Guide to Outdoor Ethics: Leave No Trace


Guide to Outdoor Ethics: Leave No Trace


by Daniel Bernzweig

Outdoor codes or outdoor ethics are a set of guidelines for all those people who head outdoors to have fun. This outdoor ethic includes hiking, camping, climbing, metal detecting, and other outdoor activities that involve some level of risk to the environment.

The Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  1. Plan and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Ethical camping and outdoor recreation aim to minimize outdoor activities' impact on the natural environment. If everyone practices good outdoor ethics, then there is less risk of damaging the environment, which can affect other people's enjoyment of it. By following the seven principles outlined in this guide, it is possible to minimize your impact on the land you are visiting and ensure that future visitors can continue to enjoy it too. We should not disturb or change our environment according to the Leave No Trace principle. Among these principles are leaving campsites clean, avoiding campfires, and cleaning up after ourselves.

We should treat the Earth as we treat our own bodies, according to land ethic. We need to take care of it because it will be here long after we are gone. Aldo Leopold first introduced this concept in his 1949 book "A Sand County Almanac." We must consider the environmental impact of our actions before taking action, he wrote.

The Importance of Ethical Outdoor Recreation

The goals of ethical outdoor recreation are to protect the natural environment and minimize any one individual's impact on it. As an outdoor code of ethics, Leave No Trace promotes conservation while protecting outdoor spaces and minimizing the footprint of activities in areas where others may wish to enjoy themselves. Outdoor ethics is about doing your part to prevent environmental degradation, so you can help keep these wonderful places open for use by all who want them.

The ethical choices you make when you are out in nature affect not only your own experience of being outdoors but also those who follow you, as well as their successors after them - both now and far into the future. Outdoor ethics is about considering how your actions may limit other people's ability to go outside and enjoy themselves or stay fit and healthy.

These principles can benefit humans, local ecosystems, and the larger environment by helping to protect outdoor spaces and minimize the footprint of activities in areas where others may want to recreate. Outdoor ethics is about doing your part to prevent environmental degradation, so you can help keep these wonderful places open for use by all who want them. Letting your personal outdoor ethics guide the decisions and choices you make is important for all of us.

The 7 “Leave No Trace” Principles

Leave No Trace was created as a nonprofit organization in 1994, but its concept dates back much further. While Leave No Trace was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1994, the concept of Leave No Trace has been around for over 50 years. Some organizations that promote Leave No Trace include:

  1. The Scouts BSA
  2. The Wilderness Society
  3. The Sierra Club
  4. National Park Service
  5. Conservation Service
  6. The American Hiking Society
  7. The National Outdoor Leadership School

In both the BSA and Sea Scout Programs, Leave No Trace principles are used in their outdoor activities. It is part of the Scout Oath that these principles and basic outdoor skills are used every time the Boy Scouts of America and the Sea Scouts go camping. These are skills that every boy scout learns at a very young age. By honing these skills, scouts can earn an outdoor ethics award. With some effort, a scout can even earn an outdoor ethics awareness award. As an eagle scout, Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Sea Scouting all promote these principles through their outdoor ethics awards, given to fellow scouts for their outstanding outdoor ethics awareness. A cub scout relies on chief counts, outdoor ethics training, specialized courses, and adult volunteers to instill care for the environment, respect for others' property, and self-reliance. The Boy Scouts of America no longer offer the Varsity Scout program, in addition to interscholastic sports at the high school level.

In 1894, the Boy Scouts of America established the trace center. This program is open to young men between the ages of 14 and 21 who are not enrolled in college or high school. Through the trace trainer program, youth can participate in camping, hiking, canoeing, archery, and service projects. Through this program, scouts can learn the trace principle and get involved in the trace trainer course to advance their knowledge and trace skills. Adult leaders can also earn merit badges and become certified through the program.

Boy Scouts who promote conservation and protect our natural resources are recognized with the Outdoor Ethics Action Award, which was established in 1999. It is the Chief Scout who organizes and leads the local council of Boy Scouts. As advisers to the council executive board, they help develop youth programs and projects to promote outdoor stewardship. In addition, the chief scout can provide additional outdoor ethics resources and award scouts a merit badge for their accomplishments. Through service projects, Venturing Crews help their communities. Camping trips, merit badges, and leadership opportunities are also part of their program.

In the United States, approximately a million young people join Venturing Crews each year.

Girl Scouts are also actively involved in the LNT principle. They're eligible for Global Action awards and outdoor ethics awareness awards for their involvement in practicing “Leave No Trace.” As youth outdoor ethics advocates, they help to educate others about the outdoor code and leave no trace principles.

One of the thought leaders on the LNT principles was Aldo Leopold. Leopold is known for being an environmentalist, writer, scientist, and ecologist. He was the first to write about what is now called Leave No Trace. He wrote, in essence, that “ethical behavior can only be attributed to something we can see, comprehend, feel, love, or have faith in.” He thought that interacting directly with nature was critical for developing our capacity to apply ethics outside of self-interest.

1. Plan and Prepare

Many people don't create plans before hiking, biking, or climbing trips. It's easy to go into the wilderness without knowing what you will encounter when you get there. People that aren't prepared may cause damage in their wake simply because they didn't know better.

Doing your research before embarking on a trail is a great way to put this principle into practice. In addition, you can also talk with those who have been to your destination, as well as select the right gear that fits your needs.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Many people don't know how to camp without impacting the environment where they stay. They will create fire rings out of rocks or cut down trees for a better view. This happens because many people aren't taught the proper way to camp.

Practice this principle by picking a campsite away from water sources and rocky areas so you won't erode the soil. When building a fire, use established fire rings instead of creating your own ring with rocks.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

The best way to dispose of waste properly is to take it with you. Pack out all of your trash by taking it with you. This is known as "pack in, pack out." This method is used to preserve the beauty of the wilderness and keep it clean for future campers.

When you are done cooking, put all your food waste in a bag. Properly dispose of any food waste back at your campsite or in a trash can so that animals don't get into it and spread disease to other wildlife or pets on campgrounds.

By actively seeking waste, you can make the site even cleaner than when you arrived. There are a few tools that you can use to accomplish this:

  • A survival knife
  • A good pair of binoculars
  • Metal detector
  • Gloves

Metal detectors can be used to locate leftover ferrous and non-ferrous metals that may have been left behind by others outdoors, such as bottle caps and tin foil. By using a metal detector to locate and dispose of these relics from the past, you can contribute to protecting the environment. Be sure to dispose of or recycle these items to avoid animals getting into them.

4. Leave What You Find

Leaving what you find is a huge part of proper outdoor manners and ethics and is something that everybody should practice. By instilling the values of proper outdoor ethics in youngsters, they will grow up with a solid moral compass. When we leave a natural, wild, or archeological region exactly as it was found so that future visitors may share in your same sense of wonder, we are preserving the memory and experience of nature for future generations.

Practice this principle by always leaving rocks, plants, fossils, antlers, bones-anything that you might find outdoors where you discovered it. Never take souvenirs or objects with you because these items belong to the land and to the people who come after us. Land ethics are something that outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of and practice regularly.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Utilize a lightweight stove for cooking and a candle lantern for lighting to reduce your campfire's impact. Do not go to sleep or leave your campfire unattended. Make sure that you completely put out the fire before you leave or go to bed. Stirring the ashes can help speed up the natural process of decay that will turn an abandoned fire pit into nutrient-rich soil.

6. Respect Wildlife

Be considerate when camping near wildlife because any noise from you could disrupt their time spent eating, resting, or caring for their young. Never feed them; doing so can make animals dependent on people for food and could lead to aggressive behaviors.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

This principle concerns being a good neighbor and minimizing your impact on the people around you. Being considerate of other visitors is about respecting their experience. Some ways to put this into practice include being aware of noise levels, limiting campfire sizes, camping out of sight and sound range from other visitors, and being extremely careful with camp sanitation.

Other Best Practices for Ethical Outdoor Recreation

Some of the best practices for engaging in ethical outdoor recreation include:

  • Hiking single file in the middle of trails
  • When camping, follow the "minimum impact" guidelines (e.g., camping 100 feet from streams, burying human waste six to eight inches deep, and camping 200 feet from water sources)
  • Carrying out all your garbage and recycling
  • Using a lightweight stove for cooking rather than a campfire
  • Keeping group size small (less than six people is best)
  • Be respectful of private property
  • Be sure to interact amicably with other campers and hikers
  • Respect wildlife and natural resources

You can positively influence sustainability efforts by respecting the environment and leaving it in better condition than you found it. You can influence sustainability with individual efforts like taking care of your own trash and recycling, choosing appropriate campsites, following fire regulations, and engaging in activities that minimize impact.

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