How to leave no trace on your next adventure

In our local areas in Australia, we are so lucky to be surrounded by pristine bushland. Since the early days of logging in our Colonial history, our forests have grown back to beautiful niches of rich biodiversity and spectacular wilderness. People who truly respect and appreciate our local bush would never intentionally enter these areas to damage it, however sometimes it’s harder than it seems to leave without a trace.

When you are bushwalking, it’s important you consider the impact of the environment you are treading into.  

These top 7 tips will assist your next day walk;

1. Never drop rubbish

This is an obvious one. The best plan is to reduce the rubbish you are taking in. Unwrap any foods before you go, reusable containers work well and you can wash when you get home. A tricky one is always the question of organic waste – mandarin peels, apple cores etc. The general rule is take everything home with you, these are foreign foods to native animals and may not be safe for ingestion for these animals. In addition, who wants to walk over a banana peel whilst you’re walking along a beautiful track? Take every piece of rubbish, organic or inorganic, home with you.

2. Walk in a single file, stick to the trail, and don’t take shortcuts

It’s fun to walk in a group, but serious consideration of the path you are travelling on needs to be respected. Designated single trail paths need to be walked as single trails. When you are walking in a group, designate a leader – this is particularly fun for kids who can enjoy taking charge! By walking off trail you are increasing erosion, widening tracks, destroying flora and opening up spaces which are notorious for noxious weeds to take over, such as Lantana. Trampling of vegetation can mean much more than a blade of grass, it’s a home, it’s a food source and its new life on so many levels of the food chain.

3. Adhere to trail limitations

Take note of the trail restrictions, these are there for a reason. Some tracks allow you to take dogs or mountain bikes – some don’t. It’s important to respect the signage and ensure you are using the trail for its intended purpose. Some trails are very sensitive, if we want them to remain open to the public it all comes back to respect.

4. Leave what you find

This is a tricky one, particularly for kids! They want to collect rocks, flowers, dirt – you name it. Everything you find should remain there (unless you take rubbish out!), this means flowers, rocks, mushrooms, everything. In the same sense, don’t trash anything while you are there, especially keep an eye on kids – it’s tempting for them to kick rocks, scratch mosses off rocks, squish mushrooms etc. It’s important to teach kids the importance of protecting little micro-environments, if you look up close that mushroom was probably feeding a family of insects or that flower helping a bee along their way. Also, it’s important to leave these little discoveries for the next person that comes along the trail…

5. Respect wildlife

Along your adventure you might be lucky enough to meet many different types of wildlife. It’s very important to remember that not all encounters with wildlife may be a happy greeting. With lots of walks it’s inevitable you will come across a snake or other animals that might be deemed unpleasant. Although the most important thing to remember is personal safety, where possible, the safety and well-being of the animal should also be a high priority. It’s important to be well prepared for snake encounters, as these are protected species – you cannot kill them. It’s also critical to understand the importance of observing wildlife and not attempting to pat them or feed them. Most wildlife travel with their family, there is no glory in scaring animals and their young for the sake of a selfie.

6. Be considerate of others

Many people head to the bush for quiet time, an escape from the busy city and a chance for peace. Smashing through trails, swearing and yelling and generally being a pest is not considerate. You scare the wildlife and completely defeat the purpose of being in a bush setting. Be respectful and remember other people in the area. Consider other walkers on the path, if you are little slow, let others pass. Smile and say hello to passer-by’s, we are all there for a common reason, acknowledge a like-minded spirit with a friendly smile and hello!

7. Appropriate bush toileting

This is a confusing topic on so many levels. The rule of thumb, move a good distance away from the paths, at least for modesty! Be careful where you tread off the trail, disturb as little as possible, so take your time. Number 1 stops are pretty basic and don’t need to much explanation, Number 2’s on the other hand… well um… what’s the appropriate thing to do here??! Go before you leave home is a good idea, otherwise if you can’t avoid it when nature calls, you have to go I guess! The idea would to be bury the ‘evidence’ if you can, however – toilet paper, tissues or whatever you didn’t grab off a tree need to be taken back out with you. It is completely inappropriate to just leave a pile of toilet paper in the bush. So next walk; when you pack the toilet roll, pack a freezer bag or two as well, hopefully there is a garbage bin at the car park, otherwise – yep, take it home to dispose of.

On that note, use some common sense, respect others and the environment and then these beautiful areas will remain pristine for many years to come! For more information refer to Leave No Trace Australia.

Written by our ambassador Jenae Johnston founder of Bushwalking The Gong