People who take the time to go out into nature explore it, know nature’s worth but often know very little about how to minimize their own impact on the environment they’re passing through or even that that is something they should be thinking about. Think about all the discarded food wrappers and even cigarette butts you’ve seen on your trips. Because we love the experience of venturing out into the environment, we want to protect it and treat it with the respect and mindfulness it deserves.
So here are a few, very basic, tips on how to reduce your impact while you’re in the outdoors.
In general it is important to think ahead when you’re planning a trip into the outdoors. How much food will you need? Remove all unnecessary packaging before you leave and repackage the food in a way that it’s not too heavy and won’t leave you with wrappers or similar waste once you’ve eaten it. Also, figure out what the best way will be to protect your food from the environment and make sure to store it in a way that it will not lure animals. If you do encounter animals that want to be fed: don’t. They are not used to the food you have and they will become dependent on human support which will put them in danger of starvation when there are no humans around.
You’ve been outdoors all day and now you need to set up your tent and get some well-earned rest. If there is an already established campsite around, set your camp up there. That way you will minimize your impact. If that is not an option, then look for an area with sturdy ground and little vegetation. Try to avoid a campfire because although they are cozy, they mean an unnecessary impact on the environment and it’s easier and more clean to cook your food on a backpacking stove and use a candle lantern or a solar lamp for light. When you decide to get back on the trail, don’t leave anything behind. Collect your food waste, your tissue paper and whatever other waste you have and take it with you.
- Taking care of ‘business’
As you may have noticed in the first two points, you’ll need to take a durable bag on your trip that you can collect your trash in. This includes tissues and toilet paper as well as tampons and pads. If you need to go ‘number 1’, leave your trail and try not to urinate directly onto the vegetation and try to do it somewhere where it will dry more quickly, such as a rock. If you need to go ‘number 2’, dig a small, so-called “cathole” (yes, you’ll need to have a small shovel with you) and deposit your waste in it and then cover it up again.
There are many more things to consider, some of which you’ll notice you can implement in your every-day life too, such as reducing waste. For more information on minimizing your impact on the outdoors, check out the Leave No Trace center for outdoors ethics or watch these short videos on low-impact recreational skills