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We are a multidisciplinary innovation studio working with diverse partners to understand sustainability challenges and identify holistic, resilient solutions, and we are committed to training the next generation of leaders.

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Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.

What does Leave No Trace Even Mean?

Lyndon Valicenti

Speaking of vacation… trying to spend as much time as possible outdoors this summer means reaching ninja status with the principles of “Leave No Trace.” But what does Leave No Trace even mean?

Following the second World War there was a cultural shift in the U.S. when it came to spending time in the wilderness; we moved away from the predominant survivalist/subsistence experience to one that sought to have less of an impact on the environment. By the 1960s and 70s, groups like Sierra Club and the Boy Scouts of America were promoting minimal impact camping and recreation techniques. And in 1987, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service produced a pamphlet titled “Leave No Trace Land Ethics”. From there grew a national education program of “Leave No Trace,” developed in 1990 by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). 

The seven foundational principles of the Leave No Trace ethos seem super common sense, but it is shocking how many fellow hikers missed the memo. While in-depth explanations of each principle can be found on the Leave No Trace website, here are the shorthands and some helpful facts to inspire your efforts:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare 
  2. Travel and 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 Other Visitors 

Biodegradation Time for Common Litter Items

  • Paper bag - 1 month
  • Apple core - 8 weeks
  • Orange peel and banana skins - 2 years
  • Cigarette end - 18 months to 500 years
  • Plastic bag - 10 to 20 years
  • Plastic bottle - 450 years
  • Chewing gum - 1 million years

Remember, the mindset is really about asking yourself: Would this be here or happening if I weren’t?