One important part of being low or zero waste that often gets forgotten is how to do it when you are outside, whether it’s walking your dog or a 3-week backpacking trip. “The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization that protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly.” They are a group of people who are dedicated to sustaining natural lands for everyone to enjoy, now and into the future.
Leave No Trace has established seven principles to guide people with the best information on leaving the minimum amount of human impact on the environment.
The Seven Principles are:
Plan Ahead and Prepare – Make sure you know what you are getting in to before you do something outside. Research the area, know your route, bring adequate food, equipment, and clothing. Also make sure you know what types of waste you are going to bring, and bring an appropriate container (garbage bag, bucket, etc.) When I go camping for a weekend I always bring 2 kitchen size garbage bags and 2 plastic grocery bags to carry any trash. When you are packing your gear/food, try to get an idea of how much trash and waste you’re going to create. Luckily garbage and grocery bags are compact and lightweight and can be put in the smallest part of your backpack. If you want, you can bring separate containers for waste that is recyclable and non-recyclable.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – Make sure you only hike on already beaten paths and camp on already established campsites. Now this isn’t applicable everywhere, so use your best judgement if there isn’t a path already. Hike on grasses that will stand back up shortly after being stepped on and avoid walking through areas where you will tear up the ground. The same goes for campsites. Try to camp on a surface that can “bounce back” quickly after having a tent set up, sometimes you’ll need to move your tent around every night.
Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack out everything you bring in, bring a container or bag to carry your trash in. Don’t burn your trash, leave it in the woods, bury it, etc. I also like to look for any trash that was at my campsite before I arrive and pick that up as well.
Leave What You Find – Don’t keep that cool rock you found, or pick the pretty wildflowers. If you take something from the environment because you enjoy it or think it’s cool, chances are someone else will too, and they won’t get to experience that if the cool rock or pretty flowers aren’t there anymore.
Minimize Campfire Impacts – Try to only make campfires in an already established fire ring, or in some sort of vessel that can contain your fire. Also, be smart and safe when building a fire to avoid any sort of potential wildfire hazards. Make sure you know if you can burn in that area by checking with local, state, and federal agencies.
Respect Wildlife – Don’t destroy any sort of wildlife habitat, nest, or potential food source for wildlife. Don’t harass any sort of animals, and maintain a safe distance from animals not only for your safety but also their safety.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors – Treat other visitors how you would want to be treated. Like stated in Principle 4, don’t take or destroy anything that someone else might enjoy, now or in the future.
Hopefully, through these seven principles we can become better stewards of our environment, preserving it for others now and in the future. Visit www.lnt.org for more information!
~Written by Ian Barnes~