When you’re exploring a trail, there’s one type of footprint you don’t want to leave – an environmental footprint. Whether you’re on a short trail outing or camping for the weekend, your ultimate goal should be to make sure the trail area has been undisturbed by the time you pack up your things.
Here are some tips to be mindful of the environment on your next outing, sourced from Leave No Trace, an organization dedicated to promoting eco-friendly camping and hiking practices. The goal of the Leave No Trace program is to promote a consistent and unified message based around the seven Leave No Trace principles:
DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY
This involves routine inspections of your campsite for any trash or food items left behind. Also, when washing dishes, be sure to use minimal water and a small amount of biodegradable soap. You should also wash dishes at least 200 feet away from lakes and streams in order to minimize the pollution from your dishes making its way into the fresh water supply.
LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
Do your best to stay on the pre-constructed hiking trails in order to minimize the disturbance of the surrounding wilderness. Do not collect rocks, plants or other natural objects while hiking as this will disturb the natural setting of the forest.
MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS
The light and smoke pollution generated by campfires can have a drastic effect on the surrounding forest as well as the campers around you. When using a campfire, make sure that it is contained in a fire ring to reduce the risk of the fire spreading. Keep your fires small by utilizing only smaller sticks and branches that can easily be broken with your hands. And lastly, once the fire has burned out, allow the ashes to cool and then spread them out to minimize the effect of the fire on the forest floor.
Although it can be exciting to see wildlife on your family camping trip , it is important that the animals are treated with respect. Never approach an animal that you come across while camping — keep a safe distance and allow the animal to carry on their normal activities. Along this same note, you should never feed animals, either by hand or by leaving food out for them to eat. This will change their natural behaviors of foraging for food and can create health problems for the animals. Lastly, if you camp with your pets, it is important to keep them under control, either on a leash or in a kennel at all times.
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS
Especially when camping around other families, keep noises and voices low, respect the lights out rules specified by the campground, and be courteous at all times. When hiking, always yield to other hikers by giving them the right of way and make sure that when you stop to rest, you do it in designated areas so not to disrupt hikers who may be passing through.
PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE
It’s always helps to prepare for inclement weather and any othe situations that might manifest while hiking outside of the designated camping areas. Be knowledgeable of your surroundings, bring a map or compass when hiking, and always pack enough food and water to anticipate any potential problems.
TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES
When setting up a tent campsite, use the designated areas to reduce the impact on the surrounding environment. You should also utilize existing hiking trails when exploring the forest, to minimize damage done by foot traffic through the forest. Keep your campsite small — less is more when setting up a campsite and there is no need to sprawl your gear across a large area.
To learn more about Leave No Trace, visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca/home