Pack In, Pack Out and Leave No Trace To Prevent Outdoor Litter

With spring approaching, many of us are looking forward to taking a long, relaxing hike, having a picnic, or exploring the wilderness by camping. There is simply no shortage of outdoor fun in the beautiful nature of Tennessee, from lakes and rivers to majestic forests.

However, if you do plan to enjoy the outdoors, it is important that you take responsibility and leave no trace of your outdoor activities so that litter doesn’t become part of our beautiful landscapes and end up on roadways and in waterways..

Here is how you can responsibly enjoy the outdoors and keep the environment protected afterward:

What Does It Mean to Pack In And Pack Out?

Packing in and packing out is an essential environmental practice that will help preserve the natural environment for wildlife and future generations. This practice refers to taking all the items you brought on your outdoor excursion and leaving no unnecessary items or waste behind.

For instance:

  • If you go on a camping trip, you should take out your trash and dispose of all campfire ash.
  • If you have a picnic, you use the waste and recycling bins to dispose of your litter. This includes food scraps, wrappers, plastic utensils and other items you may have used. Unsure of what can and can’t be recycled? Click here to learn more.
  • If you are hiking, carry a bag to dispose of snacks, empty water bottles and other materials that may harm humans and plants. Ensure that you dispose of that bag in a proper receptacle and not somewhere on the trail.
  • Leave what you find behind! If you come across a bird’s nest, flowers, feathers or other organic materials – do not take them with you. Doing so can disturb the ecosystem.
  • Be sure to keep to trails and respect local wildlife. Remember, this is their home and the rules are there to keep you safe.

When you leave the environment, it should look like you weren’t even there! In other words, leave no trace!

Outdoor Trash Negatively Impacts the Environment and Wildlife

Outdoor trash can have a significant negative impact on the environment and wildlife that call Tennessee home. According to the environmental organization, Leave No Trace, outdoor trash can greatly impact local wildlife, from negatively changing their diet to even endangering wildlife due to choking and poisoning hazards from food, garbage and other litter. Here are some tips to make sure you’re not part of the problem:

  • Reduce your litter in the first place by taking your food and snacks out of the bulky plastic and cardboard packaging at home and repackaging them into reusable bags that can also be used as trash bags on the trail.
  • Even if you think it’s “biodegradable,” take it back out with you. Animals are attracted to food waste and will eat it before it biodegrades. They can then choke, become poisoned or even die because they ingest inappropriate food. They are also attracted to unsafe areas, often with vehicular traffic and they are hit and killed.
  • Never bury food waste, trash, wrappers, or napkins either. Animals will smell the food or food residue and dig it up long before it has had a chance to decompose.
  • Never burn food waste or trash in a fire – anything processed or man-made rarely burns completely. Remaining litter can attract animals to the campsite.
  • If you are able when you see debris while hiking, camping or even picnicking pick it up and take it out with you. Some hikers even head out on the trails with the sole purpose of gathering trash to beautify nature.

Before you leave your litter behind, think again. Keeping public parks, trails and camping sites clean is beneficial for animals, the environment and other visitors. Do your part to make sure our roadways, waterways and public spaces remain a beautiful part of Tennessee!


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