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LeaveSomeTrace
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PostThu Aug 13, 2015 3:46 pm 
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I would love to get some of your opinions on Leave No Trace.
As a long time reader of NWHikers the stewardship forums have always interested me. As an undergrad in Env. Studies I recently took a 9 day backpacking trip in the Olympics as a class for credit. My topic of focus for a research paper is the irony of Leave No Trace and the need for it to transition into a more global philosophy. This could include an emphasis on buying less, buying used, sustainable materials, and awareness of the global footprint that products have so it is not just the wilderness you are visiting that should be protected- but making sure you leave as little of a trace in every stage from materials>production>transportation>consumption>disposal.

Backpacking has experienced a big shift that includes a huge emphasis on gear and weight (It's lightweight! It charges your phone! Eat out of a bag!). I know that many people still educate themselves about Leave No Trace principles and care deeply about keeping the places they visit healthy, there are also backpackers who focus solely on getting there as quickly and lightly as they can. Does the LNT ethic contribute to the greenwashing of outdoor recreation?
Stoves are an improvement on nightly campfires to cook food but is it problematic to think that we are 'leaving no trace' when our gear, fuel, and food had to come from somewhere? We all enjoy trucking less weight up to enjoy the views, but would heavier more sustainable materials leave less of a trace on the world globally? The explorers of the past wore wool that lasted decades and I am inundated with REI Gearmail telling me about all of the different coats I should buy. I've contacted a couple of companies that I like whose products are made in China about their materials sourcing, but most companies focus on making sure labor laws are followed where their gear is made. This has been an interesting topic for me, but I want to hear what you all have to think!

This is a great community and I hope to learn from your wisdom, experience and views!
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Ski
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PostThu Aug 13, 2015 7:28 pm 
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LeaveSomeTrace wrote:
As a long time reader of NWHikers the stewardship forums have always interested me.

Well.... first of all, I believe it's reasonable to assume from that statement that you must be a glutton for punishment.

Second, welcome to the site.

So... let me see if I'm getting the gist of your inquiry:
Is the "ultra-light" thing and all the "leave no trace" ethic really saving the planet if, when we get back home, we're stuffing our garbage cans full of polystyrene, text messaging on our made-in-China smart phones, and tossing all those non-biodegradables into the solid waste stream?

What would Buddha do?

I can't speak for others.
As for me: durability/longevity/extended service life trumps saving a few ounces of pack weight.
I'm hauling an MSR Dragonfly and white gas because I don't want to toss made-in-China (or South Korea, in the case of the MSR "isopro" fuel) canisters into the solid waste stream even though they are 100% recyclable. (BigSteve and I went back and forth on that one in a "stove" thread in "Gear Talk" some time back.)
For the record, however, I did pick up a little second-hand "Pocket Rocket"  a year or so back for quick/fast/lightweight overnighters, but thus far it's seen little use.

Some stuff is just not made to hold up very long. I try to avoid that stuff.
Newer ain't always better in my mind.
Part of that is trying to reduce that proverbial "footprint", part of it's just plain old pigheadedness, and part of it's just being a cheap ass. All things in balance, right?
So my pack is 46 years old, my boots are 39 years old. Pants are fairly new, but they'll last for years if taken care of.
I don't pay much attention to labor conditions at the source - I'm more concerned about durability/fit/service life.
I don't do the "freeze-dried in a bag" thing - I fix up my own stuff here at home.

I try to do what I can to reduce my overall "footprint", and I'm conscious about the amount of crap I'm hauling out to the curb every week for the City to pick up.
I buy no "pre-prepared" food, unless it's served to me at a table.
I re-use a lot of the "zip-lock" bags I pack my dried foods in.
But I try not to obsess over it. I already obsess about enough stuff without worrying about silly crap like "paper or plastic" or whether or not I'm contributing to global warming with all the hot air I blow out my ass.

Does that answer your question?  biggrin.gif

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contour5
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PostThu Aug 13, 2015 8:42 pm 
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Quote:
is it problematic to think that we are 'leaving no trace' when our gear, fuel, and food had to come from somewhere?

Depends on the exact calibration of your give-a-shitter.
Many will content themselves secure in the knowledge that they have done no great harm to the place they visited. Some will fret over the labor conditions experienced by the workers who manufactured their gear in the new industrial zones of the world. Others might lose sleep calculating the precise chemical footprint of their high tech super mondo ultra light cottage gear trophy pieces.

I prefer the alternate maxim: "Take only photographs; Leave only footprints."

Because footprints are almost a sure thing, no matter how careful and conscientious you might be. And I'm careful with the footprints, too. But no matter how hard I try, I still leave a few traces.
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joker
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PostSat Aug 15, 2015 12:12 pm 
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LeaveSomeTrace wrote:
awareness of the global footprint that products have so it is not just the wilderness you are visiting that should be protected- but making sure you leave as little of a trace in every stage from materials>production>transportation>consumption>disposal

I think that what's often lost in related discussions is the degree to which our various consumption choices leave a "global footprint." The car I drive, the distance I live from my workplace, whether I bike or drive to work, the home appliances I use, the overall energy efficiency of my house, where I set my home thermostat, whether I drive far to hike and/or fill the car with passengers versus driving solo, the food I eat at home, and whether I fly for work or pleasure all have a much bigger impact than pretty much any other consumption choices I make. I'm not suggesting other choices don't matter, but they certainly don't matter nearly as much. Tend to the big things in your own life first, and don't overwhelm others with more minor choices such as what sort of cleaning product you have under your sink or whether you use a Silnylon or canvas tarp when you camp (but by all means go for it in your own life it feels right).

"Leave no trace" of course has a somewhat more precise meaning in common usage - it has to do with the extent to which we leave a mark of our passing in the very local backcountry environments in which we hike and camp. In an increasingly crowded region, it is just a no-brainer to follow the typical guidelines (which of course don't prevent ALL traces, such as footprints and the need for trails etc.). I don't think that expanding the definition as implied in the OP is a wise thing - we can think about both of these arenas of impact w/o confounding them in a way that may dilute our thinking and actions on both.
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Brucester
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PostThu Jul 09, 2020 10:26 pm 
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Leave No Trace, not even a "coin!"

142
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moonspots
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PostFri Jul 10, 2020 6:20 am 
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Brucester wrote:
Leave No Trace, not even a "coin!"

142
142

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RichP
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here and there
PostWed Jul 15, 2020 11:18 am 
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At a minimum I would hope that people pack out what they pack in. Just keeping our public lands free of garbage is a good start. It also shows respect for others which seems to be more and more difficult to find these days. And bury your poop!
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