Photo credit: bluepoetje
Leave No Trace. It seems self-explanatory, right? If you spend time camping in the wilderness, pack out all your trash, leave the site as you found it and don’t feed the wildlife. Yet, time and time again, ill-prepared and ill-informed people get themselves into trouble or at the very least ruin a campsite. Just ask former wilderness ranger Miranda Leconte, who let two backpackers off with a warning, instead of a hefty fine, for camping next to a lake (in violation of LNT principles) without a permit – only to see them post pictures of the illegal campsite on social media and complain about the “annoying ranger.” Or consider the fallout from last year’s “Poppy Apocalypse” and the thousands of people who trampled wildflowers to get that perfect Instagram picture. With more and more information about great natural areas online, many people are learning about new places to explore. Consider “The Wave” – that geological formation in northern Arizona that was virtually unknown until Windows featured it as a screen saver, causing people from all over the world to enter the lottery for a permit to hike to it. The outdoors is becoming more and more accessible, but with that accessibility comes a responsibility to eliminate as much of the human impact as possible.
Here are some tips – some maybe obvious, some perhaps less so – about how to minimize your impact on your next camping trip.
Seek our durable surfaces. Leave No Trace principle #2 is “Travel and camp on durable surfaces.” Not all natural surfaces are created equal. According to the LNT website, rocks, sand and gravel are “highly durable and can tolerate repeated trampling and scuffing.” Good news for winter campers: ice and snow are also considered more durable. “The effect of travel across these surfaces is temporary, making them good choices for travel assuming good safety precautions are followed and the snow layer is of sufficient depth to prevent vegetation damage.”
Remove food from packaging when possible. In addition to taking up less space and weighing less, taking food out of its commercial packaging means less potential waste. As this article notes, “If you bring a entire huge box of something you will not actually eat all of, you could end up with leftover spoiling food you think you want to bury rather than pack out.” When camping in Northumberland, England in 2016, planning my whole hike a few days before was a key reason for why it was so amazing. I was able to navigate the terrain a lot easier and was able to take only what I needed. Avoiding unnecessary food and equipment means avoiding unnecessary waste.
Cleaning dishes: Often times, you can get by with only utensils: meals ready to eat, granola bars, trail mix and jerky are among the foods you can bring that don’t require dishes. However, if you do have to do dishes, use biodegradable soap (or no soap). Even if you are using biodegradable soap, make sure to follow LNT principles by staying at least 200 feet from the nearest water source.
Take your waste with you and dispose of your waste correctly as you go. In the past, conventional wisdom often held that it’s OK to toss biodegradable apple cores, pears and orange peels into the woods. While those items are technically biodegradable, they take longer to decompose than you might think. According to the Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation, an apple core can take up to two months to biodegrade, during which time it can impact the environment around it and be an eyesore for other campers and hikers. Same with toilet paper, which should be burned, not buried. Bringing extra bags can be helpful not only for you to dispose of your own waste but for picking up waste you might find along the way. “An extra way to lower your environmental footprint would be to keep all your disposable trash until you find the appropriate recycling bins,” says Rebecca Hale, travel writer at WriteMyx and Brit Student.
LNT considerations for campfires: Given that in many natural areas near Los Angeles campfires are highly restricted or outright forbidden, this point may be moot for some readers. However, for those who are planning a trip where campfires are allowed, LNT principles apply. For example, if no existing ring is available, don’t build your fire “next to rock outcrops where the black scars will remain for many years.” Make sure to leave enough water (or camp near a water source) to allow you to extinguish the fire; this is safer than using dirt to smother the flames. Camp stoves, when used properly, leave no trace; it’s no wonder they are becoming more and more popular among hikers and backpackers. Mound fires, which have minimal impact on the surrounding area (because they are built in a way that insulates the ground from fire damage) are another increasingly popular option.
Respect the local residents! “If someone stayed in your home, you’d expect a level of respect for your personal space and personal items. The wildlife in natural areas live there – whether these are small mammals, birds, reptiles, etc, respecting the environment always extends to respecting the animals that live in it too.” Says Victoria Arnold, lifestyle blogger at 1 Day 2 Write and Next CourseWork.
Camping is an eye-opening way to reconnect to nature and experience a very true internal understanding of freedom. Leaving no trace on the environment is a goal that all campers should strive for; improving the experience and contributing to the improvement in the overall way society treats the environment.
Mildred Delgado is a young and responsible marketing strategist at Academicbrits.com and PhdKingdom.com. She works with a company’s marketing team in order to create a fully-functional site that accurately portrays the company. Mildred presents this information in a series of marketing proposals. You can find her works at Originwritings.com.