Leave No Trace Principles and Its Importance Today

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to be lifted or adjusted ever so slightly around  the world, the desire to explore the great outdoors is stronger than ever. As we take advantage of fresh air, open trails, and parks, we should not forget to maintain ample physical distance and make a conscious effort to be eco-minded.

In the 1960s and 1970s outdoor recreation enthusiasts started the Leave No Trace framework. Today, many organizations follow the framework including the Leave No Trace Program managed by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The idea behind the set of principles that fall under this umbrella term is for everyone to leave nature as pristine as it already is. In essence, the purpose of these principles are to let the ‘wild’ in wilderness remain untouched. 

We are certain our users are environmentally conscious individuals, why else would they switch from paper to paperless maps with our Avenza Maps mobile app!However, we enunciate these seven Leave No Trace principles as COVID-19 hygiene protocols have resulted in a tsunami of used personal protective equipment (PPE) scattered in places they shouldn’t be. 

1.Plan ahead and prepare

Often, the best moments are the ones unplanned, however, there is a necessary amount of planning involved when you are a green explorer. With Avenza Maps, you can find the latest maps (some even marked with COVID-19 restrictions), create or plan a route, and drop pins at points of interest. 

Furthermore, to minimize chances of danger and to guarantee fun, be sure to:

✅ Check the weather forecast and trail conditions

✅ Check updates about park or trail rules, 

✅ Equip yourself with a safety kit, the right gear, and essentials such as; food, water, and (if needed) masks and gloves.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces 

Durable surfaces include trails, gravel, rock, dry grass, and snow. Surfaces like meadows, bogs, and marshes are vulnerable to damage and vegetation in these areas take years to grow. That’s why it is recommended to stay on the trail and to walk in a single file to avoid widening the trail by trampling vegetation. 

A couple more ways to avoid encroaching into the wild, is by:

🌄 Camping at least 70 meters away from streams and lakes as animals access these points, and your presence might scare them off. 

🌄 Avoiding zones with no trails to avoid creating a new path, and reduce the impact on vegetation.

🌄 If there isn’t a fancy bed or corner at a campsite, don’t dig trenches or chop down trees to make space. Campsites aren’t created, they already exist with the perfect backdrop and soothing sounds you need for a pit-stop or an overnight rest. 

3. Ditch the disposables, the right way

Being a responsible traveller has a new meaning in 2020. We are familiar with the basics of how even an orange peel, although biodegradable, is not to be discarded by simply leaving it on the ground as it takes months for it to decompose, inturn attracting animals, and is simply an eyesore! 

Likewise, so must our PPE, even if tailored using sustainable material like linen, hemp, or bamboo, cannot be disposed of irresponsibly. A recent report states that plastic circulation is up by 300 percent in the United States due to PPE made from fossil resources like polymers.  

More info on disposing the right way:

🗑️ Pack out remainders from a meal like eggshells, fruit peels and dirty paper napkins as they take months to biodegrade and tend to attract animals.

🗑️ Don’t burn your trash in a campfire as they are certain materials that don’t burn well and might leave a trace of chemicals or simply cause a mess.

🗑️ Pick a spot 200ft away from trails to answer the call of nature as this helps keep water sources clean.
Scoop your dog’s poop, into a bag or bury it just as you would human poop as animals in the area might eat it. You could also cover it using leaves, rocks, or snow.

🗑️ Use a biodegradable soap if you must; however, highly recommended using a wet towel or scrubber instead, as soap isn’t good for the fish or plants in any natural water source. 

4. Leave what you find 

No flowers to be picked up for the vase back home, no stone collection to use as paperweights back at the office, no caterpillars to be taken back in jars for show and tell, no graffiti on rocks is permitted either, nature is to be left as is. All the nature you witness along your way is home to birds, insects, and other little creatures. Take a photo instead, as a keepsake. 

Also, as part of the Leave No Trace policy, structures such as chairs, torch light, blankets, and other tangible items aren’t allowed to be left behind either.

5. Minimize campfire impacts 

John Geddes once said “Light a campfire and everyone is a storyteller.”. What better way to have everyone gathered together, entertained and feeling warm, literally. To some people, gathering around the fire with everyone else present is an experience they look forward to the most on such trips. Each action however has a reaction and environmental activists for all the right reasons prefer that our actions don’t have any adverse effects on nature. 

Here are some tips under the Leave No Trace policy that will help: 

🔥 Keep your campfires small by using sticks from the ground that can be broken with your hand.

🔥 Put out campfires completely once done.

🔥 Use a lightweight stove for cooking and savour a meal beneath the stars with a candle lantern on the side.

🔥 Where fires are permitted, use established fire pans and fire rings.

🔥 Don’t burn your garbage in the campfire pit.

6. Respect wildlife

“We don’t own planet Earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife” - Steve Irwin

Observe wildlife from a distance and with respect. We have stepped into their territory, merely as a guest. When venturing as a large group, split yourselves into small groups to minimize your impact. 

Additionally, it is good to be cautious of the toxins you carry with you like sunscreens, perfumes, bug spray, and hand sanitizer. Chemicals or toxins from these products kill vegetation and aquatic life if they enter a water source. It is recommended to carry biodegradable, chemical-free products with you and to steer away from using anything that has to be sprayed upon use. 

7. Be considerate of others

While we may be super excited to gather with our friends and family to venture outdoors and may feel the need to turn up the volume on our portable Bluetooth speakers for some motivation, we must be mindful of our fellow trekkers or hikers, we meet along the way.

Another tip would be to take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.

The seven aforementioned principles as established by the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics, ultimately reemphasize on doing your part to save the planet by being considerate to nature, wildlife, and fellow explorers. To know the science behind these principles, visit https://www.nps.gov/articles/leave-no-trace-seven-principles.html

Thanks for giving this a read, it depicts your eagerness to learn and actively participate. Way to go!