Top 10 Ways to Reduce the Impact on the Environment When Outdoors
Staying on the trails is a common sense advice that we should follow, although plenty of people may lose their tracks in occasion - that's normal. There is a reason why trails exist - not only for the sake of protecting the environment, but for your own safety. Walking off trail can contribute to erosion of soil and can damage vegetation. Not to mention, you'll risk being harmed from poison ivy or even face a higher risk of being killed by wildlife.
I have to confess I broke this one today. Granted I was planting trees under direction of an ecological restoration manager.
Some hikers and outdoor campers make the mistake of feeding birds or other wildlife when on the trails. Although we typically have good intentions, feeding wildlife actually has a counterproductive effect. Animals have their own set of diet, and so do humans, but when we incorporate a tiny part of our diet into animals, this not only makes them dependent on people, but also impacts their behavior. Since animals may become dependent on feeders, they can congregate to the area where feeding is apparent, which is a hot-spot for diseases and pathogens harmful to both wildlife and humans that otherwise cannot be found in nature. Littering can also contribute to this
Some people would choose to leave their feces sitting exposed on the soil, but what's often ignored is that feces also contribute to diseases. According to the "Leave No Trace" rules, a cathole must be around 6 - 8 inches deep and dug 200 feet away from trails, campsites, and water sources and should only be used once. It's also important to use a few toilet papers as possible to reduce the impact of environment. When you're doing taking a dump, be sure to bury it with soil so that animals won't dig up the waste from the ground. Sticks and rocks also mix well, but be sure to leave a disguise so no one would tamper it in curiosity.
This sounds so obvious to include in. You can occasionally see this warning on signs in various places, but there are people who often don't consider the wellness of the environment. Littering causes air, water, and other forms of pollution - that's common knowledge. This also applies to littering biodegradables - including foods in hopes that those would wear out naturally. While some foods degrade faster than others, other foods such as banana peels can last up to two years to decompose. Regardless if it's man-made or organic, it's still garbage.
In other words, bring water bottles that are not made from plastic, be conscious of what clothes you're choosing, and create your own trail mixes and granolas instead of buying from stores. This also applies to certain everyday products such as soaps and toilet paper. Biodegradables contribute less pollution than regular products as they tend to break down much faster. Synthetic chemicals such as those in regular household soap tend to last much longer and pollute both water and soil. While biodegradable products make less impact on the environment, they can still be as damaging when disposed incorrectly. If there are no other options to dispose biodegradable products, either keep it with you or dig a cathole at least 200 feet away from trails and water sources. It's also important to consider using or bringing less to no single-use products as possible.
This may be optional if you're in track of the trails, but necessary if the occasional situation of getting lost happens. Simply put, walk on durable surfaces such as rocky areas and gravel to lessen the impact to the environment. Dry grass and snow also poses less risk of affecting the environment. If in the case you happen to get lost or need to stray off trail for whatever reasons, make zig zag movements and don't stay on the same route when going back and forth. That way, you'll reduce the impact of the environment as much as possible.
Preferably, use camping areas in which vegetation is scarce, and there's firm ground such as rocks beneath. Choose camping areas that are at least 200 feet away from the water. Areas that have snow are the perfect places to camp on as they leave little to no environmental impacts. Make sure you also do research about the areas where you are going, as you may need different gear and other appropriate essentials depending on the environment.
Fires are simply risky to begin with. It's always important consider the conditions of the environment, and to follow fire regulations if possible. Planning and preparing before going to your destined spot is always a thing to consider as the spot where your camping on may differ. When starting a fire, find an established fire ring/pan first when possible. Keeping your fire small and setting your camp in rocky terrain or other areas with little greenery are optimal ways of preventing wildfires. Never neglect your campfire and make sure your fire is completely extinguished before doing anything else. Only use firewood for starting campfires. Putting plastic, garbage, or any man-made materials in the campfire not only poses hazard, but contributes to both air and ground pollution from harmful chemicals burnt in the fire.
This applies to any items that you are bringing outdoors - which includes gear, food, bathroom products, and other necessities. The common rule to reduce the impact of waste is buy only what you need. However this isn't the only thing to consider. The everyday products we use contain microplastics and other chemicals which contaminate the environment, especially outdoors. Whenever you choose to hike or camp, sustainability is very important to consider. Choosing products that can be re-used and/or made out of biodegradable materials should be a top priority if possible.
Last on the list is "leave no trace". In other words, have the least impact to the environment as possible - as in don't pick up plants or rocks, don't build structures, litter, nor dig soil (unless necessary) or trails. The phrase itself can be pretty much filled with common sense, and can include practically every advice given on this list, but there's a bit more that can be delved into detail - proper planning should be an important thing to be considered. Simply put, take note of how the weather and terrain would look like, make sure you have realistic goals and expectations regarding the location you want to camp or hike in, and take notes of difficulties of trails - as well as your group's capabilities. Appropriate clothing and gear is always considered.
Obstacles and unexpected situations may occasionally appear, but it's always better to have you and/or your group in check. Poor planning (such as inappropriate clothing/gear, wrong weather timing, terrain unfamiliarity, ...more