News & Updates

10 Easy Switches to Leave No Trace Better

Brice - November 9, 2019

Leave No Trace isn’t all about big gestures and in depth courses. We can all make small changes in our habits in the outdoors that add up to significant benefits and a reduction in impacts. Here are some quick and easy switches anyone can make to Leave No Trace.

1. If you usually… Bury your toilet paper – Then… Make a DIY FOPO bag to pack it out. While it is acceptable to bury toilet paper in a 6-8 inch deep cathole, 200 feet away from water, packing it out is the best case scenario.

2.If you usually… Collect wood for a campfire – Then.. Buy it locally. Downed woody debris that we use for firewood is crucial to soil and forest health. As that debris breaks down, it adds carbon and nitrogen to the soil, helping new saplings to grow. When we rely on this source for firewood, we can deplete this resource and change the soil composition. Buying firewood locally, while a little more costly, ensures that the soil remains healthy.  


3.If you usually… Spit toothpaste on the ground – Then… try your trash bag instead. Toothpaste can still smell like food to wildlife, and can bring them to areas they would not normally be or alter their habits. It can also be washed into our waterways with rain, and it contains components that are not natural to that ecosystem. Spitting it into a trash bag, going without, or spit spraying 200 feet away from water are other options.

4.If you usually… Use paper plates for camping – Then… switch to real plates. Paper plates are a single use disposable that we can often go without. Throwing out these types of items can result in an increase in trash that parks and protected areas need to manage, pulling resources from other projects. Using real plates also provides an opportunity to learn how to dispose of grey-water and wash dishes the Leave No Trace way.

5.If you usually… Go around mud puddles – Then… go through them. This may seem counterintuitive, but going through mud puddles is actually the least impactful way forward. When we all go around the puddle, the vegetation on the edge of the trail is damaged and killed, and the soil is compacted, usually just resulting in a larger puddle and trail. The only harm in going through is getting a little mud on your shoes. If it’s really too wet and muddy to make it through, then it may be wise to wait and come back when the trails dry out. 

6.If you usually… Burn food scrapsThen… Pack them out. Fire pits are usually the first place wildlife go in a campsite when humans leave, and that’s because they smell like burnt leftovers and contain small scraps of wood or trash that didn’t burn completely. To help keep wildlife safe, packing out food scraps and trash is the way to go. 

7.If you usually… Wing it on trips – Then… Do more planning. Planning ahead and preparing is the first principle of Leave No Trace for a reason. Even if it’s a trip you’ve taken before, things can change, and it’s always a good idea to do some research beforehand.

8.If you usually… Collect rocks as souvenirs – Then… Take a photograph, sketch a drawing, or buy a small souvenir that gives back to the park. Everything has a role to play in our outdoor spaces, and we can alter things by taking items with us. 

9.If you usually… Approach wildlife for a good photo – Then… Learn the thumb trick. The thumb trick is a quick and easy way to tell if you are too close to wildlife and helps give you a baseline for keeping your distance. This keeps both them and you safe. 

10.If you usually… Don’t mention Leave No Trace when getting outdoors with family and friends – Then… Bring it up. Ask what others know and share your knowledge. We all have to learn somewhere.

Leave No Trace’s Erin Collier and Brice Esplin are part of the 2019 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of AmericaREIEagles Nest OutfittersDeuter, ThuleFjällräven and Klean Kanteen.

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