors. When camping, opt for the space away from other campers so you each have your space to enjoy your surroundings.
Natural or historic artefacts need to be left alone. The hosts of the land have allowed access so it can be appreciated by everyone – don’t ruin it by destroying ants nests, graffiting or defacing aboriginal sites.
Ultimately, you want to be seriously wondering if you were the first human to ever find the beautiful spot you are standing….