Proper Disposal

On The Trail: Less Waste and Litter Free

Guest Blogger

As the weather in Northeast Ohio warms, more people are making trips to their local trails and parks. When I was a little girl, family vacations were almost exclusively camping trips. I can remember my mom saying, “Let’s leave this place a little bit better than we found it,” as my brother and I checked the site for litter.

As an adult, I am more often backpacking than camping, and it does not always feel possible to leave a campsite better than I found it. When I’m already carrying everything I need to survive (and all the waste created by my survival) on my back for several days at a time, picking up someone else’s litter no longer seems like my problem.

And then I hear my mom’s voice in my head.

On the one hand, it is true: I am not responsible for the trash left behind by others. Most recently, this included the carcass and meat of a bird that seemed to have been grilled over a fire, several eggshells, and a hard-plastic bottle.

On the other hand: I cannot ignore it. It detracts from my outdoor experience to be in the company of trash.

Obviously, mistakes happen. I recently lost a bandana that had been tied to my bag while hiking and was not able to recover it. I also believe we can all do better.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your adventure! Simply thinking ahead can help you avoid situations in which it seems necessary to litter or improperly dispose of trash while enjoying trails and parks.

On The Trail

  1. Bring a day pack. Ideally, this is a supportive backpack that can hold wrappers, water bottles, and sunscreen. Carrying a plastic water bottle in your hand increases the likelihood that it will end up on the trail.
  2. Reduce packaging that you bring into the wilderness by organizing your items in advance.
  3. Use zipper pockets. Place wrappers or trash items in secure areas, where the wind will not blow them to the ground.
  4. Create a group awareness. Stewardship of the environment is everybody’s job! Involve kids and adults.
  5. Bring a trash bag and, if you like, gloves or a grabber tool! Evolve your group awareness into a challenge to find and collect litter along the trail.
  6. Nature is not a compost pile—leave no trace! One of my friends chooses to eat her entire apple and spits the seeds into a trash bag.
  7. Take your trash and recycling home! Trash bins in trails and parks can be affected by critters and weather. When possible, do not rely on the trash cans provided. Take your trash home and safely dispose of it.

And as always, know that each small change you make helps to create a better future. The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District advocates and supports this journey to a more sustainable world. Check out the District’s tips for reducing plastic waste or see more details about the global movement Plastic Free July.

About the Author

Leanne Hoppe is a teacher and writer pursuing a low-waste lifestyle. Her passion to learn more about everything having to do with waste led her to sign up for the Master Recycler program in 2019. Through the course, she met like-minded individuals who together learned about resources and shared tools for living a more environmentally friendly life.