I am passionate about keeping our outdoors and trails litter-free. Studies show that people will pick up litter is if they witness someone else picking up litter. That is because peer group norms are a more powerful motivator than any other incentive. When reinforced constantly, peer group norms can result in behavioral changes.

Why mar such a beautiful view with litter?

Table Of Contents

Introduction

It is my strong belief, that people want to do the right thing; all they need is a little encouragement or incentive. If we can care for our favourite places, pick up after ourselves and others, then our trails will become self-sufficient, clean, and far more enjoyable. So here’s 5 simple ways that we (you and I) can help keep our trails and outdoors clean. Each of these steps may seem small and common sense, but collectively following these simple steps will have a huge effect on keeping our outdoors and trails clean.

Don’t leave you names on trails. It is NOT cool. If you want to keep a reminder of your trek, take a picture

1. Unwrap Eatables & Re-pack Them In Reusable Ziplock Bags

Individual eatable wrappers (chips, biscuits etc.) constitute a disproportionate bulk of trash found on our trekking trails. One way to avoid this is to carry eatables in ziplock bags labelled breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks while out trekking. Keeping eatables in ziplock bags means there’s no need to discard individual wrappers along the way.

2. Stay On The Trail & Don’t Shortcut Switchbacks

Do not create new paths and campsites. When you do the first thing to be affected is vegetation. When vegetation disappears, the hillside starts to dissolve away. New paths or campsites disrupt the purity and serenity of the area. Keeping to established trails also gives places that are just beginning to show a positive impact, the chance to heal themselves.

Staying on the trail keeps a trail pristine. Image © https://www.fs.usda.gov

3. Catholes For Human Waste

No one wants to see toilet paper scattered over a pristine mountain site. Bury human waste in catholes about 6-8 inches deep, 200 feet away from any water sources, campsites, or trails. Your trusty knife (that I always recommend carrying) can be used to create one. Carrying out used toilet paper is wonderful since animals often dig it up and spread it all over. However, if are averse to carrying out toilet paper then bury it in the same cathole. I do not recommend burning toilet paper as it can lead to forest fires and $2.7 million fines.

4. Be Considerate To Other Trekkers

Simple steps like no loud music, alcohol or something as simple as giving enough space to the campers next door can greatly help enhance the outdoor experience. Also keep in mind that the feeling of solitude, especially in open areas, is enhanced when group size is small, human contact is infrequent and interpersonal behaviour is unobtrusive. Finally do make it a point to smile and say “hi” to a fellow trekker, or encourage them over a trail. Trekking in India is a small community and trekkers must stick together.

5. Leave A Trail Cleaner Than You Found It

 Trail cleanup. Jia-Aadi Himani Chamunda

Despite your best efforts, you will usually find litter scattered across regularly used trails. On these trails, I make an effort to pack out existing litter, especially on my way back. A small garbage bag tied to my belt loop makes an easy and effective garbage collection device. Not only will this help keep the trail clean, but studies have shown that people are more reluctant to throw garbage at a clean place.

Finally, If you can, do consider volunteering with these organizations that are doing a stellar job of cleaning up the Himalayas. Not only will you help keep a trail clean but you will probably make like-minded friends for life.