If you have watched Mad Men, a TV drama series set in the early 1960s, you will likely remember the scene in season two where the Draper family are enjoying a relaxing picnic in a beautiful park. When it’s time to leave, Don (the father) casually throws his beer can into a nearby bush and Betty (the mother) shakes off the picnic blanket, depositing all the rubbish from their meal onto the grass, before heading to the car. The scene is horrifyingly laughable – surely no one would actually do that? Even if people were so flippant about littering in the past, decades after the show was set we would know better? Right?
Well, the sad truth is, today you only have to walk a few metres along some of our beaches and trails to find evidence of previous visitors – discarded bottles, crumpled packaging and all manner of consumer waste litters our natural spaces by the truckload. Even those with the best of intentions can leave their mark, albeit often unconsciously – collecting ‘souvenirs’ from natural spaces, treading on fragile plants and having a campfire all leaves a trace of your presence on the landscape.
There is an international movement called ‘Leave No Trace’ which has seven principles for enjoying natural spaces, but also minimising your impact on the environment. Here’s some simple things you might consider doing next time you’re outdoors. If you like what read make sure to head to Leave No Trace for more info.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
Plan your route, check the weather, gather together appropriate clothing & equipment and make sure your first aid kit is on board. No one wants to find themselves stranded in the middle of the bush – shivering, wet and let’s face it, probably crying. If you’re organised and prepared, there’s a much lower chance you will be forced to leave a trace.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
As much as leaping through the bush Bear Grylls-style looks super cool, stick to the trails – both for your own safety and the preservation of the environment. It may also seem fun to squish your boots into some spongy moss or stomp along some muddy banks, but that little moment of sensory entertainment can leave a mark on the environment that can sometimes take years recover.
- Dispose of Waste Properly
This one speaks for itself really – clean up all your rubbish! Even better, if you find some rubbish that other people have left, clean that up too! Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave What You Find
Humans, by nature, like to gather and collect. It’s easy to see a pretty shell or rock or other natural object and visualise how great it would look on that shelf you have back home; you might even start to spin a little story in your mind that you will tell visitors to your house about how you came by it. Objects in the outdoors have environmental and cultural significance, so if you do find something special, take a photo, then leave it where it belongs. Let other people discover, appreciate and admire it too.
- Minimise the Effects of Fire
There is something undeniably appealing about sitting around a campfire, but too often they are lit carelessly and in the worst case scenario can cause widespread damage. There are techniques for minimising damage, but if you can, consider not lighting a fire at all, use a gas stove for cooking and a lantern for light.
- Respect Wildlife and Farm Animals
They look cute and it may even seem like they’re asking, but don’t feed the birds or any other wildlife, it damages their health, alters natural behaviours, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. We need to share the outdoors not invade it.
- Be Considerate of Others
Respect others, share huts and leave gates as you found them. Basically, maintain courtesy and spread kindness.