Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints
Camp Green!

Camp Green!

Whether you’re camping in the woods, swimming in the ocean, or just hanging out at your local park, appreciating the great outdoors is one of the best parts of living green. Unfortunately, though, even when we have the best of intentions, all those visitors can leave Mother Nature a little worse for wear. But while it’s nearly impossible to take advantage of your favorite fishing spot, hiking trail, or National Park without leaving a mark, there are still plenty of ways you can limit any damage you might cause. The phrase “take only pictures, leave only footprints” is meant to embody this idea of enjoying the outdoors while minimizing your environmental impact, but what does that saying really mean?

Never steal from nature

Looking at a shell out on the beach, it’s easy to imagine how beautiful it would look all cleaned up and polished on your desk or bookshelf. But next time you consider picking up that seashell, take a second to imagine how empty the beach would look if everybody took home a natural knickknack. The U.S. National Parks get almost 300 million visitors a year – if we all collected souvenirs, that would add up to a whole lot of missing flowers, rocks, and shells. Everything in nature has a role to play – the flowers you pick provide the seeds for new generations of plants, shells on the beach eventually break down into much-needed minerals like calcium, and rocks help stabilize soil. When you take something from the outdoors you’re bound to upset this delicate balancing act, so feel free to enjoy the scenery while you’re there, but take only pictures and leave the rest behind.

Bring out what you brought in

We’ve all seen beautiful scenery soured by the trash other people leave behind, but all those plastic bottles, food wrappers, and wisps of toilet paper are doing more than just messing up your photos. That waste has a real, negative impact on natural systems: among other things it can leach pollutants into the soil and water, choke animals, and clog up waterways. To help avoid these types of environmental problems, always make sure to bring trash bags and pack out everything you bring in so it can be disposed of properly. And don’t just stop with your own trash – your goal should be to leave every campsite and hiking trail you visit looking better than when you got there.

Don’t disturb natural habitats
Stay on the trail

Stay on the trail

Leaving forests and waterways the way you found them doesn’t just mean picking up all your trash; it also means you should make every effort not to interfere with the natural world around you. Parks and other natural areas are for more than just our enjoyment: these undisturbed spaces are meant to conserve and protect plant and animal species, and in order to accomplish that goal it’s important for all of us respect the boundaries that parks set up. This includes maintaining a respectful distance from wildlife and staying on marked paths. It might not seem like a big deal to wonder a few steps away from a hiking trail, but when you add up the thousands of steps taken on those paths every year you end up with miles of eroded trails and destroyed plant life. You wouldn’t want someone to come in and disturb your home, so why would you go out and trash the outdoors?

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