Updated: Jul 15
Compiled by Maria Varnishwala
We all want to leave the heritage of majestic nature and balanced Ecology for our future generations. However, we often live in ignorance of our actions. Having reverence for planet earth isn’t just about picking up garbage all the day, but taking time to study the intricacies of nature. These lessons of good practice require patience, effort and willingness. That’s where the seven principles of “LEAVE NO TRACE” comes to light. It provides an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors, hiking and camping.
High volume portable speakers are the latest weapon of destruction which human being has inflicted on nature. The seemingly amusing electronic cause irreparable damage to birds and insects, confuses the mammals and annoys the tranquil seeking nature enthusiasts.
The Leave No Trace Centre of Outdoor Ethics continually examines, evaluates and reshapes the principle.
1) Plan Ahead And Prepare:
It is very important to plan and prepare oneself beforehand when you are taking a trip to nature to ensure safety and enjoy the nature without damaging the resources. Learn about the rule and regulations, especially if it’s a wildlife sanctuary. Other important factors to keep into considerations are food, drinking water, first aid kit, know the weather and climate, terrains and the size of the group (if that meets the regulations). Sealable bags or boxes to secure food are one of the best way to minimise your back packing and can be reused again. This method helps to eliminate the undesirable need of stashing or burying the unwanted trash.
If you have booked your trip with a commercial group, then ask questions about the ‘things to be carried’. Don’t show up unprepared for trekking and act as a burden to the other trekkers. Remember that the organizers have more experience in the outdoors and if they don’t follow the good practices then change your organizer.
2) Hike and Camp on Durable Surfaces:
The goal of travelling on the outside is to move through the natural areas and sink in the natural beauty of the surroundings while avoiding the damage to the pristine land or waterways. Back country travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trails area. In some areas, the land management have constructed trails to avoid or minimise the damage. Constructed trails are themselves an impact on land, but it helps to reduce multiple trails which have more destructive impact. While resting, one should give way to the other members and should avoid shouting while communicating.
Rock, sand and gravel are highly durable and can tolerate repeated trampling. Walking across living soil should avoided but if required one should follow the footsteps of the person in front to avoid permanent damage.
While camping one should always remember the thump rule to set up the camp 200 feet (70 adult steps) away from the river or stream. This is rule is followed to protect the riparian areas. Also it is best to camp on the highly impacted area that have already lost its vegetation cover that further careful use will cause no noticeable impact. While leaving the site make sure to clean the site and make it appealing for other campers to follow.
3) Dispose off Waste Properly:
The travellers should think and consider what they leave behind which undoubtedly impact the other people and the wildlife. Disposing off your waste does not mean your garbage or plastic waste but it’s also includes human waste. There are different methods to dispose of human waste and the most widely accepted method it to dig cat holes. One can located a cat hole at least 200 feet away from the water, trails and camp and dig 6 o 8 inch deep hole and should be covered with natural materials when finished. Used toilet paper can be buried in the cat hole or can be packed out. Women using sanitary napkin and tampons cannot bury them as they don’t decompose readily and animals can dig it up. Other garbage like plastic bag, spilled food, cans and other dry waste need to be packed in a plastic and taken back home. Water that is used to wash yourself or dishes should be done 200 feet away from the streams as soap water can affect the quality of water.
Tip: Use Reusable Bottle and reduce the plastic burden of earth.
4) Leave What You Find:
When we travel out we always want to take something back with us as souvenir or memories, but when you travel to back country or in nature it is best to Leave What You Find for the nature itself. While camping at a place try and minimise the site alteration and try to blend in the nature instead of bending the nature as per our needs. Avoid damaging tree and plants while traveling.
You might think picking up a flower would not have great impact but imagine what happens if every traveller thinks the same.
Natural objects of beauty or interest add to the mood of bank country and should be left untouched. One can take pictures or sketch the beauty to take it back home.
5) Minimise Campfire Impacts:
The use of campfires was once a necessity for cooking and warmth in the ancient days. In recent days using of campfires is fun, camping without a campfire is never a choice and building it is an important skill for every camper. But what we don’t see is that campfires impact our nature to a quite extent. One should know if sufficient wood is available in the area to build a campfire.
Some places are prone to wildfires. You should be aware of the potential threat and the restriction from the agency that manage the site.
The best alternative to campfire is camp stove which eliminates the use of wood and is light in weight and also Leave No Trace.
6) Respect Wildlife:
When we go out in nature, we are very amazed to see different species of wildlife and plants and often overlook that we are entering their home.
Animals prefer to stay in a quite environment and our loud noises is stressful for them. Large group of people causes more environmental damage than the small group.
In order to have a better gaze, do not go too close to them and don’t feed them or touch them. Make sure you keep your food stored securely and keep your garbage and food scrape away from them. Camps should be set up at least 200 feet or more from the water, this will minimise disturbance to wildlife and ensure they can have the access to their precious water. Washing and human waste disposal should be done carefully so that the environment is not polluted and animals and aquatic life are not impacted.
7) Be Considerate to Other Travelers:
“Be courteous on the trail” is one of the most important component while travelling.
Treat others exactly the same way you would want others to treat you and that is when you will show gratitude and humbleness towards others.
When we travel in groups we get to know different people with different strength and ability, lend your hand at all times and make sure you walk along with them and not keep them behind. Motivation is one the best tool to use when one is not able to or loosing hope. While taking a break, make sure that you let your fellow member pass instead of creating bottleneck. Sometime helping others brings joy too and that can double up your enjoyment.
I am sure we can make use of these whenever we travel next. It’s our duty and the right to keep our environment safe and clean.