“These aren’t rules. These aren’t regulations. It’s not black or white. It’s a program designed to make people think about what they do in the outdoors.”-Ben Lawhon, Education Director for Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
H2O Radio producers, Frani Halperin and Jamie Sudler, spent some time with Ben Lawhon to learn about how to be better at reducing the impact of human waste on the environment.
Most people are aware that when they camp or hike, they should always try to pack out whatever they pack in so they do not leave garbage in the wilderness. What people are not as aware of is that they could be leaving many harmful things behind without even knowing it.
“The key there is that we recommend that you do any sort of toilet activity a minimum 200 feet from any water source, campsites, or trails.”
Yes, there is a long list of chemicals that end up in the soil and water from human waste. Leave No Trace understands that packing out human waste is not practical or desirable, so they have a number of ways to mitigate how much impact a person has when they relieve themselves. That’s not the only types of human waste people leave behind.
“You’re carrying around some chemicals.”-Bill Battaglin, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
While human waste is generally thought of as feces and urine, Bill Battaglin warns of other types of human waste; toothpastes, soap, medications, clothing chemicals, and more. When the USGS is collecting samples of soil, they can see whether people who were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park were ill, or tobacco users, or took care of their teeth several miles from parking lots and camping sites.
“Probably the biggest single misconception may be that one person really can’t harm a place.”-Ben Lawhon.
Leave No Trace is trying to educate the general populace about these issues in order to preserve the areas for future generations as well as to protect our water sources. They understand there is no way to have no impact, but with a little planning and some simple tactics, people can help reduce the trace they do leave behind.
This story is from Frani Halperin and Jamie Sudler of H2O Radio where you can find many more stories about water and the environment.