Leave No Trace:  What It Is And Why It’s Important

Posted by Lynne Marsala Basche on April 30, 2018

If a group creates a new trail and no one is around to see it, does it matter?  Think you know about Leave No Trace (LNT)? I did, too. Turns out, I didn’t. Last week, if you asked me about Leave No Trace, I would have told you it meant bringing your trash home with you and leaving what you found – meaning, don’t take that unique rock home for a book end. In fact, I was so confident about my LNT knowledge that I immediately took the Online Awareness Course test on the Leave No Trace site . . . and failed.

While I was correct with the meager 2 points I knew, I had no idea there were 7 principles. Yes, 7! I could name 2 principles outright. I recognized 2 other points but didn’t realize they were actual principles. Three principles were new to me – although, of course, they made sense once I read about them.


It doesn’t matter what outdoor activity you enjoy, you need to know about Leave No Trace!

What is Leave No Trace?

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people about how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly by making good decisions and also encourages people of all ages to be outdoor advocates. They make learning about environmental ethics accessible to everyone. Fun, right? Through outreach, education and research, the LNT Center explains what we can do to protect the outdoors for generations to come helping us to enjoy all the outdoor recreation opportunities that we love.

Can you name the 7 principles?

The 7 principles are easy to follow. In fact, you already know you shouldn’t make a grand romantic gesture and carve your girlfriend’s name into a tree, blaze a new trail, or empty soup remains into a stream. You’ve probably been following the principles without even knowing it – at least we hope so! We’ll give you a brief overview, but we’d love for you to learn more about the 7 principles.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Know where you’re going, prepare for the weather and emergencies, and travel in small groups whenever possible.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Use already-established trails and campsites. There’s no need to go rogue and create anything new. We know kids like to explore, and there’s no need to squash their enthusiasm. Explain to kids that going off trail widens the existing path and tramples vegetation. If you have a garden, talk about it in terms of how they would feel if someone stepped on their vegetables.
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Take all trash, including leftover food, with you when you leave. Learn the correct way to dispose of waste and wash dishes. (I’m positive I got the waste and dishwashing questions wrong on the test.)
  4. Leave what you find: This is a tough one for kids, who are very much tactile little creatures and learn by touch (for better or for worse). Don’t pick wildflowers or touch artifacts, and remember that natural objects should be left as you found them. Think about bringing a camera and encouraging kids to take pictures of things they wish they could bring home. Encourage kids to keep a journal.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: There’s no need to create a roaring bonfire. Where fires are permitted, keep them small and use fire rings or fire pans. Don’t forget to make sure campfires are put out completely before you leave. By the way, it’s a good idea to see if there are any fire restrictions in your area before your adventure.
  6. Respect wildlife: Always remain a safe distance from all animals and don’t taunt them. Appreciate animals in their natural habitat. Remember, it’s never a good idea to feed animals.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors: Trails and campsites are for everyone, so be courteous and respect fellow outdoor enthusiasts – and that includes any late night singing of “Brown Eyed Girl” around the campfire.

It's easy to remember these 7 principles - watch our staff video on Leave No Trace:



Do you live environmentally connected?

One of Avid4 Adventure’s core values is to live environmentally connected. All staff is committed to living this value both inside and outside of camp, and they not only talk the talk; they walk the walk! At camp, staff teach kids to become environmental stewards by learning LNT principles and becoming environmentally conscious.

Campers in Avid4 Adventure’s Staff-in-Training Summer Camp Program for 11th-12th graders can become nationally trained Leave No Trace trainers! Afterwards, participants can lead courses on their own for family, friends and the community. Instead of just practicing the principles, participants can teach. Very exciting!

We all can find simple ways to influence environmental change. Maybe it’s picking up garbage when you take your kids to the park or bringing reusable bags shopping. It could even be using your own travel cup when you grab coffee to go at a local shop. The LNT Center extends the Bigfoot Challenge to everyone because, after all, Bigfoot has been doing it for years! Now, if I could only get my family to follow Leave No Trace principles in our kitchen . . .

For more information check out the Leave No Trace website

At Avid4 Adventure summer camps, we teach kids from pre k - 12th grade about the 7 Leave No Trace principles and get them talking about how to live environmentally connected in outdoor adventure sports like rock climbing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, hiking, mountain biking and more. After even just a few days of camp, participants often begin policing one another on the principles and leave camp with a deeper appreciation and respect for the outdoors. To learn more about our outdoor adventure camps in California, Colorado and Oregon, click the link below. 

Learn About Camps

Topics: Skills Learned at Summer Camp, Outdoor Advocacy