Caring for The Environment as a Family

You may have heard the phrase, “Take only photos; leave nothing but footprints.” This phrase is born out of a movement to get everyone who participates in outdoor activities to do their part in taking care of natural spaces. It must be a group effort because individuals and organizations cannot do all the work to care for places like trails and parks. 

There is an international organization called Leave No Trace that formulated principles for helping us to be good stewards of the environment as individuals. 


1. Plan Ahead and 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

© Leave No Trace:

Why Practice the Principles?

As you can see, most of these principles are common sense that we would expect from everyone on the trails or at the local park. What began as a concept to apply to backcountry hiking has been broadened out to apply to all our outdoor activities.

These principles are a great jumping-off point to teach our children about caring for the natural spaces around them. When we start teaching them from a young age to respect nature, we build up a community of people who love and preserve our natural resources.

Picking up trash at our local park

A Simple Hike Without A Trace

The last few posts have been a beginner’s guide to family hiking. We talked about some of the benefits and some practical tips to get started. Let’s think about how we could practice some of the above principles while we are on a simple family hike. 

You are already practicing preparation like we’ve talked about on the blog before. You have a small pack with the supplies you will need for a short hike with your family. Another advantage to your backpack is the ability to take any trash you create with you. What used to be five granola bars are now five empty wrappers that you have to put somewhere. I like to take an extra zip-top bag or plastic grocery sack for garbage. It easily squishes down in my pack so I can throw it away later. 

Carrying your trash is probably one of the things kids balk at the most. We’ve experienced this when we’re not on a hike, right? I can’t be the only one who has stood in the kitchen, and a kid hands me some baggie or wrapper and says, “Here, Mom. Can you throw this away for me?” When you’re hiking there is likely only trash cans at the trailheads. It’s a great teachable moment when a five-year-old doesn’t know what to do with his empty wrapper. 

Picking flowers and leaves is another sticking point for us. I’ve had to remind my children several times that the flowers along the trail are not for gathering bouquets. I tell my children that we can enjoy the beauty of the flowers in their natural environment. And if we pick them, they won’t be there for the next hiker to admire. If we really want to capture a memory, we take a photo.

Ox Eye Daisy on the trail

Final Thoughts

I could go on more about these principles and the learning opportunities they present. But I hope you see what a great starting point they are. We can think through many practical ways to apply them to our trail family lifestyle. To learn more about the Seven Principles and see tons of free resources, visit the Leave No Trace website at I know I’ll be checking out some of their video resources.

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