Enjoying the outdoors is something that’s available to virtually everyone, and can be had virtually for free, but that doesn’t mean the outdoors come without a price. Being a conscientious steward of the outdoors means protecting it and being an advocate for its protection even when it’s not your job to do so.
Beyond donating to causes that restore or preserve natural lands, you can be a steward of the outdoors every time you’re in it by following a few simple mantras. These mantras are easy to understand, and even easier to share, so be sure to spread the word to other outdoor lovers!
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints
This mantra has been around for years, but it bears repeating, and actually enforcing. Nature is full of all kinds of oddities that may seem like great souvenirs, but are better suited in the environment in which you found them.
If everyone took a piece of the landscape every time they visited these areas, it wouldn’t be long before nothing was left. Bring a camera to capture wildlife, and spend as much time as you need to get the perfect shot. Take the time to really take in your scenery, which will emblazon your memories far more than a dead flower down the road.
Pack it in, pack it out
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to eke out the principles behind “pack it in, pack it out.” In case you still need help, that means you actually take home everything you brought in. Yes, even garbage — especially garbage! If there are no trash bins where you are, it needs to go back with you.
A very conscientious steward of the outdoors would even bring a trash bag to collect litter that might already be present from previous less-than-conscientious visitors. Whenever trash is present in an ecosystem, hazards in the form of chemical leaching and disease are just two ways the environment can be degraded. Remove trash from natural environments whenever possible!
Be a silent observer
Don’t assume that just because you are excited to see a wild animal it’s excited to see you. Animal instincts about humans often manifest in self-defense or flight. These reactions can result in severe stress and injury to the animals, and have a high likelihood of injuring you in the process.
Never attempt to touch animals out in the wild, if they even let you get that close, and never chase an animal if it attempts to flee. Many wild animals are sensitive to human scents, which can result in abandonment of young or community, aggression, and even being killed by other members of their own family or group.
Enjoy your moment in proximity with wild nature for what it is: a once-in-a-lifetime close look at nature in its own element. Make sure that camera is ready to snap photos, but exercise caution with flash.