Leave No Trace: What Is It? and How Can You Take Part?


leave no trace

What is Leave No Trace? 

Leave No Trace (lnt.org) is an organization and a set of ethical principles that outdoorsmen and organizations follow to keep the natural world as clean as possible. Here is some more information about Leave No Trace and how you can get involved!

Ever hit a camping spot just to find trash lying around? Or maybe you were on a designated hiking trail and see where others before you carved their initials into trees, or even worse, left permanent marks with pen or paint? It’s pretty infuriating. Sharing the outdoors with those we love is just as important as sharing the outdoors with those whose home it already is. We are a guest and we should treat it the same way we do when we visit a friend’s family. 

Fair Warning: If you graffiti your friend’s house and bust down walls to get to the other side of the house quicker, this article isn’t for you. Well, I suppose it’s definitely for you. 

leave no trace

I was always told as a kid when visiting the outdoors “Leave it Better Than you Found It”. This is a principle I share with my kids to this day.

Leave No Trace has taken this to another level with its organization, education, and outreach. Here is what you need to know and how you can get involved in Leave No Trace.

Through educational programs, Leave No Trace teaches people, young and old, about our Earth and how we can take care of the outdoors. This organization can reach 15.5 million people every single year with its educational efforts.

The Seven Principles

Leave No Trace has made a comprehensive list of principles for you to follow. These principles provide you with a framework of good practices while camping or just being in the wilderness. Each one of the points is very important and provides you with a healthy perspective of the outdoors.

The Seven Principles Are:

  • Plan and prepare
    • Having a good plan before you leave is crucial. This ensures your safety and allows you to map out how you can make a minimal impact on the Earth. 
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
    • It is important to know where you are hiking and what you are setting your camp upon. It is important to take as little of an impact as possible. For example, when hiking with a group and you come upon a big open area with no set trail. Everyone spreading out and taking their own path is great. This minimizes the impact on the land. Overall, taking into consideration the lay of the land is super important. 
  • Dispose of waste properly
    • Nobody wants to see trash littered throughout the most beautiful areas in the world. No one wants to see trash anywhere it shouldn’t be. It is up to us to dispose of waste properly and keep our natural areas clean. 
  • Leave what you find
    • It is a cool experience to see deer antlers or an interesting rock. But it is super important to leave that where it lies and provide the next traveler with the same experience. 
  • Minimize campfire impacts
    • Now, more than ever, we are seeing the devastating effect wildfires are having on the world. A simple way to help avoid these situations is by keeping your campfires as small and contained as you can. Always use a designated fire pit and keep the flames small. 
  • Respect wildlife
    • Leave No Trace also extends to living beings. There is no reason to feed or bother the local wildlife. Be courteous of animals’ space and keep to yourself. This will keep both you and the animal safe. 
  • Be considerate of others
    • Last, but not least, is to be considerate of others. This is a shared planet we are on. Other people are trying to enjoy nature too. So, be kind to others and respect their space because we are all sharing the same planet. 

Source: LNT.orgOpens in a new tab.

 how to leave no trace

How Does Leave No Trace Impact The Environment?

Leave No Trace is a leading organization in actually making a difference in our environment. Education is LNT’s biggest way to make an impact on the people who want to help keep the outdoors clean. Leave No Trace’s educational programs to focus on cleaning trashed areas, keeping our waterways clean, stopping the spread of misinformation, trying to stop the overcrowding of parks, and much more. 

The biggest way that Leave No Trace makes a difference in spreading the word is through educational programs. More specifically, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is the flagship location in Boulder, Colorado. It is here where events and training take place. However, access to this great information is not limited to Boulder. This leads us to talk about how you can get involved and learn a lot about the Leave No Trace principles. 

How Can You Get Involved?

Although the main headquarters is located in Boulder, LNT has a presence in all 50 states, and training spread out all over the country. There are tons of locations, especially along the Appalachian Trail and Colorado, that have permanent Leave No Trace stands, booths, and buildings.

LNT also has an international presence and has worked with organizations from over 90 different countries. Yes, their main work is stationed in the United States, but they truly go out of their way to cross the borders and help areas all across the world in need. 

A great way to get involved is taking these training sessions and learning more about the principles. 

You can become a member and contribute to the cause directly. The membership comes in the form of a donation that will help build educational resources and spread the word about LNT. There are quite a few ways to donate. Along with a straight monetary donation, you can donate stock, convince your work to donate, buy a membership for someone else, and even give money through Amazon Smile. [https://lnt.org/give/other-ways-to-give/]

If you feel like acting on a more personal level, purchasing the educational literature and spreading the word is a great option. Everything you need to teach a Leave No Trace class can be found on the website’s shop. [https://shop.lnt.org/collections/educational-materials] 

A staple of going through the LNT training process is receiving the Ethics Reference Cards. This has all of the information you may need so you can take it out into the field with you. A popular act is putting the cards on the outside of your pack to show that you care about the environment and follow Leave No Trace’s principles! 

To take it one step further, the final thing you can do to get involved is by joining the Subaru/Leave No Trace teams that are the ones who host the training and programs. Who knows, maybe a passion for the outdoors can lead to a full-time career!

We’re Done Here, Folks!

You are all gamed up and know the basics about Leave No Trace! If you want to learn more or look at getting involved at a higher level, visit lnt.org. If that’s too much to do, just be a good human when you’re sharing the outdoors 🙂 Not sure where to start with camping or the outdoors? Check this helpful tips guide out hereOpens in a new tab.. Now go GET OUTSIDE!

Mike is a Colorado resident, a combat veteran, and a former Police Officer, and an avid outdoorsman. Mike has camped, hiked, and Overlanded all over the United States. From backpack Elk Hunts on Public Land, solo truck camping to Multi-week Overlanding adventures with his family, Mike is very familiar with these outdoor topics.

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