You go hiking to get back to nature — and you want to leave the beauty unmarred, the way you found it. However, in the words of Barbara Ward, we have forgotten how to be good guests, to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do. As a human, you have the power of choice and your intelligent brain to guide you. Here are ten tips to avoid littering on a hike.
1. Choose Recyclables
Stopping littering doesn’t begin and end with packing out what you bring with you. If you opt to hydrate with a single-use Gatorade, tossing the empty in the trailhead trash bin will mean it ends up in the landfill. Maybe it isn’t polluting your trail, but it’s leaving a mark.
Choose recyclable containers whenever possible. Please check the number on the back. Most municipalities accept numbers one and two plastics in their recycling bins, while others must go in the trash.
Hiking is a fabulous cardiovascular exercise. Do you know what’s even better? Cross-training by using different muscle groups to bend and grab any litter that you see on the trail. You’ll stretch those tight hamstrings every time you reach toward the earth — consider your good deed a mini yoga break.
3. Pack Light
Our consumerist culture bombards you with messages to buy more stuff — much of which ends up in landfills or on the trail. However, the more you carry with you, the more you have to lug back out when you are sweaty and tired.
Instead, pack as lightly as possible for your trek. Do you need multiple bags of snacks when a single serving of trail mix or even a protein drink will hold you over until you return to civilisation?
4. Go Reusable
The best way to avoid littering on a hike is to pass on making trash. Consider the other benefits of using a reusable water bottle. Many of today’s versions have sufficient insulation to keep your cold beverages chilly on the warmest summer days and preserve the warmth of your coffee in winter.
5. Use Carabiners
It’s a hassle to carry multiple bottles, but summer hiking in places like Phoenix, AZ, demands hydration. One option is to use reusable versions with attached carabiner hooks. You can connect them to your belt loops to enjoy hands-free hiking with plenty of water and no trash to leave behind.
6. Wear Clothes With Pockets
Granted, this suggestion might be a little trickier if you are female. Why don’t manufacturers put more pockets in things like leggings? Fortunately, some have started to pay heed — choose your attire wisely, and you’ll have plenty of space to stash empty energy bar wrappers.
7. Carry a Backpack
If it isn’t too warm outside, a backpack can be your best friend who helps you avoid littering on a hike. You have a ready-made space to stow everything you take with you.
You can do an even kinder deed for the planet by leaving some space when you pack. That way, you can clean up any litter you encounter as you go.
8. Try a Flip Belt
Sometimes, you don’t want a bulky backpack to make you all sweaty — especially in the summertime. Why not opt for something smaller and less cumbersome? Runners have long sworn by flip belts to stow their credit cards, keys and cash while they train for marathons. You won’t fit much, but you can stash your empty wrappers until you return to civilization.
9. Take Something Out
Maybe you didn’t make the mess — but if you don’t clean it up, who will? Make it your mission to pick up at least one piece of litter every time you head out to the trail. Consider it your ticket price of admission to nature’s playground.
10. Leave No Trace
Finally, make every effort to leave no trace. Along with refraining from littering, please leave the native flora and fauna be. Messing with wild animals is downright dangerous, and other people would like to enjoy the beauty of spring wildflowers.