A growing body of evidence says what anyone who regularly spends time communing with the environment knows: It’s good for you.
Heading into the woods, mountains, or even your local park for just two hours a week improves your health and well-being.
We think everyone should spend as much time in nature as possible.
However, the estimated 8 billion annual visitors to the world’s protected spaces take a toll on the environment and Earth’s most significant resources.
The Leave No Trace Principles (lnt.org) provide guidelines that allow you to continue enjoying all Mother Nature offers while preserving the environment for future generations.
The 7 Leave No Trace Principles
Participating in recreational activities in nature may be good for your well-being, but it can also be detrimental to ecosystems, including wildlife.
When you venture out to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, following these seven principles helps minimize your impact and improve recreational and environmental sustainability for the future.
1. Plan and Prepare
Preparation isn’t just critical for your safety.
It can also ensure you take the proper steps to reduce the potential adverse effects your activity might have on the places you visit. As you plan, consider the following:
- Environmental conditions: Know before you go what you are getting into so you can take measures to implement the Leave No Trace Principles.
- Weather conditions: Understand the possible conditions during your visit and prepare for potential hazards and weather extremes.
- Regulatory requirements: Find out if there are regulations, restrictions, or any unique concerns or hazards you should be aware of.
- Group size: Smaller groups have less impact, so keep the number in your party down.
- Time of visit: If possible, aim to head out during non-peak times when the crowds are thinner.
Even if you visit the same places, it doesn’t hurt to refresh your understanding of the area and check your preparation measures to ensure you follow the Leave No Trace Principles.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Choose your travel route carefully if you hike, bike, ski, or backpack.
When you use well-established trail systems, stick to the trails.
Walk in the center of the path regardless of trail conditions.
Groups should travel single file.
When traveling in less popular backcountry locations, choose routes over durable surfaces and disperse groups to avoid trampling and creating an unintended trail.
Stick to established campsites in front-country or designated backcountry camping areas.
Make sure you set up at least 200 feet from water sources in the backcountry.
If you boondock in an RV, following Leave No Trace Principles would require choosing locations and sites with established areas for recreational vehicles.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out.
Waste of any sort can harm the environment, so make sure you dispose of waste properly.
It takes a plastic bottle an estimated 450 years to break down.
It isn’t an organic substance, so it won’t decompose.
Aluminum cans take up to 200 years to break down, and food wrappers stick around for 10 to 20 years.
According to Leave No Trace Principles, the best way to deal with your poo is to bury it in a cat hole, dig down at least 6 inches, and take care of business 200 feet from water.
Human waste takes about a year to decompose (it’s organic, so it does decompose).
In sensitive environments, you should pack out your poop in a bag.
With more people flocking to the great outdoors, etiquette may require you to pack out no matter where you go.
4. Leave What You Find
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
The expression is an essential component of the Leave No Trace Principles.
It may be hard to resist picking flowers or taking a cool rock or shell home with you, but you should leave them where you find them.
Likewise, use a compass and map instead of constructing rock cairns.
Don’t introduce plants or animals that aren’t a natural part of the environment.
Invasive species can quickly destroy an ecosystem, consuming, pushing out, or out-competing native species.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
People create 85% of wildfires in the US due to unattended or improperly extinguished campfires.
In 2021, 7.1 million acres of wildland burned, down from 10.1 million in 2020.
Campfires may be a long-honored tradition, but they can be potentially devastating.
Following Leave No Trace Principles means avoiding or eliminating campfires as much as possible.
Use established pits or rings if you camp in a location that permits fires.
Make sure you completely extinguish your fire before turning in for the night or leaving your campsite.
6. Respect Wildlife
Remember when you head out into nature, you’re on wildlife’s turf.
Watching wildlife is fun, but maintain a safe distance for their safety and yours.
No matter how cute and persistent that ground squirrel (or any other animal) is, don’t feed it!
Ensuring you secure your food and maintain a clean campsite is crucial when following Leave No Trace Principles.
Be aware of critical wildlife life cycles and avoid visiting when your activities may interfere with their natural behaviors.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Everyone deserves to enjoy the peace, beauty, and serenity of nature.
Respect others’ experiences.
Engage in proper trail etiquette and keep voices down.
If you are an RVer and boondock or visit campgrounds without utilities, help keep the peace by installing solar panels on your rig instead of firing up a generator.
Join Unbound Solar in Following Leave No Trace Principles
At Unbound Solar, we’re passionate about the environment.
We believe in and adhere to the Leave No Trace Principles and want to make it easier for others to do the same.
If you’re interested in solar panels and batteries for your RV or an off-grid system for your cabin retreat, we’ve got everything you need to lessen your environmental impact with solar.