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6 Steps to Reduce Your Impact on Mother Earth

Flickr/Ralf Gotthardt

The great outdoors is a time for discovery, but we also need to be mindful of the impact we produce and how we can reduce it.

Earth is a fragile celestial body. Environmental problems such as air and water pollution and acid rain affect our planet on a daily basis. Natural areas that we take for granted are vulnerable to these threats, which is why we should take more care when enjoying the outdoors and the impact we create.

1. Litter

Litter is, unfortunately, something that we have to deal with on a daily basis in our cities; however, when we escape to the great outdoors and away from the city lights there is nothing more troubling than when we see discarded items of litter strewn across hiking trails or in forests. Regrettably, there are people who don't seem to have much respect for their surroundings and appear to give very little thought as to the trail of garbage they are leaving behind. While it may only be a small number of people who do this, their impact is much more striking.

When we are enjoying the outdoors doing those activities we enjoy, it's essential that we try our best to take everything we bring with us back home. If you see litter left behind by someone else, pick that up and take it away with you, with the exception of toilet paper, which can be buried after use. Regarding any leftover food, items such as banana peels and apple cores should typically be carried out; however, in some parts it is okay to toss these in the woods making sure they are away from any trails. Bear in mind, though, that while they may be supplying some nutrients back into the soil as they slowly biodegrade, they don't belong there and may have an impact on the ecology in the area.

mrvn X
Flickr/mrvn X

2. Properly Dispose What You Can't Take Away

If you're in the backcountry, you will create certain waste that can't be taken away with us, such as waste water from cooking and washing and human waste. To dispose of waste in a responsible fashion, catholes are the most widely accepted means of waste disposal. This is, essentially, a hole that has been dug in the ground about six to eight inches deep and around four inches wide. To use a cathole, make sure they are well away from trails, camp and water and use 200 feet as a basic guideline, although local regulations may indicate greater distances.

In order to promote decomposition, create catholes in organic soil instead of soil that is sandy. After using the cathole, add soil to the hole with a stick and cover with the soil you initially dug out. You should then proceed to use natural materials to help disguise it. Under no circumstances should you use rocks as a way of covering human waste as rocks do not produce the necessary heat that is required to start the decomposition process.

3. Minimize Fire Use

While fires can be great fun to sit around when camping, unless you need to build a fire for an emergency situation you should avoid building them at any other time. When camping in the backcountry the necessary equipment for shelter, light and warmth in addition to a lightweight camp stove should be carried for your basic needs. In some places fires are not allowed while fire restrictions may be in place in others. In sensitive areas, fires are often banned as they have produced a negative impact on the environment.

If you are camping at an established campsite, use the existing fire rings to build your fire as this will help to reduce the impact the fire has on its surrounding area. Try to avoid creating fires against boulders as it will blacken the rocks and can potentially disturb the soil underneath. Avoid breaking off branches from dead trees, live trees or fallen trees and use the wood that is found on the ground. After the fire has died down, remove any litter from the pit and scatter any unused wood out.

Keith Watson Photography
Flickr/Keith Watson Photography

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4. Noise

When it comes to escaping to our natural areas we often find ourselves in conflicting situations. There are those of us who enjoy camping and hiking treasure the peaceful moments these provide. On the other hand there are children who often vocalize their excitement loudly when they're having fun outside.

Obviously, people can't expect others to be quiet, but people should be aware that sound does have a tendency to travel at great distances outside. For some, a certain noise level can be disruptive if they are trying to enjoy the sound of birdsong, but if you do intend to be loud and there are others about, try and make the effort to find a spot away from people. This will be appreciated by those who are trying to sleep or enjoy the tranquillity that the great outdoors provides.

5. Staying on the Trail

Tempting as it may be to wander off the trail, it is always a good idea to stick to the path as much as possible. Walking alongside a trail will only help to widen it and, subsequently, increase the impact of erosion, which is not something that you want. By looking where you're going and sticking to the path means that there is less work for those who maintain the trail and will reduce a negative impact on the trail environment.

Andrew Holzschuh
Flickr/Andrew Holzschuh

6. Leave What You Find

Even though it may be tempting to take away a souvenir from your adventure you should resist the temptation to take home items such as stones, petrified wood, feathers and plants so that others can also enjoy them. In national parks and in some other areas it is illegal to remove objects, so to avoid any unwanted trouble it's best to leave them as you find them. Being outdoors lets people enjoy their surroundings in their natural state, so let others enjoy the same sense of discovery that you did.

Following these tips to the outdoors will ensure that the nature we all love will last longer for generations to come. We all must respect our Mother Earth for providing us with so much and we must take care of these resources to reduce our impact.

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6 Steps to Reduce Your Impact on Mother Earth