Earth Day 2020

Photo of a large park space with trees and sections of dormant grass. The sky is blue with light clouds.

#16hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: West River Road Parkway and Winchell Trail, Minneapolis

Trash Collected: 8 pounds

This year Earth Day looks much different than I expected. It’s the 50th Anniversary of the day which calls for celebration. My original plans were to host a clean-up hike with friends, including my Women Who Hike crew. I didn’t let that stop me though. After connecting with the Minnesota Chapter of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics representative to see what I can do to help with LNT initiatives in Minnesota, I decided that I would try to spend most of the day outside in my neighborhood and the nearby Mississippi River trails.

I spent more than two hours slowly wandering and collecting as much trash as I could. It’s sad to say, but most of what I found were cigarette butts, plastic food containers and candy wrappers left in the parking lots along the River Road. As I headed on to the Winchell Trail I found the remains of gatherings – empty cans, bottles and abandoned fire pits. The most interesting find was a set of daisy lights and an old chair cushion that had been there for quite awhile.

Photo of Ruth with the garbage she found while hiking. The ground is covered with leaves and early spring flowers. The trees have not yet leaved out.

I hauled these finds to the nearby garbage bins as it struck me how very close to a trash container or recycling bin so many of these things land. I don’t think all of the things left behind are always intentional. I think sometimes it’s accidental. Whether it’s a wrapper that is dropped into a bin but is taken by the wind before it lands or things left behind from a late night party, it all adds up. I was glad I’d filled my pocket with a bunch of old bags. Chip, produce and shopping bags got second life and were packed full. In all I removed over eight pounds of trash and covered just over four miles. Some of that just doing police-line walking of large sections of open park and forest areas.

The added bonus was taking time to notice the plants that are starting to show their spring buds and, in some cases, blooms. I had people I encountered along the way tell me I’d inspired them. That’s my favorite thing to hear. I reminded each person that every day should be Earth Day and encouraged that their next visit to the outdoors include a bag to pickup some trash along the way.

Tonight I’m looking forward to setting up my tent and camping in the backyard again. I’ll join the 11th Essential for a special virtual Earth Day event. Later, my plan is to sit in the dark and take in the night sky. Throughout it all, I plan on keeping my commitment to slow down and take it all in with an appreciation for this beautiful home we all share.

I hope you will join me in making a difference because #weareallgroundskeepers.

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Photo of a tiny white spring flower tucked among fallen lake leaves on the wooded forest floor.

Earth Day and Stewardship Resources

Head over to my list of additional resources on the Stewardship Resources page, check out my recent post on 11th Essential gear and visit the websites of various organizations listed below that support environmental work across the globe. Every action makes a difference for a better planet.

Earth Day – the official site of the Earth Day Network

The Nature Conservancy – taking on the planet’s biggest, most important challenges by focusing on priorities that science shows are the most urgent and where our innovation and expertise can be game changers.

11th Essential – is a stewardship-focused initiative encouraging all adventurers to add a trash bag to their essential items so every single adventure turns into an act of stewardship

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics – protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly through educational intiatives

Boy Scouts of America – Leave No Trace education for youth


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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