This is serious business. It makes the news. Plastic washing up on beaches, choking waterways, finding its way into so many places. I’m always amazed at what finds its way into wild places. It breaks my heart. I know I’m not perfect either. A lost tube of Ultrathon on a thru hike years ago still softly nags at me.
But what continues to confound me is the garbage that is within feet of a receptacle, in parking lots at trail heads and at campsites. As a Scout leader I’ve been part of police lines at every campout no matter where it occurred. The Troop I support does a couple evenings of cleanup on the stretch of road where we meet. The item we find in great abundance is cigarette butts. Everywhere. Gross. Really gross.
I started carrying plastic bags, but in the end, it made me feel like I was just adding to the problem. So when my cohort for our Women Who Hike and I were planning one of our official hikes, we learned that the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics was partnering with groups to provide a reusable garbage bag. It was a natural fit for Earth Day so we included those for participants on our designated hike day. I love my Dueter Dirtbag. It’s been filled with some nasty stuff, it’s weighted my load. But it’s a solid piece of gear that I truly appreciate.
I haven’t tracked the weight of what I’ve picked up, but I know it’s adding to the success of the #DeuterDirtbagChallenge, it’s become my @11thessential on the trail. Now when I see someone who has potential to leave garbage on trail, I open my bag. When I visit a park or trail, I bring my bag and pick up what I can. I figure every piece of trash that makes it to the garbage or recycling helps. And in picking it up without worrying who’s looking or what they think, that I might inspire another person to at least get their trash to the garbage or recycling and, maybe, inspire them to clean up too.
All of this led me to take another step in my stewardship journey by becoming a Leave No Trace Trainer. I’m available to speak to individuals and groups about the impacts of humans on our environment and simple steps we can take to reduce our impact in our daily lives.
Resources to Help Keep Our Trails Clean
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics – Leave No Trace provides research, education and initiatives so every person who ventures outside can protect and enjoy our world responsibly.
@thegroundskeepers on Instagram – Granite Gear Grounds Keepers, a diverse team of hikers and paddlers who leave our parks, trails and waterways better.
Trail Mothers on Facebook – a group empowering mothers to share their passion with their children to hike and climb while educating them about the world and Leave No Trace Priciples.
Hike It Baby Trail Clean Up Hikes – ideas to help get your little ones in the habit.
Sierra Club – explore, enjoy and protect the planet through education and advocacy.
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