If you've been in the outdoor community for a while, you'd be pretty familiar with the term 'leave no trace'. It's the foundation sustainable exploration is built upon; a set of outdoor ethics which promote the protection of land and water, and the creatures which call them home.
If you're not familiar with them, or you need a little refresher, here's the 7 Leave No Trace principles that will help you tread a little lighter next time you're in the outdoors.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Whether you're going on a day trip or a 21 day expedition, it's important to plan ahead to ensure you stay safe. Spare a thought to the impact your trip will have on the environment you're exploring, the gear you might need, and the way in which you can leave as little evidence of your presence. Accidents happen, but if you plan for all scenarios then there's less chance you'll have to abandon the Leave No Trace principles for the sake of safety.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Offtrack exploration is a great test of skill and adds an exciting element of adventure to any trip. When too many people begin leaving designated paths, however, it can lead to long lasting vegetation damage and soil erosion. In some environments, recovery of this vegetation can take up to 25 years! If you're travelling in a popular area, and tracks and designated tent sites are available for you to use, best keep your offtrack antics for when it won't cause so much damage.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out! When preparing for a trip, consider the foods you are bringing and the possible rubbish that might occur from them. Muesli wrapper? Great, you can probably just stuff that in your backpack and put it in the appropriate bin when you get home. Tuna tin? You probably don't want to just throw that in your pack.
I used to use a plastic bin bag to dispose of all my rubbish on a trip, dumping it in a waste bin when I finally returned to society. That was before I discovered RePete's ROW bags. A set of 3 reusable bin bags that make appropriately disposing and sorting your waste by recycling, organics and waste, unbelievably easy when no bins are present. Designed specifically for the responsible adventurer, I honestly wouldn't leave on a trip into nature without them.
What goes in, must come out. Another point to discuss regarding disposing of waste properly is what you do with toilet paper and sanitary items. Check out How To Do A Number 2 if you're not sure.
4. Leave What You Find
Take only pictures, leave only footprints - that's the famous phrase which this principle is all about. It might not seem like you're doing any damage when you take those shells from the beach or that stick from the forest, but those small objects could have been a big home for a little creature. So instead of mindlessly walking back to the car with half the beach or forest with you, spend a moment longer admiring them where they were and leave them be.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Fire leaves a scar on the Earth that takes years to fully heal. There are many great outdoor cooking set ups that don't require a campfire, so considering whether you really need it next time you're camping. If you do choose to light one, try to bring your own fuel, keep it contained and ensure the coals are cool to touch before you go to bed (wet them with a few pots of water otherwise you'll be waiting all night).
6. Respect Wildlife
When you enter an area of wilderness or nature, it's important to remember that there are a lot of animals which would call that place home. Whether you can see them or not, try to keep them in your thoughts and respect the environment they call home. If you do come face to face with the wildlife, just remember that they are wild, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise ...
7. Be Considerate of Others
Not only is it important to respect wildlife, but to respect those who have chosen to or will choose to use the area you are exploring. It's crucial that we acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands we explore, being conscious of past histories and appropriate etiquette.
There's nothing worse then turning up to a campsite, only to find it completely littered with trash from previous occupants, or escaping to the bush for a quiet weekend and then having a bunch of rowdy campers blast their music all night long. If we all do our part to make others' experiences in the outdoors more positive, then more people might feel comfortable enjoying what nature has to offer and see the value in protecting our wild places.
So that's it! 7 principles which will help you leave no trace and #exploreandprotect nature. If you want more information on the Leave No Trace principles, check out the Australian or New Zealand websites. Happy travels, friends!
Words by Jessie McRae