Protecting Our Geography

We have only one planet to geocache on so It’s Not About The Numbers asked Ben Lawhon, of the international, non-profit movement Leave No Trace, how to minimise our environmental impact.

“Geocaching presents an interesting set of issues with respect to Leave No Trace. First, there is the fact that many, many people are getting out and enjoying the out-of-doors. 

“Second, many of them are the new generation of tech-savvy youngsters who otherwise might choose the Wii over a hike outside. Third, there is the cumulative impact of all these cache hunters on the landscape. 

“Over the past several years, geocaching has grown by leaps and bounds. Since it began in 2000, there are now more than 1.69 million active caches worldwide. To put the growth in perspective, there were only 540,700 active caches as of March 2008. In that four years, the total number of caches worldwide has tripled.

“With such a large number of caches, there is the potential for significant impact to the land. Trampling impacts, wildlife impacts, human waste impacts, trash, litter, off-trail travel etc are all part of the equation.

“However, if those participating in geocaching can actively strive to minimise their impact, either those seeking or placing caches, then every geocacher can enjoy the outdoors in a responsible way. 

“Things to consider:

  • Properly planning for your geocaching outing by having the items or equipment you’ll need to safely enjoy your adventure. Also, if placing a cache, making sure it’s legal in your area by checking with local land managers or park authorities. 
  • Being conscience of where caches are placed (durable surfaces) and thinking about how travelling to and from a cache can cause trampling, erosion etc. 
  • Having the necessary knowledge/equipment to deal with trash, litter and human waste. 
  • Considering the impacts of geocaching to both plants and animals. 
  • Being mindful of other visitors who may also be enjoying the same areas as you. 

“As always, get out, enjoy the outdoors responsibly and Leave No Trace …”

*Ben Lawhon is the education director for the US-based Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, which teaches people of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. As the most widely accepted outdoor ethics programme for lands used recreationally by the public, it trains outdoor advocates and enthusiasts to adopt sustainable recreation practices. The New Zealand branch of Leave No Trace can be contacted here.
*If you need a constant reminder of Leave No Trace’s ideals, invest in one of its handy-dandy 3 x 5-inch Geocaching Reference Cards for US25 cents each.

1 comment

  1. firennice

    It is more important as a hider to think about Leave no Trace. I am a leave no trace guide, and have thought about it a bit in my cache hunts.
    As a hider there are some things you can do to minimize impacts.
    Avoid a micro in the woods, especially in a sensitive high traffic area. People will tear an area apart looking for a cache. If it is in a city park, and you place an evil hide, be ready for people to tear apart walls, fences, sprinklers, etc.
    Clear hints can help people to ID where it is. In the woods and backcountry where it is more important to follow LNT, letting people know it is head high in a tree can help people from tearing an area apart.
    If an area looks fragile avoid it.
    Have it be near a road or trail if possible. Avoid creating new trails to the caches.

    There is my 2 cents.

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