With summer in full swing, and the weather (up until recently!) been incredible, we’re sure you’ve noticed the surge of people spending time in the great outdoors. People that have never before climbed a mountain, wild camped or swam in the ocean are becoming regular outdoor recreationists. Our message has never been more relevant. That’s why Leave No Trace Ireland and our partners are calling on the public to exercise renewed care and responsibility when outdoors in managing dogs, preventing litter, and ensuring that there are no fires unless on a designated site. Play their part by acting responsibly so that everyone can experience and enjoy outdoor spaces while helping to protect them.
The Love This Place, Leave No Trace campaign emphasises several key messages:
- Plan ahead and always pack a bin bag with you when heading outdoors. By taking your rubbish home with you, you are playing your part in keeping our outdoor spaces litter free and beautiful.
Responsible Dog Ownership and Control:
- Always pick up after your dog, bag it and safely bin it, or bring it home with you.
- Keeping your dog on a lead shows consideration for others and avoids disturbing livestock and wildlife.
Campfires, and Disposable BBQs:
- No fires unless on a designated site. You should not light a campfire unless you have permission from the landowner.
- If you are at a designated site, where campfires are permitted, make sure you have the skills for setting and using campfires.
- Do not use disposable BBQs.
We have rediscovered the joys of getting outdoors and have come to appreciate the wealth and beauty of our open spaces and the simple pleasures of meeting friends and family outdoors for a coffee and a chat. But these wonderful experiences can be spoiled when we are confronted by litter and rubbish that is casually discarded and dumped in our parks and open spaces.
As a country, we have made some progress in managing our waste and discouraging litter and illegal dumping. In adopting a plastic bag tax, we led the way and showed we were ready to make lifestyle changes that would have positive impacts on the environment and tackle one aspect of the litter scourge.
But there is a lot more to do if we are to change attitudes to casual littering and encourage greater responsibility for managing our rubbish, especially where we may not have the convenience of public loos and rubbish bins.
Discarded rubbish can damage our environment and the fragile ecosystems it supports.
Unthinking acts of discarding litter can have long lasting effects that we may not consider. An aluminium can takes 400 to 500 years to break down and a plastic bag can take up to 20 years. A discarded plastic bottle, meanwhile, will last and continue to pollute for many hundreds of years.
Adopting a simple Leave No Trace ethos and taking responsibility for our litter – and taking it home with us – we can avoid these damaging consequences and make a positive difference for the environment and our community.
So, when planning to head outdoors, whether for a walk or a picnic, plan ahead and be considerate of others, and dispose of litter and waste properly. Don’t depend on public bins, they may be full or simply not available.
For larger gatherings like picnics or beach days, bring a bin bag with you to gather up your rubbish and bring it all home. That way we leave our outdoor spaces, parks, beaches and countryside litter free for those who follow us to enjoy.
In what we do individually, and the example we show, we can make a positive difference that results in benefits for everyone and gives us a cleaner and litter free open spaces. So, let’s do it.
Responsible Dog Ownership and Control
The pandemic has highlighted the positive impacts dogs can have on our mental and physical wellbeing. With many of us spending more time at home and in the outdoors over the last fifteen months we have been able to rediscover the joys of owning a pet.
We are a nation of dog lovers, and this is reflected in the growing dog population in Ireland which is now estimated at 800,000. We all know that owning a dog comes with responsibilities which are now more important than ever.
Heading outdoors with your dog is enjoyable, healthy and an essential part of owning a dog but we also need to think about non-owners and the outdoor spaces we all share.
It is a fact that some people can be nervous around dogs, so dog owners need to be considerate of others when enjoying the outdoors with their pet.
Following a few simple practices such as keeping our pets on a lead and cleaning up after them not only makes a big difference to the environment but also helps to foster a general positive response to our dogs.
All land in Ireland is owned by someone whether by the state or private landowners. Some farmers have become increasingly cautious about dogs being on their land particularly if there are livestock on the land or at certain times of the year for example at breeding times.
Unsupervised dogs can be a nuisance and can kill and stress livestock. Every year sheep are killed by free roaming dogs in Ireland, but this is preventable by ensuring we keep dogs on a lead and away from working farms.
Dog poo is not just unsightly it also an environmental and health hazard, particularly for children. It is an offence under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 to allow a dog to foul a public place and dog owners can face hefty fines if convicted.
Most dog owners have no problem picking up after their pets, however, waste must be disposed of properly in a dedicated dog waste bin or brought home and disposed of safely there.
There are a number of pieces of legislation that control the ownership and management of dogs, but laws and regulations will never replace being considerate and just doing the right thing. We see dog owners taking great care in owning and managing their dogs responsibly every day.
Leave No Trace Ireland encourages dog owners to make the right decisions that protect our outdoor spaces, the countryside and wildlife and leave them in an unspoilt condition for everyone to discover and enjoy.
We can all enjoy our dogs while at the same time protecting our environment and showing consideration for others. It’s the Leave No Trace way.
Campfires, and Disposable BBQs
Anyone who loves the outdoors will no doubt have enjoyed the experience of sitting around a campfire.
But lighting any fire outdoors calls for great responsibility and careful planning. Even relatively small fires can result in widespread damage to vegetation, wildlife, and habitats. All of us have a personal responsibility to take care when it comes to lighting and managing any open-air fires.
A moment of negligence can result in severe consequences for the environment and wildlife. For example, in one case in Wexford a single disposable BBQ is believed to have caused a wildfire that destroyed 13 acres of sand dune in Curracloe, Co. Wexford. There have been many more instances of extensive damage to gorse, sand dunes and forest areas throughout the country.
Wildfires are not only hugely destructive but can be costly too. It was estimated that the damage and clean-up of forest fires cost €1.3M in 2020 and the cost of putting out a forest fire in Co. Leitrim and replanting the crop will be at least €500,000.
Remember to always check with the landowner first whether fires and BBQs are permitted and only light fires in safe, designated areas.
If a fire is permitted at a designated site make sure you have the skills for setting, using and putting it out safely. Don’t use disposable BBQs as they scorch natural surfaces and are difficult to extinguish and recycle. A good alternative to open fires and BBQS are camping stoves.
At Leave No Trace, Ireland we are passionate advocates of the benefits of outdoor recreation but we are also aware of the destructive impact of wildfires.
As we rediscover the outdoors and staycation post Covid we may find many more opportunities to camp and BBQ in our shared outdoor spaces. By following the Leave No Trace guidelines, we can all enjoy those special times without the destructive and negative consequences that accidental wildfires cause. This way we can all Love This Place, Leave No Trace.
To learn more about our Love This Place, Leave No Trace campaign, check out our website for a whole host of resources.