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Leave No Trace: Rethink Your Impact on the Outdoors

setting up camp in Denali, Alaska

Fruit peels in the wild: do they or don’t they belong?

You might have seen them around: orange peels, apple cores, or leftover trail foods. These are just a few of the foods that have been making themselves more at home in the outdoors. Though they’re great snacks (we love them), when left scattered outdoors, they’re just trash. There’s this strange assumption that since fruits and nuts are compostable or biodegradable, it’s okay to leave them on the ground. However, these foods are not native to the wild environment and can destroy the natural ecosystem. In additional, nonnative foods are harmful to wildlife who become dependent on human foods and can’t fully digest it.

This got us thinking, “What is the role we, as travelers, have on the natural spaces we visit?” and “What is our impact on the outdoors?” We all want to explore the outdoors, but how can we continue to preserve it for generations to come?

Rethink the Leave No Trace Principles

backpacking in the outdoors (Denali, Alaska)

The idea to “leave no trace” when we travel means to leave zero trace of our presence in the places we visit. Realistically, it means to leave minimal impact on the outdoors to help preserve, protect, and respect the wild lands and wildlife. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics helps educate people with their Leave No Trace Seven Principles. These are to:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

You can learn more about the Leave No Trace Seven Principles here.

Other Ways to Practice the Leave No Trace Principles

backpacking in the outdoors (Denali, Alaska)
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Anything you bring with you to the outdoors must be carried back out. This includes food, wrappers, gear, and human waste. Consider picking up any trash you see on the trails as well (everyone will appreciate you).
  • Research the rules of your intended destination. Rules are there to help protect the environment and keep visitors safe. Each place you visit may have different rules and regulations. Research them and follow them!
  • Stay on the trails. Established trails help maintain the land, plants, and microbes that are a part of each special ecosystem. We risk permanently damaging wild places by going off-trail. Plus, many people worked hard to establish the trails we are fortunate enough to walk on. Staying on the trails is an ode to their hard work.
  • Keep sounds to a minimal. The sounds of nature are rare and remarkable. Being outdoors brings a sense of calmness and peace to a lot of people. If you want to listen to your music, please wear headphones – this will preserve the sounds of nature and allow other people to enjoy it too.
  • Respect wildlife. It’s normal to get excited when we see animals in the wild. But in order to protect them and ourselves, we must observe from a safe distance (most national parks recommend at least 25 yards). Refrain from feeding them, too. Yes, even the squirrels are off limits.
  • Leave each place better than you found it. Clean up after yourself, pick up trash when you see it, and take nothing but pictures. Flowers, pinecones, rocks, and leaves are a part of the ecosystem and belong outdoors, not in our homes.
  • Speak up! Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see someone doing something they shouldn’t. Approach with kindness and an open mind.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can protect the environment when traveling, read our Guide to Hiking Etiquette 101 and Guide to Backpacking 101.  

For anyone who enjoys being in the outdoors, we must consider our responsibility to help protect and preserve the places we visit. Wild places are a part of the fragile environment that took thousands and millions of years to form through various natural forces. They’re truly special. As we continue to invest in the development of cities, we lose more and more of our natural places. It’s so important to protect what we have now and to leave no trace wherever we go.

Did we miss anything above? We’d love to know how you Leave No Trace in the outdoors in the comment section below.


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