Rambling responsibly: A guide on leaving no trace

Nothing ruins a trip into the wilderness quite like discovering it tainted with litter. With popular outdoor destinations getting millions of visitors each year, it is vital that we know how to protect the wilds we love.

There is a simple but effective formula that should be practiced by everyone if we are to continue enjoying the outdoors to the fullest: leave no trace. Embracing this philosophy will help curb the amassing of litter in the wild and combat the detrimental effects that it has.


Litter is harmful

Littering hurts more than our eyes. While it looks awful and can ruin the wilderness experience one might be seeking, there are further effects that compounding litter magnifies.

When trash is improperly discarded outdoors, it introduces a host of unnatural effects. Certain materials can introduce toxic chemicals into the environment that  spread into sensitive resources such as water. Materials like plastic can slowly degrade and release tiny microparticles into the atmosphere or even end up obstructing waterways.

Reaching more than just the environment, pollution also hurts innocent wildlife. Toxic litter might poison unsuspecting animals who happen to drink from a tainted source. It is also becoming increasingly common to see animals ingesting indigestible materials — severely harming and even killing them. Some animals are particularly subject to being trapped and ensnared by litter such as fish and other aquatic animals.

Beyond this, littering might actually cost you a penny. Efforts to clean up the environment tend to be logistical and costly messes, often drawing from taxpayer money.


The principles of leaving no trace

The pillars of leaving no trace revolve around planning and being environmentally conscious. Preparing for your outdoor adventures by packaging your own food can help minimize the trash you will need to dispose of. You must always remember to pack out whatever you pack in.

This also applies to human waste including toilet paper. When possible, use toilet facilities or other methods of keeping your waste out of the wild such as a Waste Alleviation and Gelling bag. When not possible, deposit your waste in a cathole at least 6-inches deep.

When washing dishes or using soap for other purposes, remember to stay a least 200 feet from water sources to avoid contaminating them with those chemicals.

Leaving no trace also applies to interaction with wildlife. While observing animals in the outdoors can be a wonderful experience, we want to minimize our presence there. Do not approach or feed wildlife as this may alter their behavior and put you or even them in danger, and this means keeping tabs on any pets as well.

Besides litter, you should also be mindful of the impacts you leave in the wild from camping. When possible, camp on durable surfaces and away from water sources. Keep your campsite as tight as possible as to avoid disturbing further vegetation.

Consider your fire habits as well. Use established fire rings when available or use a camping stove and always remember to burn and put out your fire entirely before leaving.

Article by: Jared Clawson


Photos courtesy of: John Cameron and Florida Guidebook on Unsplash