The Practice: Making Responsible Outdoor Decisions

What is outdoor ethics? Outdoor ethics is the Scout’s guide to making recreational choices that reduce impact to the land and preserve outdoor experiences for others.

Scouting’s statement of outdoor ethics is the Outdoor Code. The Outdoor Code is augmented by the land ethic, supported by principles and ethical decision-making skills of the principles of Leave No Trace, and supplemented by the principles and skills of Tread Lightly!.

The land ethic is a change in how we relate to the land. It helps us to move from a position of conqueror and user of the land to a member and citizen of the land. It implies that the land has a right to be respected and continue to exist. “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”1

Ethical decision making as related to the outdoors considers a desired action and what impact it has on the land, identifies alternatives, and chooses the one of least impact. This is demonstrated by Aldo Leopold in his writing: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”2

The first step to embracing outdoor ethics is to recognize that outdoor activities cause an impact to the land, water, natural resources, animals, and people. Once one accepts this, one can then realize choices exist that increase, neutralize, or remove that impact. Practicing outdoor ethics is the art of recognizing these choices and selecting the action that reduces impacts when possible.

You can download the Outdoor Ethics Guide Handbook, here.