With the seemingly exponential growth of hikers, climbers, and more out enjoying our beautiful trails and mountains here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm troubled by an increase in trash in the woods/along trails.
So for Earth Day, some practical tips for anyone who ventures into the outdoors. Here in the Northwest (and all over), our ethic is this:
Leave No Trace.
Pretty simple, huh?
That means a few basic things to do/not do. (Find a lot more on the link above, and I realize this post is mostly preaching to the choir. :)
Don't Toss Anything as You Go. Even Food.
It's not okay to leave those orange or banana peels or any leftover food on the ground where you had lunch. (It also adds insult to injury if the peel still bears a sticky plastic label.)
To quickly decompose, if left on the ground, food needs the natural bugs and microorganisms in the soil where it originated. Ever seen an orange or banana tree growing in a Pacific Northwest forest? In the tropics a banana peel decomposes in a few days. Not so this far north. An orange peel can take months or longer to decompose in a fragile alpine environment.
Carry it Out. Everything.
Yes, that includes any toilet paper you might use (well clear of any water or stream). Bring zip-lock bags (compostable if possible), double bag, and take it with you. Last fall at a popular trailhead I saw over a half dozen different spots just beyond the locked outhouse where people had just dropped their TP and left.
If you must go in the woods, dig a shallow hole about 6 inches deep and do your business in the hole, then use a stick to cover it with soil. (Here is a great website on this topic.) And of course bag any TP and dispose of it at home or the nearest garbage bin.
Your dog? Just like in the city, bag their doo and carry it out.
In the last couple years I've noticed blue plastic bags of dog doo along popular trails, which were left by hikers with the intent of picking it up on the way down. Not so great for the rest of us to see a trail of plastic bags along an otherwise beautiful forest/mountain trail. And some do get left behind.
Please, triple bag if you must, but take those bags with you as you go. (Dog owners have pushed back on this request, what say you?)
Carry a Spare Bag and Collect Litter as You Go.
In the spirit of compassion for our natural places and others around us, try bringing along a spare bag and sticking trash in it as you go. On a hike yesterday we collected orange and banana peels, a McDonald's wrapper, plastic candy wrappers, some foil, and broken sunglasses. There was more that we had to leave after running out of room.
|Golden arches not so golden.|
Think about joining trail clean-up/maintenance parties organized by groups like the Washington Trails Association, Mazamas, or Mountaineers. What are your suggestions/favorite ways to volunteer or address these issues and more? Jump in with a comment below. Thanks in advance for sharing.
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Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!