Framing Leave No Trace – The Why

In this post I’m going to outline how I frame Leave no Trace to students I work with. Why? Because all to often I hear outdoor staff detailing the 7 Leave No Trace Principals without connecting participants to “why its important”. I have a bit of a spiel I do and I feel like I get a good response from my students both in terms of applying the principals and connecting with the reasons behind it. By sharing the framing I’m aiming to help other instructors find their way of framing the “why” and contribute to improving the delivery of Leave No Trace.

I’m going to write this as if I was speaking to a group (is the correct term in the first person?) as this will make more sense for me typing. The content will be relevant to a Duke Of Edinburgh type client group as this is who I’ve been delivering to most recently. Please let me know any thoughts in the comments section.

If you haven’t already got one grab a brew, make yourself comfortable and I’ll begin:


“OK gang, by this point you’ll have met a few outdoor instructors and one of the things you may have noticed is we can be quite feisty around certain things like litter or not damaging the places we visit. I want to have a chat with you about why and the principals we use to guide us.

As outdoor staff we are privileged to have some of the worlds most beautiful and precious places as our classrooms. We spend a lot of time in these places both for work and for play, as a result of this I’m confident that all of those instructors have the same strong sense of connection and appreciation of these places that I do.

Personally I’ve been lucky enough to live and work in some truly amazing and wild places around the world. Through this I feel I have developed a real understanding of not just their incredible value but also how much pressure they are under from us who visit them and people who would like to unwild them.

The result of this understanding is a very strong feeling of guardianship of the worlds wild spaces. Its been interesting being in New Zealand because I’ve learnt about the Maori word Kaitiakitanga and its something I’ve really connected with

Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the Māori world view.

A kaitiaki is a guardian. This can be a person or group that cares for an area such as a lake or forest. They are given that role by the local iwi.

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

The idea of guardianship is that its different to ownership. Instead of having or owning something its more about looking after or guarding that thing so that its in the same or better condition to hand on to the next generation of guardians.

Now lets be honest, my generation has done a terrible job of looking after this planet for the next generations – You. I’m truly sorry about that. Us outdoor staff can see the direct implications of this on the wild spaces we work in so we can be quite passionate about applying Leave No Trace principals and are often activists on important environmental issues.

But for me there is something even more important going on when I’m working on programmes in these amazing wild spaces. What I’m hoping is that by sharing these places, along with my passion and knowledge, is that you will start to feel some of that same sense of connection. I’m hoping that through your developing sense of connection and understanding the same sense of guardianship will develop in you too because we need that, we REALLY need that. The pressures on both these places and the planet are real and they are huge. We need you feeling that sense of connection and guardianship as we are going to be handing on that responsibility to you as the next generation.

Once you understand and feel this connection and responsibility the principals of Leave No Trace are ridiculously simple and obvious…….. BLAH BLAH the 7 Leave No Trace Principals BLAH


Back into this blog post.

This framing as written above is quite strong and certainly not suitable for all groups but it certainly connects with DofE type participants as they are a way along the outdoor track so have good buy in already. Because this framing is strong it often takes a bit of time for it to settle in participants so I’ll often be quite soft on any immediate discussion with the aim of checking in with peoples thoughts a bit further down the track in the programme.

I hope you’ve found reading this article worthwhile and interesting in some way. For those who havent found the framing for the “why” of Leave No Trace I hope it helps you finding yours. For those who have a framing they like that might be different or any thoughts on mine then please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading this, have a look around at other blog posts here for a eclectic mix of my ramblings. For starters have a look at my other related posts under Learning Models

Enjoy – Ian

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