Yes, you read the title right. Today I am going to suggest to you that carrying out other peoples rubbish, that you find while you are out hiking on the trail in the mountains, is a really good thing to do.
Some people may already be thinking that idea is just nuts but bear with me. Let me begin with a backstory that put this fresh into my mind recently and may provide some perspective on the key point I want to get across.
Some weeks back I was back in my hometown visiting my best friend. He works in the outdoors and regularly takes people out into the mountains. Everything from school groups to individual paying clients, he does the full gambit.
Anyway, he also has two young sons aged 9 and 7. They're great kids and just like their Dad, they love the outdoors. He had the day off and he had the two boys for the day as his wife was out visiting family. We decided we'd head up into the local mountains for a short hike. Nothing too strenuous but enough to get the kids out in the wilds a bit as they love it.
We drove up to a car park in the local mountains and then started to hike up to a small peak. When we got there, there were beautiful views to be had. It was a sunny Summers day and the view from the small peak out over the mountains beyond was just spectacular.
As we stood enjoying the view, his younger son kicked something behind us and we heard a noise like plastic hitting off something. When we turned around, we could see he was kicking an old plastic bottle water bottle about the place.
Now, this wasn't his of course, nor ours. Someone had unfortunately dumped, or possibly dropped, an empty plastic water bottle, a regular one you buy in a convenience store. As we surveyed the scene, we started to notice a few other bits of rubbish. A chocolate bar wrapper, some other plastic wrapping and that kind of thing.
This is of course always very disappointing to see 🙁 While one piece of rubbish could easily just be an accident, several bits implies that people drank and / or ate their stuff and simply dumped their rubbish after they were finished.
This is a big deal! I have been on mountain peaks in many parts of the world and some of them are much cleaner than others. No matter where though, it is always really sad when I find rubbish left behind by people. It's just needless and inconsiderate on many levels.
Anyway, on with the story ... my friend got the attention of his two sons and sat them down and started to explain to them that finding rubbish on a mountain top is not a good thing. He explained that some people are stupid and they do this without thinking about the consequences.
He gave the boys a few examples like wildlife potentially choking on plastic wrappers as they try to get to the remains of a chocolate bar. Aside from that, even if not eaten, it is simply not good for the environment as the plastic materials could take years to decompose. Finally, he explained to them that it just isn't nice for other people when they come up to somewhere so special and have to find other peoples rubbish.
I could see the boys were very focused listening to my friend. He then said to them, 'what do you think we could do to help?' I saw the two boys thinking about it and then the older of the two said, 'we could take rubbish we find away!' My friend was very pleased, and proud of course, to hear his older son say this.
He told them that, that was exactly correct. He said that not all people are stupid and leave their rubbish behind, it's a minority for sure as most people respect the hills, mountains and nature. He went on to say that if every time they came into the mountains, if they made it their business to spot other people's rubbish and take two items off each, each time, then they would be doing a lot to help the birds and the animals and they would help to keep the area beautiful for other people to visit.
It was great to watch as the two boys got excited and ran around looking for bits of rubbish. Myself and my friend did the same and we put what we found into the outer pockets of our day packs. That was 8 items taken off that mountain top. We had to look around a bit, not too much, to get 8 pieces of rubbish but we found them, it's a popular mountain that is very accessible to the general public so sadly, not surprising.
And that was it, the two boys learned a great lesson which I don't think they'll forget in a hurry. And from now on, any time they go to a mountain top with their Dad, they'll look for rubbish to take off. If the three of them are there, that's 6 bits of rubbish potentially being taken off the mountains. That has got to cover at least 2 to 3 inconsiderate people who dump their stuff!
Now, this is nothing new to me or likely to you. Most hikers are very familiar with Leave No Trace and go out of their way to not damage the pristine environment they get to enjoy. However, not everyone shares that point of view and are, well, just inconsiderate and selfish.
If every hiker reading this made a commitment to take at least one piece of rubbish off a mountain if they came across one, just think what that could do to help keep our mountains in good shape for us and future generations to enjoy. I know many people do this already, I like my friend, have been doing it for years.
So, if this is new to you, please think about doing this the next time you find a piece of rubbish out on the trail. It's not hard to pick it up and stick it in an outer mesh pocket on your day pack to carry out.
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