Why the 'Leave No Trace' Movement is Vital for Outdoor Adventures
Not one of the most commonly used acronyms but nevertheless, one of the most important. LNT - Leave No Trace.
Simple, classic and very easy to understand. LNT is a huge movement in North America currently, which encourages and educates people on how and why we should protect our beautiful planet.
What is 'Leave No Trace'?
Leave No Trace is an organisation which was set up 25 years ago to champion the sustainable movement and to ensure that absolutely all of us show the correct respect to mother nature when we’re out and about. The aim is education, as opposed to restoration afterwards. It aims to be proactive in ensuring people have the right knowledge prior to travelling outdoors, instead of trying to fight to outcome of it.
Although they work in all 50 states across the U.S, there is absolutely no reason why these beliefs, values and principles can’t be applied wherever we are in the world, especially on our doorstep here in the UK.
What are the 7 'Leave No Trace' principles?
- Trashed Natural Areas
- Polluted Water
- Misinformation in the Outdoors
- Wildlife at Risk
- Damaged Trails
- Destructive Fires
- Connecting Youth to Nature
- Crowded Parks
To then battle these, Leave No Trace has designed 7 principles to encourage engaged participation in protection and they are principles we can all live by when we're on our own outdoor adventures.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
Sounds pretty do-able right? Take a coat when it’s forecast rain. Bring food if you are going for a long time. Even mapping a route to use. These are situations which can be interchanged for a long hike through Yosemite National Park, or your everyday commute to work.
- For instance, you are helping the environment by bringing your own coat and not contributing to the fast fashion crisis by running and buying another. This is because we wear things once and throw them away and you don’t think of it again once the bin’s left your drive monday morning. Yet it stays in landfill garbage, contributing to the waste crisis. So by simply bringing your own coat and not going for the quick rainproof mac that they sell at gift stores, you’re helping the environment much more than you think. Go you.
- By bringing your own food, on your hike or commute, you are avoiding buying plastic packaging, a very well-known contributor to several worldwide, human-created issues. So that fit sarnie you made last night doesn’t just taste good, but makes you look good, too. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who’s global warming conscious. Unless its cheese and pickle, then no thank you.
- Ahhh mapping a route. The usual benefits of you won’t get lost, you wont end up 28 miles from where you needed to be and you won’t cry at your Apple maps. Now I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done all of these. I don’t have the best sense of direction, I will admit. However, when I get lost, it doesn’t only affect me, but it affects a lot of other people. If I get lost on the way home from Asda (based on true events), I have to stop, mess about figuring my way, call my Dad, Dad gets annoyed as I live 100 miles away from him so he doesn’t know, then it’s a whole hooha and I’m still stuck. Similarly, if I get lost in a National Park, you have to rely on others to get you back on track, which is incredibly harder than calling your Dad. So it might be fun to lose track of time taking in nature, but once you get lost, someone else, for instance a park ranger or strangers, would have to help you guide your way. This itself then creates further strain on National Parks and increases the other effects associated with more people being out than needs be.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
The park rangers couldn’t have made it any easier for you; they have literally drew a line where to walk.
They got rid of trees and plants in your way. In lots of places, they used stone or wood to ease your journey. The least you could do is follow the path. Why would you want to tread on beautiful flowers and plants that are just living their lives, minding their own business. This is actually a huge problem, as it ruins the nearby vegetation. That’s not cool. I thought long and hard about how to travel on durable surfaces in everyday life and the first thing that came to mind was the London tube, especially on the escalators where one side means you’re standing still and the other is if you’re rushing.
In a nutshell, understand the situation and be considerate of others around you and all is good.
3. Dispose of waste properly
This is something we can all easily introduce into our everyday lives, no matter where in the world we are and it is something we should all be doing already.
For instance, recycling. By educating yourself on what you can/cannot recycle will prevent pollution, conserve natural resources and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. I know it’s easy to forget about once it’s left you drive, but landfills are a giant problem for our planet. So by taking 5 minutes to read about whether milk bottles are recyclable or not, it is so beneficial to the planet.
Disposing of smaller waste properly, such as wrappers, is very important, as litter is not only an eye sore, but a drain on public funds. When you carelessly throw the Haribo bag on the floor instead of the extremely accessible bin, who do you think picks it up? Not you. Whereas if you used the bin, or kept hold of it until there was one near, there wouldn’t be a problem. When you are hiking or out in the countryside, this is vital as litter can cause major harm to wildlife. It is a fundamental level of respect that we all should have for each other and the planet itself.
4. Leave what you find
One of my favourite phrases is “Take nothing but photographs and leave only footprints”.
This is essential when you’re in nature, as you don’t want to disturb any of the beauty, or harm any wildlife. For instance, you may think picking a pretty flower is harmless, but if everyone picked a pretty flower, we’d be stuck looking at roots. Sadly, they're not as pretty as the flowers. Plus, once you’ve picked them, they’re unable to regrow and will die within a couple of days. So, it’s a nice idea but ultimately not great for the environment. This doesn’t have to be in the far east of the Amazonian rainforest, this could be on the patch of grass where you walk your dog, or the field by your local Asda.
Flowers are meant to be appreciated, so let more people appreciate them.
5. Minimise campfire impacts
Campfires during the summer are very popular for socialising. So knowing how to put them out and where to use them safely is something people should take more seriously.
Yes, campfires are beautiful, they keep your warm and builds an atmosphere. But they can also cause raging wildfires. So by being more intune and aware will prevent this. If you’re out in the wilderness, make sure you know the fire danger for that time of year, for instance if the fire danger is high, it means the area is dry and the possibility of a wildfire is high, so don’t start fires.
Also, by using approved fire rings, it means the campfire is in a space far enough from things that could easily ignite. Making sure someone is always watching the fire lowers the chance of wildfires as someone is there to stop it, if it occurs. That doesn’t mean you assign a fire guard for the night, but you are just more aware of the fire.
6. Respect wildlife
Say it louder for the people in the back. Respect Wildlife. Don’t be an idiot. Leave them be. You’re in their home as much as their in yours. They have as much right to live their life as you do yours. Simple.
7. Be considerate to other visitors
Life is a beautiful thing. Let everyone experience it in the best way possible.
Use manners. Be friendly. Smile. Help the older lady with her shopping. Listen to your friends. Call your family and ask how they are. Let the person with one item go ahead of you. Hold the door open to people. Just be a good person. One of the most complained about things, is when you’re chilling on the beach enjoying the noise of kids splashing in the ocean, or the seagulls cawing from above. Then you hear some obnoxious kids blaring some trash music, which ruins the relaxing atmosphere. So be aware of others around you and put your headphones in.
The outdoors is for absolutely everyone to enjoy in peace, so consideration is the most important thing.
One really cool thing that Leave No Trace has put together is an interactive map, which highlights where they’re working in the U.S and the level that their education has been implemented. So if you’re potentially travelling the States after summer camp and you’re wanting to hike trails that are doing the right thing, you can check them out here.
Make sure you Leave No Trace
I hope this helped you think about how you can be more environmentally aware and for more information, head to Leave No Trace's website.. There is something all of us can do. So by doing one simple thing, you’ve made a start.
The great outdoors is an incredibly beautiful scene, let’s keep it that way.