The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace (https://lnt.org/)
Plan ahead and prepare
Travel & camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Be considerate of others
This is not written to shame. We are all forever learning and growing (hopefully). This article is, however, written to help us all understand possible real-life impacts of not understanding and practicing, every day, the 7 Leave No Trace Principles listed above. The examples and focus here refer to Principles 2, 3 and 7. For my part, I wrote this to help redirect the frustration I feel when I see trash in our most beloved outdoor spaces.
The scene - Silver Falls State Park, Oregon; Trail of Ten Falls
This scene is so nice, it doesn't even need banana peels or toilet paper
The Trail of Ten Falls is a fantastical and breathtaking canyon trail found deep in Silver Falls State Park. There are ten primary falls, and depending on the season, you might see approximately a billion more ephemeral waterfalls. Its incredible! Because the trail is pretty tight and there is often very little room within the canyon walls, it is stated that dogs are not allowed on The Trail of Ten Falls. This does not stop people from bringing their dogs, however, and I have seen dog turds in the middle of the trail, or worse, a bag of dog poop thrown just off the trail.
Principle #7 - Be considerate of others. I have a dog and would LOVE to run this trail with him. But I do not and will never because it is asked that we do not. It is just common courtesy to follow the rules of any park service. These are rules set in place for a reason and we should all respect that. Also, please do not carve your name, a heart, anything really, into trees found in public spaces. The trees, bridges, rocks, buildings which are found in parks belong to you, and me, and everyone. As part owner, I don't want to see your name carved into a tree. I'm sorry, but I do not care that you love good times. There is a term for this: eco-graffiti. Sometimes we cannot do everything we want, and get everything we want, and that’s ok. (My cynicism peaking its head)
Sorry Cindy and Pack, PacR, PocR(?), I don't care at all that you once liked each other, and neither do the other million visitors that walk by this tree.
Consider for a moment that to visit our public spaces, like Silver Falls State Park, may be a very occasional, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience for people who live in a city, or far away, and do not have the privilege of traveling regularly to natural areas. Now consider that this person is walking the Trail of Ten Falls for their first and only time, before returning to the city. When walking they see orange peels scattered on entire length of the trail (it was a lot of oranges), a banana peel hanging from a branch on the side, and copious amounts of toilet paper melting over trees and stumps every 50 feet or so. This is not the pristine natural experience that everyone deserves - Principle #3.
Principle #7 - The pristine natural experience was taken away by someone who, let's be honest (I’m being cynical, I know), was too lazy to carry the orange peels out, even though it now weighs less than the entire orange they carried in. Or they were uninformed of the possible impacts of a seemingly harmless act like tossing your banana peel in a tree. Thus this article and much more importantly - Leave No Trace (https://lnt.org/).
So many oranges. Scurvy is not a threat
It can be assumed that if we travel to remote places to see beautiful scenery, we would like to enjoy a landscape that is free of garbage. Please don’t take this away from other people by littering. And all garbage like orange peels, banana peels, toilet paper and dog-poop bags, when thrown in the woods IS littering - Principle #3.
No, bananas do not grow in the Cascade Range of Oregon
Some will argue that orange and banana peels are organic and will decompose in no time.
Orange Rinds take an average of 6 months to decompose, in the ideal circumstance. Piled on a log is NOT ideal. That is 6 months that visitors do not get to enjoy a clean and clear landscape.
Banana peels take an average of 2 YEARS to decompose under ideal circumstances. Hanging from a tree is not ideal. Decorate your own house.
‘Compostable’ dog-poop bags take a few months to years to decompose when in ideal conditions. Sitting on the fence post at the trailhead is not the ideal condition. You also just made someone else deal with your mess.
Toilet paper can take at least 5 weeks to decompose, if buried properly. The piles sitting on top of the ferns will likely be there for people to enjoy for the next 6 months (sarcasm).
The fact that banana peels and apple cores will eventually decompose is NOT the point. In the meantime, the 5 weeks to 2 years it take for this litter to decompose, people are having to step over, walk around and otherwise deal with your garbage.
Please please please carry out ALL of your garbage, ‘organic’ or otherwise. We all know it is lighter and takes less room in your pocket than the entire banana did. And think about the next person and what experience they deserve.
One more time for good measure - https://lnt.org/