With tourism on the rise worldwide and people wanting to connect with nature and the outdoors, educating people on how to travel sustainably is paramount. Through education and awareness on how to act sustainably, only then, can the planet continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
Specific to hiking and camping in national parks, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has created seven principles on how to experience the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. The principles cover how to plan for your adventure, waste management, camping with minimal impact and how to treat fellow visitors that are also enjoying some outdoor time.
Waste management and travelling in small groups are two areas that are relevant and require more education, especially in Australia. Toilet paper and cigarette butts are too common on every hike I undertake and fruit peel is almost as common. Nappies are also becoming far to common to see on the ground too.
To keep our national parks clean, people need to take out everything they take in with them. It is not up to the national park staff to clean up after everyone. It is up to individuals to take responsibility and to educate each other. If you see someone throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, ask them nicely to pick it up. Our planet is not their ashtray. And whilst throwing fruit peel on the ground may seem ok, it takes years for the matter to break down and it develops bad habits in animals, and they may start to rely on human scraps for food.
Keeping group sizes to a minimum ensures minimal impact during your adventure. Smaller groups have a lower impact on the environment, which is important when travelling in fragile areas. There will be fewer tents set up with smaller groups and less waste produced. It is easier for a smaller group to manage and monitor their impact on the environment.
Whilst I cannot pick up every piece of litter I see on my hikes, I do take a rubbish bag and pick up rubbish other people have left behind. It is a small way I can help the environment and stop litter from killing animals on land and in our oceans.
Be sure to check out the Leave No Trace Principles in more detail and below is a snapshot of each principle:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.
We need to work together and do our part to keep our planet clean!