Local parks, nature preserves, and hiking trails offer the chance to get some healthy exercise and spend some time with nature. Studies show that spending time outdoors can be therapeutic and can even help alleviate the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. But when you go out hiking it’s very important that you are careful to preserve the fragile ecosystem and not damage it so that everyone can continue to enjoy the natural landscape for years to come. Here are a few easy ways that you can preserve nature when you’re hiking:
Don’t Leave Trash Behind
It’s normal to take some food and water with you when you go out for a hike. You can build up quite an appetite when you’re out hiking all day. However, leaving trash like food wrappers or plastic bottles behind will have a negative effect on the environment. Food wrappers that contain little bits of leftover food can attract the animals in the area who could get sick from eating food that isn’t meant for them. Water bottles can ruin the environment and because a hazard for the animals. Make sure that when you leave you take all of the trash that you brought with you. Use a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic bottle and hang onto food wrappers and containers until you reach a proper garbage bin or recycling bin.
Keep the Water Clean
Sometimes when you’re hiking you get sweaty and want to clean up a bit, especially if you’re on a multi-day hike. If you plan on washing up your dishes or yourself make sure that you find water that is at least 400 yards away from any water source that animals use to drink. That means making sure that you are not anywhere near the lake, stream, or river that the local animals use as their drinking water when you go to wash up. If you don’t make sure that you are at least 400 yards away from the animals’ drinking water you could contaminate their water with soap or cleaning products and that could make them sick. The best thing to do is to use a baby wipe and take the wipes with you when you leave. But if you must use water to wash up stay far away from the potable drinking water in the area.
Keep on the Marked Trails
Sometimes you might want to take a shortcut to get a particular landmark like a lake or a river but you should always stay on the trails that are marked. When you go off trail you could end up damaging trees and plants or destroying the habitats of the animals that live in the area. For some of the more fragile vegetation it only takes a handful of passes for it to become permanently damaged. In addition by going off the trail you are contributing to soil erosion. Plants hold the land together and b You’re a guest in their home and the best way to make sure you don’t disturb them or destroy their home is to stay on the trails that have been marked for hikers.
Be Mindful of Invasive Species
The most common way that invasive species are able to travel to a new environment is when humans un-intentionally move them. To help prevent this move, make sure your gear is cleaned after every hike. All it takes is a few seeds on the bottom of a boot or in the poles of a tent to introduce a non-native species to the new environment. Firewood is another way that invasive insects can move. If you plan on setting up a campsite, make sure that your firewood is local to eliminate the potential for invasive insects. Invasive species are less common than something like litter, but can have the most devastating impact on the environment.