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Participants enjoy the view of the Pittsburgh skyline from a kayak.

Leaving No Trace

By: Sara Cardamone
At the Annual Volunteer Meeting, I had the opportunity to attend the Leave No Trace breakout session. Led by Joel Johnston, the interactive gathering was focused on educating participants on what Leave No Trace is truly about. Here are some of the things that I learned!
Leave No Trace was launched when attendance at parks started to increase, so much so that it was taking a toll on the environment. The mission of the organization is to “protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly”. This comes in the form of seven principles that one should keep in mind when enjoying the outdoors.
The first principle is plan ahead and prepare. This means that you should know the regulations of the site and any extra information such as the weather report before you embark on your trip. This helps everyone stay safe! The second principle is hike and camp on durable surfaces. A durable surface is one that will not be negatively affected by your presence such as rocks, sand, or existing trails. A good tip to remember is that ideal campsites are found not made.
The third principle is pack in, pack out. This means that you should not leave any waste behind. The fourth principle is leave what you find. While you may be inclined to take home souvenirs, it is important to leave nature how you found it as even the smallest actions can disrupt the ecosystem. The fifth principle is minimize your fire impact. This can be done by choosing pieces of firewood that are small and dead so they burn easily. Bringing firewood from home may be contaminated with other insects or diseases, so it’s vital to find wood from around your campsite.
The sixth principle is to respect wildlife. It’s important to refrain from feeding animals because it could be detrimental to their health and dangerous for you. The last principle is be courteous to others. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s always good to respect others around you!
Now that you know this information, you can help educate other people! The best way to do this is to teach them about the positive and negative aspects of their actions. People don’t learn by just being told that they are wrong, so it is important to arm them with knowledge on how to adjust their actions and lessen their impact. All of the information in this blog and more can be found on the Leave No Trace website.
Bonus tip: In our meeting, we learned that a great way to reduce waste is to look at what you’re already packing and figure out multiple uses for each item. After each outing, notice the items you did not use and make a mental note to think twice before packing it for next time.

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