The Pacific Northwest is home to so many amazing national parks and recreation areas, so it is really important to know how to leave no trace and the importance of leave no trace on your elopement day. As an adventure elopement photographer, I love the outdoors, so I have become a leave no trace aware photographer. We need to preserve the natural beauty of these places so we can all come back in future years and have it look the same as when we were there last.
The 7 Leave No Trace principles apply to everyone who loves the outdoors. They are guidelines to help keep the outdoors beautiful! But how would they apply if you're getting married outdoors? Here are the 7 principles of LNT and how you can apply them for your adventure elopement!
Plan Ahead and Prepare. Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit. Plan ahead for any bad weather, road closures, etc. Most elopement photographers will help keep a lookout for things like these on the days leading up to your elopement. I will also plan in some backup locations in case the location we picked isn't accessible and you still want to get married on that day.
Another thing to keep in mind is to do your research for the specific location of your elopement. For example, if you're eloping in a national park (click here to read more about my favorite national parks in the pacific northwest), you need to see if you can get the correct permit for your event, as well as if you can bring a dog (most parks don't allow this), if you can have chairs at all for your guests, if you can bring bear spray, or if you can have a ceremony arch if you want one!
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. Stay on the trails. The trails in national parks are there for a reason, to keep you safe. They also serve to keep the surrounding land from becoming trashed. New trails form quick and it hurts the environment. It only takes one person to do it for other visitors to think it's okay to do so too. Doing this could cause the area to be closed off to everyone to allow for restoration. This sadly has happened in many areas already.
Dispose of Waste Properly. Pack it in pack it out. Pack out everything that you brought in. This helps keep the area clean, and won't attract wildlife. This even applies for any flower petals that come off your bouquet while hiking. You can look and see which flowers won't be invasive to the environment that you'll be in. You can also use fake or wood flowers (like these sola wood flowers) as an alternative.
Another thing to remember to pack out is a champagne cork. After popping it, try to watch where it lands. A better alternative to actual champagne is sparkling water! That way it doesn't leave behind a sticky mess that attracts wildlife. This also makes it so you can enjoy the champagne instead of spraying it all over the place.
Leave What You Find. Take only photos, leave nothing but footprints. This might be a hard one for some of us, but if you see something cool, you should leave it in it's natural environment. Even small things like rocks in the rivers can disrupt the environment if you pick it up (they are homes for fish and other organisms), or wildflowers (once you pick them it makes it harder for them to grow back). Leave it how you found it so you can return on your anniversary and enjoy it like you did the day of your elopement.
Minimize Campfire Impacts. Follow all fire rules and restrictions. It's best to avoid things like sparklers and smoke bombs all together if you're in a national forest or something similar. One small shift in wind or one rogue spark could cause a whole forest to go ablaze. A fun alternative is fairy lights! And if you're cold, visit a natural hot spring as an alternative! Both of those alternatives would also make for some great photos!
Respect Wildlife. Yes, they're cute, but they can be mean and dangerous. If we come across some wildlife we can get some photos of them, but from a respectful distance. Don't approach them, and don't feed them.
Be Considerate of Others. Be aware of others in your area. Even though it's your day, we can't hog the location from other visitors if we come across any. If you want to elope in a popular spot, it's best to do a sunrise elopement during the week to try and avoid the crowds. But we need to be considerate if we do come across anyone. We can always ask to step in for a few quick shots (I shoot fast and can get lots of variety pretty quick). Another things is to not blast loud music. We need to be respectful of others who are also trying to enjoy the peacefulness of the outdoors.
*An Extra Tip. One thing I recommend and do myself is not tagging the exact location of our photos on Instagram. The reason for this is because I take the time to scope out and hike to hidden gems to add to my list exclusively for my couples. If someone tagged a location that was more of a hidden gem, a lot more people could come to find out about it, and they could go there and if they don't know about LNT, the location could become ruined, or even closed down to be restored. Word travels fast and we just need to be mindful of what we are sharing.
Most of these locations that photographers find are online, we just dig deep to find the lesser known spots, which is perfect for an elopement! We take a lot of time to find the best spots, so what I do instead is tag the nearest biggest town. So people can know the area of the place, but not the exact spot.
And that's a wrap on this post about the importance of leave no trace on your wedding day! I know it can seem like a lot to remember, but most of it is just common sense. We are so fortunate to be able to explore and visit such spectacular areas in the Pacific Northwest!