Outdoor Ethics in the Deteriorating Natural World

Written by Kenna Kuhn, ESLLC 2016-2017

As someone who found my passion for the environmental science through my love for the outdoors, I find it difficult to understand the disconnect between enjoying the outdoors and caring for it. Millions of people throughout the U.S. hike, camp, fish and visit national parks annually however most don’t think enough about their impact on the planet and the destruction of the places they are enjoying.

There are two sides to this issue: 1. sustainable use of nature during outdoor activities and 2. general consumption/degradation to the planet in everyday life.

In order to address one of these issues at a time, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics developed 7 principles a number of years ago that are commonly referred as “LNT”. I originally learned these while exploring with the National Outdoor Leadership School but they have been widely adopted by many large organizations and thousands of individuals (i.e. REI).

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare Know the regulations and concerns associated with the area you are visiting – bring adequate gear and consider smaller groups. Understand what is and is not appropriate use of resources in the specific ecosystem you are visiting.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable SurfacesDo not set up your tent on fragile ecosystems or trample a whole group through a wildlife restoration area or THE habitat of other animals. The “perfect shot” is a major source of LNT breeching as people compromise ecosystems to get the best photo.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly Carry it out! Split your waste into compostables and recyclables and pack it out will you. Do not burn trash, do not bury trash. Carry a trowel and dig poop holes (a shaka’s depth and width and at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails).
  4. Leave What You Find Don’t take anything with you – just don’t!
  5. Minimize campfire impacts Build your campfires inside of established pits. Burn all wood to ashes and then scatter charred rock.
  6. Respect Wildlife Seems simple enough right? This is as much their home as it is yours (if not more so).
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors Particularly in our National Parks, please leave it better than you found it. You are rarely the only visitor to any area and there are often not enough employees to pick up after people who cannot pick up after themselves.
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