News & Updates

New Social Media Guidance

Susy Alkaitis - June 8, 2018

Boulder, CO: *Last Updated 5/20/19

There is little question that social media plays a role in the promotion of various outdoor locations, and in some cases, has led to significant resource and social impacts. It’s logical to ask, “Would this place be as impacted as it is now had it not been for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Pintrest?” Social media, like any tool or technology, can be a force for good or it can have the opposite effect. What if every social media post also included a message of stewardship? Think how different things would or could be if this were the case.

Leave No Trace is a spectrum and there are no rights or wrongs. It’s a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so. If outdoor enthusiasts stop and think about the potential impacts and associated consequences of a particular action, it can go a long way towards ensuring protection of our shared outdoor spaces. To that end, we encourage outdoor enthusiasts to stop and think about their actions and the potential consequences of posting pictures, GPS data, detailed maps, etc. to social media. Furthermore, we urge people to think about both the protection and sustainability of the resource and the visitors who come after them.

When posting to social media, consider the following:

Think Before You Geotag– consider before tagging (or geotagging) specific locations. Depending on the specifics of the area, you may choose to tag a general location if any at all. Learning the location’s history can also inform your choice. By doing so, people viewing your photo may do some research about the area, and hopefully encounter Leave No Trace information.

Be Mindful of What Your Images Portray – give some thought to what your images may encourage others to do. Images that demonstrate good Leave No Trace practices and stewardship, as well as obeying safety regulations, increase the likelihood that others will emulate this behavior. Be mindful of the platform you have and the people you reach when posting and commenting about the outdoors.

Encourage and Inspire Leave No Trace in Social Media Posts – given the millions of social media users in the world, think of the incredible potential that social media has to educate outdoor enthusiasts, no matter what their background in the outdoors, about enjoying our wild lands responsibly. Invite people into the conversation and try not to make assumptions about their Leave No Trace Ethics.

Give Back to Places You Love – invest your time into the outdoor spaces and places you care about. Learn about volunteer stewardship opportunities and get involved in the protection of our shared lands.

Shaming Is Not the Answer — Remember that everyone’s experience in the outdoors is unique and personal. Online shaming and bullying in the name of Leave No Trace is never endorsed by the Center nor is it effective in terms of influencing choices in the outdoors. Instead, spread awareness of Leave No Trace by engaging in respectful and meaningful conversations on social media about stewardship of the outdoors.

As we have contemplated this issue we’re left wondering what the future will bring in terms of technology, communication, and outdoor recreation. Will posting pictures to social media be a thing of the past in five years? None of us know. Social media, if used the right way, is a powerful tool that can motivate a nation of outdoor advocates to enthusiastically and collectively take care of the places we share and cherish.


Enjoy Your World, Leave No Trace!



Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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