While most outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the saying "Leave No Trace" and its "seven principles," it might not be common knowledge for the recreational hiker.
This concept highlights ways that hikers and adventurers can enjoy outdoor activities while causing as little adverse effects to the environment as possible. Here are some of the most important points from these principles and an examination of how they might affect the way we approach our relationships with the outdoors.
Stay on the trail
Our beaches are eroding at alarming rates. New Zealand alone has lost as much as 70 percent of its coastline in the last century. Some of this is of course due to natural environmental changes, but most of it stems from our interactions with the land.
Of course we want to get to the water as fast as possible, but leaving the clearly designated walkways are extremely hazardous. Domestic vegetation, such as marsh and dune grasses, help keep the sand from blowing away, and when we walk or run on it before it has taken root we prevent it from growing.
And this is not just a beach problem. Everything from hiking to off-trail mountain biking can have significant impacts on the natural world. A rule of thumb when you are visiting such fragile ecosystems is to always stay on designated paths. Coming equipped with the proper gear such as heavy-duty polarized sunglasses and flashlights will make sure you can see where you are stepping in all types of lighting conditions.
Curb, ahem, your waste
Remember, we all share the environment. Most of us know to reduce our waste and pick up any trash we leave behind, but have you thought about our natural waste? While some green publications might advise digging a small cat-hole for your fecal matter and other human wastes (four to ten inches deep and two hundred feet from any water supply, trail, or camping ground) there is no cleaner way to remove a dirty business than finding any one of the many environmentally friendly bags to remove your waste yourself.