Getting outside is important. In fact there are numerous studies that show how great it is to be outside in nature. In a way nature takes care of us, but with the rise of social media bringing more people outside, I have to ask, how do we take care of nature?
Let’s start with the obvious. Leave No Trace encourages users of the outdoors to follow their 7 principles that aim to reduce impact. These principles have been established for as long as I can remember and it’s quite simple. The basic idea is to leave the area in a better condition then when you may have found it. In any outdoor venue, either a national park, local park, state park, Bureau of Land Management land, forest land, or any water ways, the goal is to take care of it for the next generation.
It’s as simple as picking up the trash that you have found, removing food and waste from the site, breaking down fire pits, and staying on maintained trails.
The 7 principles are as followed:
Plan ahead and prepare
Bring a map, a GPS, and a compass when going into the back county, off trail, or even on maintained trail. Bring enough water and food. Learn the area that you’re in by asking questions and using the internet for research. Is there dangerous wildlife in the area? Where is potable water? What are important things to know?
Travel on durable surfaces
Never go off road unless otherwise stated. Never walk off trail. Doing so will result in plants being killed off. Creating new trails creates a disturbance of the land.
Dispose of waste properly
Throw away your trash. Throw away any trash you find. Pro tip: Bring out an already used plastic bag and gloves whenever you go on an adventure. Dispose of properly.
When dealing with human waste use a toilet as much as you can. Any amount of a human waste is harmful to the environment. If you know you are in an area that is protected and/or fragile, then plan ahead with a bucket, compostable waste treatment such as Poo Powder™ or a Wag Bag™. Pro tip: You can sometimes find these for free at trailheads or outdoor events. If you are in a real bind with no toilet for miles, then dig a hole at least 6 inches deep, 4 inches wide, burying the human waste, minus the toilet paper.
Leave what you find
What’s found in nature, stays in nature. This doesn’t include trash because that’s a man made product. Leave sticks, rocks, moss, dirt, and sand where you found it.
Minimize campfire impacts
Watch for fire warnings. Never have a fire when there is a fire risk. Make sure to put out any campfire you might have. That means drowning, burying, and leave no embers lit. If the campfire is still warm, its still at risk.
Animals are wild. They live on their own or in packs, searching for their food. If anyone disturbs the natural ways of the animals life, such as giving food to wild animals, then those animals become dependent on humans. Basically one needs to keep their distance. Never get too close to an animal. An example of people not following that rule would be in Yellowstone National Park, where many tourists have been hurt or killed by a wild animal because they got too close. Keep pets on leash to minimize interaction with wild animals.
Be considerate of other visitors
This principle is important because everyone’s experience in the outdoors is important. The outdoors is for everyone, but in order for everyone to get along and nature to be accessible, everyone has to work together. A few simple ways of being considerate of others would be to pick up trash, don’t play loud music, don’t build fires close to someones campsite, share important information, keep dogs on leash, pick up after dogs, and if all else fails, communicate assertively when there is an issue.
With the rise of social media and “influencers” promoting active lifestyles in the outdoors, myself included, I felt it was important to draw attention back to keeping nature wild. Following the LNT priniciples is a great start for those that are new to the outdoors. Learning to take care of nature is imperative for the next generation of users. Access to areas can always be revoked by land managers, so lets work together to take care of nature, and nature will continue to take care of us.