Leave Only Footprints: Eco-friendly travel

With the ever growing pollution problem compromising air quality around the world, the oceans filling up with plastic and overuse and pollution of our waterways, leaving our earth the way nature intended is getting harder. Traveling is always fun but do you leave anything there? Do you leave things are you found them? Do you drop some sustainable practices as they are more inconvenient when you travel? Travel is a great education, but our responsibility is still to preserve what we have for others to also enjoy.

Next time you go camping look around you and take in the natural beauty, but as you get hungry and eat that granola bar – here do you put the wrapper, hopefully in your pocket. Yet some people don’t. This is a problem but it’s one that we as a species are slowly getting better at, we just have to speed up the process. We have to set the example and model sustainable practice whilst travelling. As we do we will set the standard that others can follow.

What about where you hike? What natural scale is your presence misbalancing? Hiking on camping off the beaten path is truly an experience to treasure, but it’s also one that can disturb the natural flora and fauna or introduce something that can cause harm to the area. Think about what you take and make sure you take it away with you.

Here are some very useful that will help you know what to do whenever you are out next experiencing nature first hand, to leave only footprints and take away memories.

 1) Plan ahead and prepare. Knowing where you are going can prevent wasting time and energy. Carry a trail map. Check the weather forecast and be ready for storms. Always bring water and appropriate food. A first aid kit can be critical, but make sure you take everything away with you. Be prepared, but also be mindful. Think about the impact on the environment of your activities. If you are snowmobiling oil, gas and other substances may leak from your snowmobile so be wary of where you go. Stick to the trails!

2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Hiking off trails damages sensitive areas and creates erosion. Pitching a tent or building a campfire on undisturbed ground means it’s no longer undisturbed. Durable surfaces include trails, rocks, snow and water.

3)  Dispose of waste properly. If you can carry it in full, you can carry packaging out empty. Human waste should be buried six to eight inches deep and at least 200 feet from streams and other water. In places of specific interest, some may ask you to take ALL your waste away with you. Be familiar with the rules around the areas you are travelling.

4) Leave what you find. Plants, rocks, and natural features should be left as they are, as should historical artifacts. When you remove items the ground becomes disturbed and again can be subject to erosion. If everyone that visited took a rock away – very soon the ground would be exposed and the rocks would all be gone!

6) Minimize campfire impacts. A lightweight cook stove is best, but if you need to build a fire, use existing fire rings and keep fires small. Be sure a fire is completely out before leaving it. Don’t leave unburned trash in the ring (or don’t burn trash at all!). Pack it out.

7) Respect wildlife. Look, but don’t touch. Keep your distance. Never feed wild animals. Keep dogs on a leash (and scoop up and bury their waste). Be aware of the wildlife around you before you go and keep and eye out for it. But at all times, respect their needs and living areas.

8) Be considerate of others. Use the trails. Yield to other trail users. Keep trails litter free. Avoid making loud noises or disturb the natural tranquility of an area.

Of course humans leave a trace no matter where we go, but we should all try to tread a little lighter.

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