As a team who spends the majority of our time outdoors, it is imperative that we take the correct steps to leave no trace so that we protect and educate ourselves on creating as minimal impact as possible to these natural environments. This is always our top priority when exploring the incredible landscape we have on our doorstep, because without these spaces – we would not be able to do what we do.
For many, these Leave no Trace principles might be new – or may not come as intuitively as you would expect. Most of us know that we should bring all of our rubbish home and never dump it along trails, on beaches or in any other outdoor area – but there are many other important things to consider when protecting our natural environment.
We are blessed to live within a delicate and complex ecosystem, surrounded by an abundance of flora and fauna that are extremely sensitive and at risk of damage, if those of us who frequent wild areas don’t take great care. Ultimately, it is about committing to recreating responsibly, and having the integrity to care for the land when we reap so many benefits from it. This is why we follow the leave no trace principles wherever we go.
Outdoor recreation has increased a lot over the past two years- which is incredible as we all know the mental and physical benefits of a life filled with time in nature – especially when we are faced with the news that these past two years have brought us.
However, we need to consider the environmental impact this is having on our much loved spaces. A lot of the areas that are seeing more traffic, are not used to the volume of people that it is hosting. We must be the ones to take the initiative to keep these spaces as we found them.
Here are some guidelines for when you are hiking in the mountains, camping, spending time on our local beaches or any other activity you find yourself doing in our wild and wonderful outdoor spaces.
“Ultimately, it is about committing to recreating responsibly, and having the integrity to care for the land when we reap so many benefits from it.”
1. Plan ahead
Good preparation, and knowing where you are hiking, and how to access the trail as well as knowing which route to follow is a very important starting-off point. Researching where you will camp/swim etc is another good move towards low-human-impact travel and outdoor recreation.
Knowing the regulations such as camp-fires, where to camp (or if you can camp), if dogs allowed, and the general terrain in the local area are all important pieces of information to consider.
2. Pack it in, pack it out
The most basic guideline – if you bring waste; packaging, toilet paper, or anything – bring it home afterwards. Even fruit peels – nobody wants to see orange, banana peels, or apple cores along the trails. While natural foods will decompose – eventually – fruit peels can take anywhere from two months to two years to decompose. Take it home – nobody wants rotting fruit as they enjoy the outdoors, not to mention the possible impact it could have on local wildlife and vegetation! You can read more about why you shouldn’t throw your peels on the ground in this Outside article.
Another good tip is to prepare your food in advance and carry it in re-usable containers/packaging – lessening the amount of waste you have in the first place.
The same goes for toilet paper – please, please don’t leave your used (or otherwise) toilet paper behind you. If it seems too gross to pack it tightly and securely into a plastic bag, how do you think it feels to leave it in the mountains, or in the forest or at our beaches? Not good! Bring it home with you.
“It is good practice to try and blend in with your surroundings as much as possible!”
3. Dispose of waste
On that note of toilet paper, if you do need to do some business – you should always carry a shovel with you (unless there are designated toilets – always use those first!).
Light, small shovels for camping are easy to come by and can slip into the side pockets or straps of most backpacks. How do you dig a hole for your business? It should be at least 15-20 centimeters deep which allows microorganisms to break down your waste, and your cathole should be at least 70 meters away from water. Please scout out a safe area, and if you are camping in a group you can use the same area for everyone – so as to localize it to one spot, just dig a bigger hole and cover it over as you go.
Be considerate of other campers, don’t dig the hole close to walking trails, or any obvious hiking/relaxing spots.
4. Stick to designated trails
It can seem exciting or a good idea to explore off-trail when in the mountains- not only is this a bad idea from a safety point of view, but when it comes to leave no trace principles – there is a reason that the trail is where it is. Designated trails are a way to ensure that you are not damaging any sensitive areas – such as vegetation, or habitats. A lot of the areas that we frequent are protected, and have ecological importance – so sticking to the marked trail is our small way of supporting the protection and research that may be taking place.
It is also important to be considerate of where you camp, for the same reason. Here is some information about camping in Ireland.
5. Dish water
Wash your dishes at least 200 feet away from any water source. If you are using soap, be sure to use camping-specific biodegradable soap (not just eco-dish soap). Or if it is just one night, consider not using soap and wash when you go home.
Do not use soap, even the bio-degradeable soap, in the water system. Dispose of strained dish water over dirt, or non-vegetation areas, bring any food scraps with you.
6. Leave what you find behind
Take photos, but leave everything you see where you found it. Don’t pick wildflowers, or take shells/rocks or damage trees. Just leave it as it is for the next person to also enjoy as much as you have- and to reduce the risk of disturbing or damaging a habitat or the ecology of the area.
“A lot of the areas that we frequent are protected, and have ecological importance – so sticking to the marked trail is our small way of supporting the protection and research that may be taking place.”
7. Be considerate to your neighbors
Be respectful to your neighbors (both other humans as well as wildlife). Most people spend time in nature to get away from the world, loud music or noise in general – so it is good practice to try and blend in with your surroundings as much as possible! Maybe skip the music for a night or two, or use ear buds – or at least keep the volume low so you can hear what is happening around you. If you have pets with you (on designated trails and campsites), keep them near you at all times. When hiking, allow faster hikers and those with right of way to pass you (usually hikers going uphill have the right of way).
General friendliness and common courtesy is always a good idea when on trails and in the outdoors – so say hello, and share anything that might be of importance or interest to others you pass along the way.
We hope you found these tips helpful, and that you can incorporate them into you next camping trip, or outdoor excursion. We all start somewhere, there was a time when we were not as educated or considerate of our impact on the natural world around us – so our intention is not to create shame or guilt, but to educate and inspire each other to keep learning and do better!
If you want to join any of our outdoor activities and learn more in the elements with us – book a session with us today.
You can also sign up for our Surf Camp here.
If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy our other blog posts: