As we're coming to the end of Earth Month, I've been reflecting on how to be present in outdoor spaces while also taking the time to give back. As the chapter lead for Tuesdays for Trash Massachusetts, each week I spotlight one area where we can collectively do better (myself included of course). This got me thinking about all the hours I spend in the woods running on trails and what would be some great tips to share on responsible trail stewardship.
According to https://www.americantrails.org 'Trails provide safe access to the outdoors for hiking, biking, birding, horseback riding, trail running, off-highway vehicle use, and other forms of motorized and non-motorized recreation. They are the gateway and connections to nearly every facet of outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, camping, and more.' To sum it up, we're sharing the trails with a multitude of people. While it's easy to think that as one person on trail, you're not making a huge impact, you actually have to multiply that by all the people you're sharing that trail with. I compiled a list of some great tips of where to start.
*Be mindful of your surroundings, the trail conditions and stay on trail. Especially during mud season, the desire to go around puddles or really muddy areas can make cutting off trail seem more appealing. While in some instances this is unavoidable, for the most part you should always stay on trail. Though it doesn't seem like a big deal, cutting off trail can cause damage to flora and fauna, cause trail erosion or washout.
*If you've gotta go, be mindful of where you're going. You want to go at least 200 ft (about 70 paces) from the trail and any water source. Following leave no trace guidelines, you want to pack out what you bring in, so carrying something like a Kula Cloth can be an awesome investment. If we're talking number two, you want to follow the same 200 ft rule, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep that you can cover back up and pack out any tp you bring/use in a ziploc bag.
*Following the idea of leave no trace, you want to make sure all your trash leaves with you. Be mindful of the nutrition you're bringing with you on your runs. I personally lean towards GU and Tailwind. Did you know that GU partners with Terracycle? They have a free recycling program for their performance nutrition packaging, as well as a fundraising opportunity for participants. For more information, you can check that out here.
*Adventuring with a hydration vest or pack can be a great way to pick up trash. On long runs in the woods, I always run with my hydration vest. I usually will throw some work gloves and bags to pick up trash I find on trail. Though this doesn't work in every occasion, on training runs a great way to make a difference is to pick up trash. Usually on trail I only find pieces of micro trash that usually will fit easily into my pack. A great place you can also make a difference is cleaning up the parking area of wherever your adventure is.
*Volunteer your time. Many trail organizations rely on volunteers for maintenance. If you have a local trail you love, look to see if they need volunteers. This is a great way to give back and keep the trails you love looking great.
These are just some examples of ways to be mindful out on trail. Many organizations will organize cleanups for Earth Day, so if you're looking to get involved right away, you can look for Earth Day Cleanups near you. You can also check out smaller organizations like Tuesdays for Trash (https://tuesdaysfortrash.com/
Any way you choose to give back is awesome! Together we can work towards keeping our trails and outdoor spaces beautiful for years to come. Happy Trails!