Every Person Can Make a Difference
A Story of Success on the Open Road
Reflecting over the past year as a Subaru/Leave No Trace Team, it feels as though we’ve crammed 5+ years of adventure into 12 months. In the past year, my partner and I have driven through over 30 States offering 115 programs working with NPS, BLM and FS Rangers and Staff, with students at different universities, and a variety of organizations that have included everything from 1.5 hour workshops to 2 day trainer courses, multi day festivals and Hot Spots. With over 300 nights on the road over the past year, we’ve worked and camped in at least 12 National Parks & Monuments, kayaked in 18 bodies of water, rode horses in the Grand Tetons, and backpacked through Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, offering Leave No Trace education all the way.
In offering these programs, there are times that we are only in the same place for a day or two, so we don’t always get to see individuals taking what they’ve learned and putting it into action. So while we have experienced many successes in our time offering free education on the road, there is one specific moment that is not particularly glamorous, but that stood out to us both as a moment of success as educators.
Last July we were in the Black Hills of South Dakota offering workshops to Forest Service Staff, and trailhead outreach and evening programs to the general public. We camped in the same campground for one of our longer stints- 11 days, and were able to get to know the area, and our camp hosts and neighbors.
One day, our camp neighbor walked over to our campsite and asked us, “how do I properly dispose of my dishwater?” At this campsite, there was no sink, but a faucet that opened directly on to the ground without a drain. Many campers had been washing their dishes at the faucet, leaving their gray water and leftover bits of food that were beginning to attract animals, causing food conditioning and habituation. We explained what Leave No Trace suggests – take your gray water 200 feet from camp, trails and water, strain the food particles and pack those out with you, and then broadcast the water. Our camp neighbor thanked us and we chatted about some other things before they went on their way. The next day, as we were leaving the campground to head to a workshop we were offering that day, we saw our camp neighbor over 200 feet away from our camp, water and trails taking the time to disperse her strained dishwater, just as we had suggested. In that moment, seeing her take the time to do what she could to help minimize her individual impact, we felt the power that education can have when individuals are inspired to learn and take action.
When working to take care of the natural world, it’s not about what you do when people are watching. It’s about what you choose to do when you’re on your own, when you’re left to make those ethical decisions, big and small, on a daily basis. When we saw our camp neighbor out there on her own, choosing to do the thing that may take longer and may be more work but that will affect more positive change in the long run, it gave us hope. Because in the end, that is what Leave No Trace is about—learning what you can do on an individual level to minimize your impacts on the natural world, and taking action to ensure that all the world’s ecosystems are healthy, thriving, and a safe place for all to enjoy. To all the change makers out there that are taking time in your daily life to do the work and minimize your impacts, we see you. Thank you for all that you do.
Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together
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