Get Your Dose of Vitamin Nature with Leave No Trace

Boulder, CO: Scientific research is increasingly demonstrating what many of us have known for years - time spent in nature is an overwhelmingly restorative experience. The mounting body of evidence continues to show that time spent in nature is beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical health. 

 

Attention and Concentration

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that individuals who spent time in natural environments performed better on tasks involving directed-attention activities than individuals who spent time in an urban environment. Their research supports the idea time in nature provides restorative cognitive benefits. 

Negative Thoughts and Depressive Feelings

Participants who went on a 90-minute nature walk during a 2015 study from Stanford University showed decreased activity in the part of the brain that is associated with a key-factor in depression. "This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation - something that may explain how nature makes us feel better," said lead author Gregory Bratman.

Stress Reduction

Time spent in and near nature can have positive impacts on our stress levels. Studies from Japan show that walks in nature reduce levels of salivary cortisol, a key factor associated with levels of stress, compared to walks in an urban environment. Results from these studies also show decreased blood pressure and pulse as a result of these nature walks. 

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Leave No Trace

It's clear that time spent in nature is valuable for all of us. In fact, our public lands in the United States saw more than 12 billion visits in 2015. With more and more people seeking the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of the outdoors every year, it's more important than ever to practice Leave No Trace principles when spending time outdoors. By protecting our outdoor spaces from the cumulative impacts of 12 billion visits, we are in turn protecting our valuable places of refuge and mental restoration for years to come. 

Practice the Leave No Trace Seven Principles on every outdoor trip to protect the places we all love:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

 

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
    • In popular areas:
      • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
      • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
      • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
      • In pristine areas:
      • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
      • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

 

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

 

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

 

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

 

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

 

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Leave No Trace's Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2017 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 America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Klean Kanteen, and Smartwool.