The outdoor world is a natural playground that encourages children to maximize creativity and connect with nature.
It is incredibly important for children to learn how to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the great outdoors.
A necessary part of this relationship is ensuring you do not inadvertently leave a negative impact when exploring.
This mindful act is referred to as Leave No Trace, and it helps ensure the longevity and health of the wildlife surrounding us.
At Waldorf Academy, our private junior kindergarten school works to develop skills outside of the typical classroom experience through exploratory play and guided programs.
Let’s delve into why you should be careful to Leave No Trace behind when you’re outside, experiencing nature.
What Is Leave No Trace?
Leave No Trace is a set of core principles meant to help you engage in responsible outdoor recreation.
While it may seem like a good idea at the time to pick a sweet-smelling flower or grab a neat looking pine cone, these small acts can actually harm the environment.
The goal of Leave No Trace is to minimize the impact we leave upon the outdoors, every time we choose to explore.
Leave No Trace Principles
There are seven key principles that make up the Leave No Trace philosophy, each working together to build awareness, appreciation, and respect for the natural world.
1. Plan Ahead And Prepare
By preparing for your outdoor adventure before leaving home, you can set yourself up for success.
Taking the time to plan for your excursion will ensure your safety, and the safety of the wild lands around you.
Here are a few things you can plan ahead:
– Prepare for inclement weather and emergencies: It can be difficult to foresee potential hazards, but doing your research will help ensure your journey goes off without a hitch.
– Repackage food: There’s nothing worse than a forgotten snack wrapper! To avoid accidental littering, put your food into reusable containers and bring them home with you. This can also help you avoid needing a campfire, which is recommended for the less experienced explorer.
– Visit in smaller groups: Did you know some campsites and woodland areas have regulations on how large your group can be? Travelling in a smaller group will reduce your overall impact on the wildlife (called “travel damage”).
– Be familiar with rules and regulations: From potential fire bans to weather warnings to other special concerns, it is important that you’re knowledgeable on laws, rules, and regulations. These change depending on the area, so don’t miss this step especially if you’re exploring in a new location.
And finally – think about your expectations, ability level, and potential trip activities.
These are all things to consider well before setting off on your adventure.
2. Travel And Camp On Durable Surfaces
When travelling and setting up camp, make sure you seek out durable surfaces.
In this circumstance, durability refers to how well a surface or vegetation can withstand being walked on (or slept on).
Rock, sand, and gravel are incredibly durable surfaces that can tolerate many excited footsteps; vegetation or other areas located off the trails, on the other hand, are often not so durable. Even if it looks like nothing more than leaves and twigs, those leaves may hide seeds in the process of germination or hibernating creatures, and trampling across it can cause them harm.
Make sure to keep to the trails – and if there are no trails for you to use, keep an eye out for trampled pathways already made by other travelers.
The whole goal is to keep vegetation damage to a minimum.
Although it may be fun to jump into puddles and mud holes, keep in mind that water is a valuable resource for all outdoor creatures and is best left undisturbed.
If you’re camping overnight, remember good campsites are found, not made.
It’s often unnecessary to create a spot for your tent and belongings – make sure to include scouting out a campsite when you’re planning ahead for your adventure.
3. Dispose Of Waste Properly
When it comes to waste: pack it in, pack it out.
Always inspect your campsite or exploration zone for garbage or food, and make sure to bring it with you.
These small bits of waste may not seem like they would be harmful, but you never know what kind of effect you may have on the environment, from animals to vegetation.
Now, everyone knows not to litter, but there are other kinds of waste to be mindful of.
Contrary to popular belief, burying your number-two actually slows decomposition – but it is still considered to be the best way to dispose of your waste.
The slow decomposition rate means you should be careful when choosing a burial location.
Is it far away (around 200ft) from any body of water, campsite, or other frequently used place?
If so, then you’ve made a good choice.
The best kind of hole you can dig is called a “cathole”, which is around 6-7 inches deep and 4-6 inches wide.
Catholes are easy to dig, easy to disguise with natural materials, private, and they disperse the waste which helps with decomposition.
You can bury toilet paper in your cathole, but make sure you bring a brand that is plain and non-scented.
4. Leave What You Find
As beautiful as nature can be, the things you find outside belong right where you found them.
This includes rocks, plants, animals – anything you spot while adventuring should stay in its natural habitat.
Additionally, you should avoid damaging trees or other natural formations.
Carving your initials into a tree may seem like a nice thought, but doing anything with the intention of leaving your mark on nature is rarely beneficial for the environment you’re exploring.
Instead of picking a flower, consider sketching its likeness, or taking a photograph – maybe you can later identify the flower and learn more about it.
Both natural and cultural artifacts, from antlers to petrified wood to large rock faces, are best left where you found them and where others can experience that same sense of discovery.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
There’s nothing more soothing and warming than a beautiful campfire.
Unfortunately, the overuse of campfires has led to a degradation of wildlife in some areas.
Thankfully, the development of small lightweight camp stoves has made it easy for campers to cook food and produce warmth without affecting the environment.
These stoves are an important addition to every minimum-impact explorer’s kit.
If you’re still set on stoking a fire, here are some considerations to think about:
– Can this fire cause any potential damage?
– Is there sufficient firewood for you to forage? (Never chop down a standing tree, dead or alive)
– What is the fire danger like in your area? Are there any restrictions?
The absolute best place for you to build your campfire is within an existing fire ring, where others have had fires before.
Another alternative is to use a fire pan, which are often inexpensive and very effective.
Also, make sure to extinguish your fire properly with water rather than dirt – you don’t want your campfire getting out of hand.
6. Respect Wildlife
One of the most exciting parts about exploring the outdoors is coming face-to-face with wildlife.
There are right and wrong ways to interact with animals, and the general rule is to learn about wildlife from quiet observation.
You don’t want to scare, intimidate, or cause stress to another living being.
To avoid doing so, you should avoid touching or approaching any animal you come across in nature.
This distance is for your safety, too – you never know if an animal is carrying a communicable disease, or has its children nearby and feels threatened by your presence.
If you find a sick or wounded animal in your adventures, be sure to notify a warden or park staff, depending on your location.
To be completely considerate of surrounding wildlife, consider quietly observing from afar and storing your food securely, away from curious mouths.
Remember: you’re a visitor to the home of these creatures. Be sure to treat them with respect and consideration.
7. Be Considerate Of Others
Animals and plants aren’t the only ones joining you on your outdoor excursion.
One of the most important principles of outdoor ethics is extending courtesy and respect to other explorers.
Excessive or intrusive noise can potentially interrupt the experience of others, as well as the wildlife around you.
If you’re looking for a private getaway, make sure to plan around major holidays and long weekends when there will likely be large groups.
Why Are These Principles Important?
There is so much to learn, enjoy, and experience in nature, and it is immensely important that our enjoyment does not cause the natural world harm.
Our natural open spaces are to be cherished and shared, and it’s our responsibility to work together to preserve and enjoy these spaces.
We must preserve and respect the environment and leave as little impact as possible to ensure it will live – and flourish – for years to come.
There are few precious spaces completely untouched by humans, and it’s important they remain as they are: natural and thriving.
Contact Waldorf Academy
At Waldorf Academy, we encourage and develop important life skills that set children up for success, both academically and creatively.
Outdoor play is a key part of this process.
We believe getting in touch with nature is an enriching experience that inspires creativity and teaches skills impossible to learn from inside a classroom.
Contact Waldorf Academy for more information today.