You may be starting to wonder what the weird photos are in the margin of this site. Looking closer they are, yes, trash. Trail trash. So…what’s the deal here?
I hate trash. I love trash. Trash tells us so much about who is directly impacting the environment beneath our feet. For the past seven years I’ve studied ocean trash, picking up refuse that is floating in the water and on beaches. Good money in it? Nope. I’ve been doing it to learn about who is polluting and where. Not so easy to sort out considering ocean currents, photo degradation, and marine organisms’ rapid population of anything in the water. But we’ve leveraged this information to help support Styrofoam and plastic bag bans, to help regional planners understand how their cities impact our ocean, and to educate the public. The end result? Marine debris collection and advocacy is at an all time high and densities of targeted waste are already declining. But why on land?
I love trails. I love chasing the guy in front of me, I love nudging my buddies into the bushes as were blasting down the trail, I love the endorphins that come from a strenuous ride, and I love stewardship. I am a fan of nearly every activity that gets more people out into the wilderness. I firmly believe that if we want people to fight for the environment, they must first love it. But trash detracts from that love. Trash demonstrates a lack of respect for the environment and those that love it. Trash also demonstrates a misconception that has been held by too many for far too long, that the earth will take care of all our mistakes. The best way for me to demonstrate my love for the trail is to pick up after those idiots (and show up for trailwork days)!
So what do the photos show? Too many people still use single use waterbottles. Cigarette butts…really! That’s how we enjoy the fresh air? Beer cans, check. Plastic packaging, of course. The bulk of what I pick up daily is packaging and plastic bags. But what are those tiny rectangular bits in the photos? The torn off tops from energy packets (Gu, no thank Yu!).* Who uses those? Cyclists and runners primarily. I see 10+ cyclists for every runner, so I think it’s mostly the cyclists. And students. My ride takes me through the UCSC campus, so I see the streets and trails twelve months a year. And there sure has been a whole lot more trash blowing around campus since September 22 this year….
How do you express your love of the trail? Pick up the trash. Come on people! Every time somebody sees you doing the right thing it triggers a significant pause. Why is he doing that? What is he picking up? Who dropped it there in the first place? Get your whole crew onboard, imagine the impact then!
Please join us in being part of the solution, and help spread the love known as environmental stewardship. Trashing our trails is counterintuitive…trail(or) trash, you can be the difference!
*Of note on litter leashes, Gu has made a point of arguing that they save 20-40% on packaging by not including a litter leash. Saves them cash and arguably saves the planet’s resources. But how many complete packets do you see in the photos? BTW, Clif Shots have the litter leash. Does big trash absolve some of the little trash challenges? You make that decision with every purchase you make.