The Outdoor Education Group believe nature is for everyone. People of all ages and all walks of life deserve to experience the outdoors. However, the natural world is fragile and precious. Therefore, when we share and enjoy the outdoors, we must do so responsibly. The Leave No Trace principles are a guide to enjoying the natural world while minimising impact as much as possible, so future generations can enjoy the natural spaces we love today and ensure those spaces flourish.
After noticing increased impacts on trails, the US Forest Service developed the 7 principles of Leave No Trace in the 1960s. The Leave No Trace principles were initially developed as a guide for remote backcountry users who camp overnight. The idea behind the principles is to leave nature as unchanged by our presence as possible. However, today you’ll find most outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with Leave No Trace and the ethics embodied by the phrase.
Because we spend much of our time enjoying and sharing the outdoors, it is our responsibility to minimise our impacts on the environment. We feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to educate young people on preservation and resource stewardship every day; one of the ways we do this is by practising the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
THE 7 LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES
PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE
Before we head out on an adventure, whether it is a 30-day journey or a day at camp, we plan! Our dedicated Resource and Design team create program outlines detailing the program’s schedule, venues and activities. Briefing notes are provided to our Educators; these layout information on the students, school, venues, objectives and also include program outlines. Our Risk team monitor weather conditions continually and are in contact with every group. Our Logistics and Catering team ensure each group has the right amount of food, water and gear. This level of preparation ensures safety. It enables us to minimise waste and resource damage and allows us more time to learn new skills and explore our environment.
TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES
The best campsites are found, not made. Travel damage occurs when communities of organisms or surface vegetation are damaged beyond recovery. To protect fragile vegetation, we stick to established areas for setting up camp and avoid altering existing campsites. We use recognised tracks and pathways and walk single file even when it’s wet or muddy. We aim to occupy a small area and run activities in spaces where vegetation is absent.
DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY
Much of our planning goes towards avoiding leaving any waste behind. It is essential to dispose of waste properly because it ultimately affects other people, wildlife, and water sources. It’s important to understand the correct way to dispose of everything, from rubbish to human waste, to make everyone’s experience much more enjoyable and also lowers our impact. We use poo tubes, Alpine toileting systems, portable toilets, and waste stations to ensure no remaining waste is left behind.
Jayant Solanki, Program Coordinator at The Outdoor Education Group imparts the 7 principles in his own way. "To create awareness around the Leave No Trace principles, I find it effective to explore each point at different opportunities throughout the program. The first lunch shared with students presents a perfect occasion to discuss waste. As we collect the wrappers and leftovers, I like to discuss the importance of planning with the students, the disposing of waste and how our decisions might impact others and our environment.
As we start to move on to our journey, I love hearing the ideas students have about preserving our natural resources; it's the perfect time for this discussion because, by this point, we are immersed in nature and the students feel connected to it. During evenings, some groups are presented with a choice of having a campfire - is it necessary? Can we produce it and maintain it responsibly?
Throughout the program, we like to connect those practices with other areas of life, like avoiding long showers, using reusable water bottles, etc."
LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
Leaving the trail the way we found it means others can enjoy it too. It also keeps ecosystems intact. Moving or removing elements of a natural ecosystem can cause permanent damage. Natural environments stay natural only if we maintain their balance, so we do not pick flowers, move rocks or other natural objects. Instead, we preserve nature by enjoying its beauty.
MINIMISE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS
Campfires can cause catastrophic wildfires and permanent damage to the land. We are responsible for building, enjoying and putting campfires out. Where fires are permitted, we use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. We keep fires small, using only sticks from the ground and make sure we put out campfires completely.
When we explore the outdoors, we are exploring the homes and ecosystems of wildlife. We do not approach wildlife – we observe from a distance. We do not feed the animals we encounter. Feeding wildlife alters natural behaviours, damages their health and exposes them to predators and other dangers. We store food and rubbish properly to avoid any animals getting hold of something they shouldn’t. Respecting wildlife keeps them as well as ourselves safe.
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS
The natural world is to be shared by all. We enter the natural world with respect for the environment, rangers, traditional owners and other visitors. This way, everyone can feel welcome and enjoy their experience. We follow trail and camp etiquette and keep noise to a minimum. Being respectful of other visitors helps everyone enjoy the outdoors, including us!
LEAVE NO TRACE AND THE OUTDOOR EDUCATION GROUP
While all our Outdoor Educators practice the Leave No Trace principles and lead by example, it is vital we engage young people in observing them too. Some of our Educators will speak to students about the principles, while others chose to involve them in games designed to explore each principle.
One of our favourite ways to deliver the important messages imbued in the Leave No Trace principles is through this drill:
From camps, incursions, extended journeys to sequential programs and more, The Outdoor Education Group works with schools across Australia, providing outdoor education experiences to enhance student engagement and strengthen curriculum outcomes. We take education outdoors and inspire the next generation of leaders who will care for our environment. Enquire today.