If you are someone who has spent a lot of time outside exploring, it is likely that you have heard of the term “leave no trace” before. Basically, it is the global recommended practice to minimise our footprint and ensure human behaviour does not negatively impact our natural habitats. Leaving no trace comes with a certain set of guidelines that you can undertake, to ensure you are being an eco-warrior and behaving ethically in your travels.
It is the responsibility of everyone participating in outdoor recreation, to follow a minimal impact code of practice. By observing a few simple rules, we can all make a difference and the special places we go will remain special.
The Seven Leave No Trace Principles:
1. Plan ahead and Prepare: – Planning and preparation is about being able to cope with the expected and unexpected parts of the trip. The more prepared you go into a situation, the less likely you are to run into problems. Ensure you have a map and any information needed for the place you will be visiting such as rules and regulations. Bring along any emergency gear such as a first-aid kit, torch, a light weight shelter and blanket.
2. Leave what you find (this is law in Australia ) – Don’t remove flora, fauna or bone (archeological) specimens. The adage “take only pictures, leave only footprints” still holds, although leaving fewer footprints is even better. Be sure to leave all the beautiful little discoveries you find on your adventure exactly where you found them. Don’t remove a pretty shell or pick a wildflower in your travels, leave it for the next person to experience, leave everything untouched.
3. Respect Wildlife – This should go without saying, but have the utmost respect for all wildlife you encounter. Don’t come too close and scare them out of their habitat. Don’t touch or feed them. The incorrect food can make them sick, so it’s also important to store your own food safely so they cannot reach it. Bringing along binoculars is a great way to observe wildlife from a safe distance.
4. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Camping and walking on prepared tracks and sites is considerably less damaging to the eco-system. Clearing locations to camp is disruptive to it. Keep to walking on designated tracks where possible and camp out in designated areas if they are provided. This will help to ensure the surroundings are kept pristine.
5. Minimise Campfire impact: Everybody loves a campfire when camping. The feeling of the natural warmth, the atmosphere it creates, the ability to cook on the natural flames. It’s important to be careful when creating a campfire, they create a risk for bushfires and can damage the surroundings. Only light fires in permitted areas and be sure to take note of any fire bans. If there are already fire pits available, use them. Where possible use a camp stove or lantern instead. Lastly, be aware, the collection of firewood is banned in Australian National parks.
6. Dispose of Waste properly – Take every item back with you. Dispose of rubbish responsibly. Do not hide, bury or burn waste. Ensure all human waste is disposed of properly. If you must make the outdoors your bathroom, dig a hole away from water sources, campsites and trails at least 20cm deep to avoid contamination. Cover the hole properly. Take toilet paper with you and do not bury it in the hole. Use only biodegradable soaps for washing up and scatter at least 50 meters away from water sources. Don’t forget to take any other rubbish you find with you.
Myth: I can toss my banana peels, apple cores and other ‘natural’ foods into the bush because they will decompose. Busted! These ‘natural’ food items will not decompose quickly. Some fruit take years to decompose depending on the environment they’re in. Food waste is also likely to be eaten by wildlife, which is bad for their digestion as they’re not accustomed to these foods. Fruit and vegetable seeds that end up on the ground could result in non-native plant growth.
7. Be Considerate of others: Sharing is caring. Nature belongs to us all. Other humans and wildlife need to share the space with you. It’s important to respect your surroundings but also respect others. Keep your bright lights and music to a considerate level for your neighbours who are also wanting to enjoy the peace and serenity of the outdoors. Bright lights can also affect animal’s night time experience. Limit the use of generators at night and early in the morning.
We all want to continue camping, hiking and exploring what this great country has to offer for many years to come. A little more mindfulness means that we can keep nature in as pristine condition as possible.