Vacations may be relaxing and stress-free for most travelers, but they tend to put stress on the environment, from additional refuse in the form of travel bottles and disposable items to the abundance of trash created from to-go foods and beverages consumed while on the road. However, just a few small changes can make a big environmental impact, preserving Virginia’s parks, roadways, and stunning outdoor treasures for future generations to come. Follow the Seven Leave No Trace Principles while vacationing in Virginia, then use these eco-friendly travel ideas to ensure an environmentally responsible getaway in Virginia.
Follow the Seven Leave No Trace Principles
- 1. Plan Ahead & 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
Understand the regulations and any special concerns for the areas you are visiting. Has there been issues with littering in the past? Are there trash cans around or do you need to have bags with you to carry trash home? Consider these types of questions before embarking on your trip. When preparing, think about the possibility of extreme weather, emergencies, or hazards that may arise. If the area is a popular outdoor destination, schedule your trip during the week to avoid times of high use, and visit the area with smaller groups of people when possible. Consolidate food and drinks to minimize waste; this will keep your pack lighter and also mean less trash when you leave the area. Bring a map and compass along on the trip, avoiding the use of marking paint or flags to identify your route.
Durable surfaces like campsites, established trails, rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow leave less of an impact on the wildlife. The best campsites are found, not made; use existing camping areas whenever possible. If the camping situation is more primitive, avoid camping where impacts are just beginning to show, opting instead to disperse use and prevent the creation of new campsites or trails through pristine areas. Protect local waterways by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. When traveling, stick to the trails, and if hiking in a group, walk single-file along the pathways, even in muddy or wet conditions.
Put simply, whatever you pack in, pack out. This even includes compostable items like banana or orange peels, as these things are not part of the natural diets of animals and may cause them harm. Inspect your campsites and rest areas for trash, leftover food, and litter before leaving. For human waste, dig holes at least six to eight inches deep that are at least 200 feet from water, campsites, and trails. Cover and disguise these holes when finished. Pack out any toilet paper and hygiene products to keep the natural areas clean and free of refuse. When washing dishes yourself, take water 200 feet away from streams, lakes, or rivers and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap.
Leave all rocks, plants, and natural objects just as you find them. Preserve the past in nature, examining but not touching objects of cultural or historic significance. Avoid introducing or transporting species that are not native to an area. Do not build new structures, furniture, or dig large trenches out of natural landscapes.
Campfires can cause lasting effects on the natural environment. Instead of lighting a fire to cook your meals, use a lightweight stove made for camping and use a candle lantern to illuminate your campsite. Where fires are explicitly permitted, use established fire rings or mound fires. Keep your campfire small, using only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Burn all wood and coals to ashes, put out the campfires completely, then scatter the ashes once they have cooled to prevent the possibility of a forest fire.
Do not follow or approach wildlife, but instead observe from a distance. Never feed or leave food behind for wildlife, as it damages there health, alters natural behaviors, and can expose them to predators and other dangers. Store rations and trash securely to protect wildlife and your food. If traveling with pets, control them at all times, using leashes or staked lines to prevent them from wandering. Be aware of sensitive times for wildlife, including mating, nesting, hibernation, and when they raise their young, as these time periods can cause unusual and dangerous behavior.
Respect other visitors and be aware of your impact on their experience. Be courteous on trails, yielding to other hikers. When encountering larger groups coming uphill, step to the side to allow them to pass. Take breaks during your hikes and camp away from the trails and other visitors when possible, and avoid using loud voices and noises when camping in nature.
Last Updated: 4/12/2019