Understanding what is refuse
The concept of Leave No Trace means just that; leave the land in such a way so that no impact is identifiable. This means, not only minimizing the alterations of land during one's use, but leaving absolutely NO refuse whatsoever. Refuse then should be understood as ANY material, not naturally occurring, discarded by man. This includes (some items not always perceived as trash):
--Microtrash (small loose items like confetti, feathers, staples, nails, etc.)
Timeline of biodegradation (examples)
Banana peel.....2-10 days
Cotton rags.....1-5 months
Orange peel.....6 months!
Cigarette filters.....1-12 years!!!
Taking responsibility for your own trash
Taking reponsibility means making sure ALL unnatural items leave with you. This means carefully collecting all of your refuse into proper disposal/recycling bags and visually combing the land of any smaller items that may potentially be overlooked and left behind. Furthermore, one should take steps to reduce the amount of refuse generated prior to visiting nature by eliminating extra, unnecessary packaging, and combining items when possible.
Taking responsibility for other's trash
This practice is crucial in the Leave No Trace ethic. We must get past the idea that someone else's trash is their responsibility only. In a place where communities gather, the responsibility should be seen as that of the collective. One must realize that cleaning up someone else's trash along with their own DOES make a difference. Not only does it eliminate the trash of irresponsible individuals, but it promotes the collective awareness among and beyond those working to make a difference.
Leave the land as you found it - low impact and no removal
This is the idea of minimizing the impact on the land you are using. Take care when using a vehicle on sensitive land and be aware of the heightened sensitivity when the earth is soft and muddy. When building campfires, make sure to properly contain the fire itself and return the site to the state it was in when you arrived (returning rocks and wood when using a primitive campsite). If the land contains fragile vegetation, take extra care to avoid disturbing the ecosystem and use pre-existing trails--ALWAYS--when available.
Enforcing and spreading LNT awareness
Aside from actually following the LNT ethic, this is the most important aspect of practice. Educating others about these concepts spreads the awareness of what is refuse, and reinforces the idea that everyone working together does make a difference. Along with educating others, is it extremely important to enforce these practices to those who fail to take reponsibility. When one is confronted on thier actions, or lack thereof, they will be forced to face the reality of their carelessness. They will then, hopefully, realize that the accepted 'norm' is, in fact, to be responsible and ecologically aware. One person can make a difference and many can change the world.