Travel Tips 

Ultimate Guide to Leave No Trace Travel

Leave no trace travel is about more than just preserving the environment. It's an entire movement geared toward a healthier planet and population. Sustainability is about connecting with the world and cultures around us. "Leave no trace travel" isn't just a buzz word, it's a lifestyle that's here to stay.
Prepared By:

Shannon Lowery

Adventurer & Photographer

In today’s world of climate change, carbon emissions, and cultural dilution, Leave No Trace practices are more important than ever. Sustainable travel and responsible travel are phrases we hear more frequently, but what do they mean? In this article, learn about Leave No Trace travel and ways you can be a more responsible visitor.

What does “Leave No Trace” mean?

Leave No Trace means humans eliminate the negative impact we have on the world around us. Leave No Trace travel means that travelers aim to leave a place as they found it when they visit. Similarly, sustainable and responsible tourism reduces the environmental, social, economic, and human impacts the tourism industry has in destination. Today, regenerative tourism takes these concepts one step further by encouraging travelers and tourism development to have a positive impact, leaving a place better than it was before.

To fully understand Leave No Trace, the seven principles of Leave No Trace have been clearly outlined by LNT.org, a nonprofit that focuses on education and resources for Leave No Trace practices:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Others

The seven Leave No Trace principles were created with camping outdoor activities in mind, but they can easily be applied to all activities, settings, and lifestyles, including travel!

    Leave no trace travel preserves ecological and cultural standards

    Ways to Practice Leave No Trace Travel

    Voluntourism

    Voluntourism means we participate in a form of volunteering while traveling. Natural disaster relief missions and quick trash cleanups on the beach during family vacation both fall under the category of voluntourism. No matter how you decide to get involved, voluntourism is a great way to bring deeper meaning to your next trip and practice regenerative tourism. 

    Leave no trace travel preserves ecological and cultural standards

    Rethink Creature Comforts

    Having a refillable water bottle handy is a no-brainer when it comes to Leave No Trace travel. But what else can you do to eliminate plastic waste? For starters, take a look in your toiletry bag. Consider packing eco-friendly shampoo bars and other hygienic products in tins or refilling reusable travel-size containers with at-home supply. Don’t bother with the free hotel soaps, which use and create tons of plastic packaging. Or, specifically look for green-certified lodging; they often donate unused products to those in need. Be sure to reuse the same towel during your stay, and keep your showers quick. Skip the straw when you’re out to eat and pack a cotton mesh tote for carrying around goods.

    Spread the Love

    Shop local, shop small. Bucket-list boutiques and restaurants are popular for a reason, but there are plenty of lesser-known businesses that need your spending money, too. Look for off-the-beaten path places to shop and dine. If you’re unsure, ask a local. Often, you’ll find a more authentic and enriching experience by taking the path less-traveled to that hidden gem shop or hole-in-the-wall spot. 

    How You Get Around

    How you get around a destination is half the fun of traveling. Live like a local by taking advantage of public transportation and mass transit options. If you’re not going far, walk. It seems simple, but sometimes we’re all lazier than we’re willing to admit. Besides, when you walk, you’re able to fully take in the destination along your route in street-level slow-motion. If you need to go a bit further, hop on an electric scooter or bike, or depending where you are, a horse! Light rail systems and electric street cars are also fun and easy ways to navigate a place without needing a car. 

    Leave no trace travel preserves ecological and cultural standards

    Visit Respectfully

    The human aspect of Leave No Trace travel involves cultural consideration. Be sure to visit with respect and gratitude when you travel. Do a bit of research on cultural customs and traditions before you travel to a new place, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you arrive. Whether your destination is domestic or international, be patient when exploring and visiting local businesses. Particularly in the post-pandemic world, workforce issues have plagued many businesses especially those in hospitality. Every destination has struggles ranging from natural disasters to socio-political challenges, but responsible travelers should be sensitive and gracious guests.

    Use Your Voice & Spread the Word

    Last but not least, spread the word about Leave No Trace travel. Hold others and yourself accountable, and encourage those around you to practice sustainable travel habits. Whether that means sharing on social media or kindly educating people in person, be an advocate for Leave No Trace travel.

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    Photo credit: @imatthews_photography via Instagram

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