We talk about being responsible trail users a lot because…well, it’s important. We need to be aware of our impact on the planet so we can keep the planet healthy, happy + available to us for endless adventures. Many aspects of being responsible while exploring the trails are obvious — stay on the trail, don’t litter + do not disturb the animals, for starters. However, there is one area that is easy for us to let slide or ignore.
For starters, what even is micro-trash? It is the little tiny bits + pieces of non-natural things that we leave behind when we’re outdoors. It can be as simple as the sticker on a apple or the corner of a candy wrapper. These little pieces may seem small in the moment but they still make an impact…little things accumulate quickly if no one is paying attention!
There are a few ways we can work to reduce micro-trash along the trails, at your favorite crag + while simply driving down the road.
#1 — Toss Obvious Trash at Home
If you’re going backpacking + have dehydrated meals packed take a second to remove the extra piece of packaging above the resealable strip. You won’t need this out on the trail + tossing it while you’re still at home will keep it from blowing away at your campsite.
The same can be said about the stickers on your apples, bananas + oranges. Anything that could become unnecessary trash while you’re on the trail can be left at home. Not only does this make it harder for you to accidentally litter it also reduces your way + increases your packing space. Sure, it’s a small thing, but let’s focus on the positive!
#2 — Pack Along Doggie Bags
Even if you’re not exploring with a dog it’s never a bad idea to have a stash of doggie bags [poo bags!] in your pack. You can use these for so many things beyond just scooping up dog poop. Plus, their designed to make it easy to pick up icky things without getting you icky.
A few uses for doggie bags include dog poop [duh!], your own bathroom trash [TP, tampons, etc], questionable trash along the trail [other people’s TP, ew!] + as a general trash bag that’s easy enough to pack away.
#3 — Open Wrappers…Carefully
Consider changing up the way you open candy or energy bar wrappers. Rather than ripping off a corner piece focus on tearing the entire package in half. This will keep all the wrap intact + therefore reduce the chance piece may be left behind as micro-trash litter.
Of course, this isn’t ideal if you have a big ol’ bag of M&M’s in your snack stash, but refer to our first tip for a work around.
#4 — Prepare Your Food Consciously
This applies more to car camping adventures, but it’s something that is so easy to just ignore. When you’re preparing food be sure to capture all of the remnants + immediately toss them. This includes those pesky onion skins, the numbs of carrots + unsavory burnt chunks of meat. Yes, it would extremely easy to just toss this food off into the woods for a squirrel to munch on. Do not do that!
For starters, you’ll probably attract much bigger creatures than just squirrels…like bears. No one wants a bear in camp. But also be aware of the fact that these bits of food are not in the normal diet of any wild animal. It will be a tasty treat that they may become accustomed to + learn to depend upon…until winter arrives + the campers head home. The abundance of human food scraps will have distracted the wild creatures from preparing for the scarce winter months, leading to a very rough winter or even death. Don’t be the person contributing to that!
These four easy tips will help you reduce your micro-trash while you’re out on the trails. If you combine this with the other Seven Principles of Leave No Trace you will quickly be on track to becoming the ideal trail user! Help us keep this planet beautiful + accessible!