Leave No Trace
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What is “Leave No Trace”?

The concept of “Leave No Trace” originated in the United States. During the 1960s and 1970s, hiking and camping in the wild became popular among American people. The increasing number of visitors also resulted in damage to the countryside. The government and environmental groups started to carry out public education, and gradually developed the concept of “Leave No Trace”.

It is noteworthy that “Leave No Trace” is not a definite set of rules that hikers have to follow. It offers suggestions for hikers to build up habits and attitudes that show respect for nature.

The Seven Principles of “Leave No Trace”

Lacking proper planning and preparation often leads to adverse impact on the environment. If you plan ahead, you can greatly minimise damage to the countryside and ensure your safety.

Practical Examples

  • Know the environment where you will be visiting. For example, locate water sources and bring proper filters in advance of camping, to reduce the need for drinking bottled water. Avoid ecologically sensitive sites when planning your itinerary.
  • Check out weather forecasts, and wear proper clothing. If it is likely to rain, bring a convenient raincoat or water-proof jacket, to avoid buying one if it does rain.
  • If you have scheduled wild animal watching in the itinerary, do not put on bright-coloured clothing, which will alarm the wild animals.
  • Pay attention to toilet locations when you plan the itinerary. Utilise them as far as possible, instead of leaving your waste in the wild.
  • Design your menu before camping. Reduce food waste in the wild by choosing food that can be entirely eaten (e.g. fruits with edible peel). Avoid oily food, and the need for washing utensils and treating wastewater in the wild.
  • Prepare your food before hiking or wild picnics. Remove the food packaging and peel the fruit beforehand, and put the food in containers. Minimise the need for packaged food by making your own sandwiches.

Natural surfaces (such as vegetation and soil) are easily damaged by repeated stepping or camping. Once damaged, the surface may gradually and irreversibly turn into badland, due to soil erosion and loss of vegetation. This is the reason that trails on Sharp Peak get wider and wider and Tap Mun grassland is becoming hard soil.

Practical Examples

  • Follow designated use of specific sites. For example, camp only at specified camping grounds. Avoid camping on grassland, or at least avoid erecting a tent at the same location over a period of time, to protect the grassland.
  • Protect water sources and rivers by camping at an appropriate distance from water bodies.
  • Follow established trails and avoid stepping on vegetation or soil outside the trails, to minimise damage to hillsides.
  • Avoid walking along short-cuts or exploring new trails, to protect woodland and other vegetation.

Bring your own rubbish back. There are no more rubbish bins along the trails in Hong Kong country parks. Although there are still rubbish bins at picnic and camping sites, it is best for visitors to take all their rubbish back to the city.

Did you know?
  • Wild animals love to forage for leftover food in rubbish bins. Take your rubbish away, to avoid the rubbish becoming food for wild cows, boars and monkeys!
  • Once wild animals get used to picking food from the rubbish bins, not only is their health affected but their feeding habits are also altered!
  • Rubbish in bins can be blown by strong wind and scattered across hillsides!
  • Carrying heavy rubbish down steep trails is no easy task for the janitors. It is relatively easy for everybody to take away their own rubbish!

Practical Examples

  • Estimate the amount and types of rubbish that will be produced and bring appropriate bags to collect it. For example, you can prepare an extra bag to pack recyclables.
  • Use a well-sealed bag for food waste, to avoid attracting wild animals by the smell. A well-sealed bag also prevents small items of rubbish (such as tissues) from falling out easily.
  • Pay attention to small, light items of rubbish (such as tissues and food packaging bags) that are easily dropped or blown away by wind.
  • If you need to deposit human waste in the wild, choose a place away from people and water sources. Used tissues should be put in a sealed bag and carried away.
  • While preparing meals for camping, minimise and properly handle food waste, soup leftovers and wastewater. Filter the residues before pouring wastewater and soup leftovers into the toilet. Food residues should be carried away in sealed bags. Use natural cleaning agents (such as hot water and tea seed powder) instead of chemical ones, to avoid polluting the natural environment.
  • Do not wash your utensils in streams or pour wastewater and soup into them.
  • Check before you leave the camp site that all rubbish is cleared away.
Fun Quiz: Is fruit peel and tissue biodegradable?

No, no and no! Many people think that organic litter can be easily naturally decomposed and so it is ok to throw away at any place. The fact is, it takes a very long time for even a small piece of fruit peel to decompose, and there may be pesticide residues that harm nature. Tissue, on the other hand, is generally processed and bleached, and so is not biodegradable.

"Take nothing but photographs, keep nothing but memories." Do not take away anything from nature, not even a dried twig or a single shell. Leave rocks and other natural objects as you find them. Do not stack up rocks. Let others appreciate nature in its original form, and avoid interfering with the microhabitats by moving natural objects.

Practical Examples

  • Do not take away anything from nature.
  • Do not carve on tree trunks or rocks.
  • Use a map and compass for direction finding, instead of trail markers. If you have to use them, avoid harming the trees and natural environment and remove the markers as soon as possible after use.
  • When camping, if you have to tie a rope on the tree, use a soft pad and choose a strong branch to protect the tree.
  • If you have to move rocks (on the ground, in a stream or along the coast), put them back in the original place as far as possible.
  • Appreciate cultural and historic relics with your eyes only, and do not touch them.

Making a fire in the wild may cause a hill fire. The heat produced will also harm the natural environment, for example, blackening stones or vegetation, which affects plant growth and the landscape.

Practical Examples

  • Do not smoke. Otherwise, use a portable ash tray to collect all the ash and embers.
  • Use small outdoor cooking stove for cooking, and prepare your food at a specific site.
  • Make a fire at an established site, such as a barbeque place.
  • If you have to make a fire in the primitive way, take into the following considerations:
      1.Do not make a fire on grassland, or surfaces with dry leaves and other organic matter.
      2.Collect fallen dry twigs to help burning, as they are more easily collected, handled and burnt to just ashes.
      3.Do not use large pieces of wood to feed the fire, as it is hard to burn them completely and decaying wood is home to numerous insects and fungi.
  • Pay attention to the fire at all times.
  • Do not burn tissues or rubbish.
  • Put out the fire completely with water afterwards, to ensure there is no chance it can spread.
  • If possible, grind the burnt charcoal and embers into powder, and scatter them on the ground evenly so they can decompose more easily.

The countryside is home for wildlife. Do not disturb wild animals or expose them to indirect harm such as lighting, rubbish, and chemicals.

Practical Examples

  • Do not release or introduce live plants and animals to the wild.。
  • Do not disturb or touch wild animals.
  • Do not harm, approach or capture wild animals.
  • Observe wildlife and take photos from a distance. Keep quiet, and at night do not use strong lights, to avoid stressing animals.
  • Do not use flashlight or food bait to take wildlife photographs.
  • Never feed wild animals. Feeding wildlife alters their foraging behaviour and impacts their health with chemical additives and oily content of human food.
  • Keep food and rubbish properly, to prevent attracting wild animals.
  • Animals are particularly sensitive during breeding seasons. Visitors should be extra careful and not disturb the animals at these times. Do not take nest photographs in a crowd, and do not touch young animals.
  • Bright colours irritate animals. Put on clothing and use gear with natural colours.
  • Chemical contents of personal care products (such as sunscreen and insect repellents) are harmful to animals and the environment. Use natural products (such as physical sunscreen and natural insect repellents) during outdoor activities.

Be courteous, so that all can enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of nature.

Practical Examples

  • Yield to other users on the trail if necessary, such as hikers with a faster pace.
  • Be friendly to other hikers and offer help to persons in need.
  • Take breaks in places away from the main trail.
  • Avoid loud voices and noises. Lower the volume of your radio or recorder, if any.
  • If you are using a torch or headlight at night, direct the light towards the ground and keep it below eye level.
  • When camping, use appropriate lighting and put on a lamp shade if needed, to minimise light disturbance to other people.
  • Respect villagers and keep your voice low when passing village residences. Do not intrude into private places or damage private articles (including crops).

Source: Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, USA: www.LNT.org

Before the Event

  • Use online system for application, donation and submission of sponsorship form to reduce paper use.
  • View event updates on Green Power Hike website. Avoid printing.
  • Consider whether it is necessary to order souvenirs
  • Read “Ecology of Hong Kong Trail” to appreciate the natural environment and the ecology along the journey

During Event

  • Take part in the Traceless Hiker activity to “Leave-No-Trace” during hiking
  • Keep the countryside clean. Take away own trash.
  • Bring own reusable bottles and food container.
  • Use public transport to get to the starting point, and when leaving.
  • Replace tissue papers with own towels