But fine, I guess I’ll have to keep going on.
It’s no secret to anyone, humans have the very bad habit of trashing every place they go. Even mountains. Even the clear crisp glaciers of mountains.
People who pretend to be in love with peaks and summits just can’t resist in leaving tons of garbage behind them.
Every year, THIRTY tons of pure trash are left on the slopes of the Everest.
Needless to say the locals are quite unhappy and the government has recently tried to take steps to reduce the human impact on mountains by limiting the amount of people allowed to attempt the summit per year.
A necessary yet highly unfortunate decision in my eyes, as I truly believe mountains are for everyone… as long as you’re not a disgusting asshole!
So without having to go all the way to the Himalayas, what are the steps you can take to reduce mountain pollution?
1. Don’t litter
It is truly THAT simple.
If you’re able to carry it up, surely you can carry it down!
Look, what’s important to understand here, is that nothing you throw on the slopes of a mountain will disappear.
No, that glass bottle will not turn to sand within the next few years. That cigarette butt? It’s NOT biodegradable! And are you really thinking that plastic wrap will just magically disintegrate?
So why do you keep being a dick and throw your soda can in the bush? How hard is it to bring back down to a garbage bin an empty can when you were able to bring it up while it was full?
Here’s what to do: Use a pocket ashtray for your cigarettes + bring an extra paper bag if you don’t want any liquids for your trash to drip inside your backpack (or even use the plastic wrap from any food packaging you already carry).
Honestly, if you’re part of the lame group of people that still litter mountains, just concentrate on the NOT littering part of this article and don’t even go further down.
The parts below are for advance levels only.
Lovely people left some trash on an Icelandic trail.
Don’t you think it fits perfectly with the surroundings?
Well me and my already 35kg backpack had to pick it up in order to bring it to the nearest hut.
2. Biodegradables can still be harmful
Sure, we all know a banana peel or a peach pit will eventually turn into compost and feed the local soil, so why not do it? Turns out, it’s not that harmless.
You are right, it won’t necessarily change the biodiversity of the local flora -even though it might happen on heavily traveled trails or ski slopes. Yet there is another real impact, and that one is on the local wildlife, which is now slowly turning to these abandoned pieces of fruits and vegetables here and there to feed themselves. Without realizing it, we’re teaching animals it’s okay to follow human beings in order to get food.
So if you’re going on a daily trip, keep these litters with the rest of your garbage.
If you’re going on a multi-day trek and weight is essential to you, make sure not to leave a huge trace behind you. Digg a small hole and drop your biodegradables in it, rather than throwing them here in there along the trail.
3. Don’t feed the wildlife
This goes with the paragraph above.
As cute as a baby fox or a cub looks, stay away from them. Don’t search for interaction and don’t feed them.
First of all you might damage their diet with whatever food you have available.
Second, you shouldn’t make them feel comfortable around humans. Next thing you know they’ll become aggressive believing they have the right to access your backpack, and the only solution will be to euthanize them.
4. Don’t shit where it can’t biodegrade
Lots is written on human feces when going hiking. Some believe it should all be taken away.
On my hand I personally disagree, PROVIDED you follow some basic rules (if done correctly, it will turn into compost).
– First of all, make sure you’re in an area with actual dirt or soil. So if you’re rock climbing for example, you’ll unfortunately have to use a beautiful poop-tube (read Stephanie Bodet’s book to learn more about the magic of such tool). If you’re in a snow covered area, know that human feces won’t disintegrate.
– Don’t do it too close from a water stream, you’ll contaminate it.
– Dig a deep hope, use biodegradable TP (don’t let it fly away), and cover back the hole with the top soil. Add a rock on top of it if you can.
– Don’t urinate and poop on the same spot. Feces turn into perfectly acceptable compost once their are all dried up and consumed by micro-bacterias. Urinating on it will slower the process.
5. Clean yourself the right way
If you’re going on multi-days trek, you’ll probably take biodegradable soap with you to make sure you stay a little bit clean.
Know that to be biodegradable, the soap MUST go through the soil before reaching any water. It is otherwise harmful to the local water wildlife. So don’t rinse directly in a lake or river. Grab a bucket and rinse yourself at least 5 to 10 meters away from the nearest stream.
Also, try to use the soap minimally. The only parts of body that matter are the arm pits and the genital area (and the feet, depending on how much you walk)
It’s very easy to be awesome.
First step is to follow the rules from above.
Second is to grab a trash bag with you when going hiking and carry all the litter previous douchebags left on the trails.
Follow the steps on how to be awesome.
Then join a nature cleaning non-profit organization as a volunteer (even if you volunteer just twice a year).