It doesn't matter where you find yourself outdoors adventuring. Whether you're in the city or at the beach or somewhere in our backcountry on the trails, it is vital we clean up after ourselves. 2020 saw a huge rise in people getting outside in Canada, which is amazing. If anything good came from last year, I would say more people active outdoors is fantastic. But with humans comes waste of all kinds.
I've spent some time on the trails recently and can say for certain they are far worse now than ever before. Yes we have always had garbage issues, but never like this. Masks, food wrappers, dirty diapers, dog waste in and out of baggies and even toilet paper… It is really adding up out there. So maybe we could talk a bit about how to fix this growing problem.
You can store your own garbage until you find a bin. Garbage disposal bins are everywhere, just take a moment to find one. It's a pretty simple and easy concept, but so easy to forget those garbage bags when we head out!
Maybe you and your group thought ahead and packed a TRASHLESS LUNCH. Good job! But I guarantee you not everyone enjoying the outdoors that day did. If you have a bag, maybe think about using it to pick up after others. It is not our job to clean up after humans…But IT IS our job to protect nature and wildlife together collectively. Cleaning up any little bit helps! Our parks people can't be everywhere all the time. If you see someone littering, maybe politely mention how we need to work together to keep it clean. If you think about it, they also went somewhere to see something beautiful…maybe a simple reminder would help.
Dog Poop & Human Waste
We see dog poo baggies everywhere! Why!? Why would someone bag up poop into a plastic bag just to leave it behind? You can find them hanging on branches and lining the trails on the ground. Of course you should clean up after your pets. But…IF you aren't going to pack it back out with you, why the plastic bag? That is far worse than just leaving the waste to naturally break down. So bring a baggy plus a bigger one to carry your dog waste out if needed. Do not say "Oh, I will get it on my way back. I don't want to carry it the whole time." Most of the time, it probably won't happen the way you plan. You'll either forget or go a different route or lose where it was. If you don't feel like carrying it around all day, maybe think about leaving Fido at home.
Bathrooms are harder to find access to these days (pandemic). It is completely acceptable to "go" in the woods…but you have to clean up after yourself a bit. Never leave your toilet paper behind. Use that garbage bag you brought. Also, if the need for a #2 (poop) hits you…just dig a small hole (6-8 inches) and bury it when you're done. Pretend you're a cat. You can seriously contaminate the area with human excrement. The amount of toilet paper adding up along the trails and campsites is absolutely disgusting.
I would think this should go without saying, but clearly not. Either pack those dirty diapers back out with you or maybe think of switching to cloth diapers for your outdoor adventures. At least that way you'd be less likely to leave it behind and could probably even rinse it off before packing it back out.
Bear Bins (Wildlife Deterrent Garbage Bins)
In Alberta here, we have bear bins. They help stop the wildlife from accessing the garbage. They are a great deterrent. I know other places have them as well, but many people aren't aware of them. I had a friend once say "Oh now I know what they're talking about when they say bear proof garbage bins!"
The bins latch shut so sneaky wildlife can't get an easy meal they aren't supposed to have. You just simply slide your hand into the handle and push upwards with your fingertips. You will feel the metal on your fingers move up and then you can lift the lid of the bin to dispose of your waste. Once you've throw out your trash, make sure that lid closes hard to secure the latch again. I've seen at least 5 bins just this week without the lids closed properly in prime bear areas. This defeats the purpose. Simply checking before you walk away could save an animals life. If you find one is broken or overflowing, please note the location and contact the proper parks people to report it so they can fix it right away.
Maybe you've collected your garbage (or someone else's) all day and when you go to throw it away you find the bins are all full. Please do not just add to the pile. Bring the trash home with you or find an appropriate garbage bin on your way home.
Canada is a beautiful place with so much to see and do. Let us do our part to keep it that way. The bears will thank you!