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Do you 'Leave No Trace'?

Updated: Aug 19, 2018

Introduced in the 1960s by the U.S. Forest Service, the Leave No Trace principles began as educational guidelines to help visitors behave ethically and sustainably during outdoor recreation . Across the world, LNT principles have served as the cornerstone for education on sustainability and outdoor recreation. As more areas become accessible and interest in recreation grows, the 7 principles keep evolving to cater to emerging trends. Let's have a look at them.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

One of my trainers, a very wise man, used to often say- Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance. He was always prepared and seemed to have a contingency plan for every single thing and that made him largely efficient and successful in our field of work. Now, we don't all possess such foresight but we all have the ability to think ahead-- and are encouraged to do this often.

In the outdoors, a lot of incidences happen because of improper planning and lack of preparedness. For instance, disregard for weather conditions or wildlife can turn an easy hike into a risky encounter depending on your location. Plan ahead by considering your goals and those of your group. Prepare by gathering local information, communicating expectations, and getting the technical skills, first aid knowledge, and equipment to make the trip a success. Have enough resources like food and water, adequate security clearance and never leave anything concerning the safety of your group to chance. In short, as locals like to say, Jipange kabla Upangwe!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

What effect does a footstep have? The answer is, it depends!

A footstep means different things to a young tree or dead branches, to an army of ants, worms and small insects on the ground or coral reefs, to fallen leaves or rain forest moss. Recovery that takes a year in some environments might take 25 years in others for plants and landscapes. Unfortunately, recovery for animals is rare as only the strong survive. Injury puts most in the way of death. You may feel adventurous out there, making your own paths and bush-bashing your way across the wilderness but consider this, the world lays beneath your feet.

Sticking to the tracks is best because you avoid unseen danger ahead like snakes and cliffs, you avoid disruption of fora and fauna, you make it easy to be found in case of rescue scenarios and most importantly, paths are specifically made for walking on ;)

If there are no tracks, avoid non-durable ground such as soft plants, stream edges, muddy sites, and fragile soil layers. Spread the impact as much as possible to avoid making a lasting imprint and permanent damage. We drop the mic on this one using Nicholas Agar's words- "The science of nature and the ethics of nature are no longer separate disciplines. Finding out about natural kinds constituting the environment enables us to see not only how the environment may be protected, but also that it should be protected."

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This one we should all be practising already, either through following your conscience or the law. Either way, “Pack it in, pack it out”.

Any user of the outdoors has a responsibility to clean up before he or she leaves. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish or spilled foods. Pack out all rubbish and kitchen waste, including leftover food. If it doesn't belong there, please don't leave it behind.