As an occupant of this beautiful Earth, I have become more conscience of the mark I make when traveling. This is important when it comes to preserving our forests, rivers and streams for the next generation.
At one time in my life, I worked for the U.S. Forestry Service. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a program called, ‘Young Adult Conservation Corp.’ or YACC. The qualifications required were, you must have graduated from high school and be between the ages of 18 and 23 years of age. You were accepted into the program for 1 year of service and we paid minimum wage for your service. In exchange you gained valuable experience and had a history of working for the federal government. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that time was in my life. The hardest part was working in the cold when it was -20 degrees in a Michigan winter. It was so hard to get out of that nice warm van and go to work. I do however have some of my best memories of that time.
One of the very shameful things I saw on a regular basis was dumping by people in the forests. We cleaned up garbage, trash, shingles, tires, building materials and tons of cigarette butts. I also had the experience of cleaning up camping sites in the state and federal campgrounds. For the most part people that camped left the sites fairly well but the microtrash was always over the top. Things like pieces of tin foil, cigarette butts, small pieces of plastic, cans and bottles in the firepit. Things like that don’t just go away after the camper leaves, somebody has to go in and pickup after people to maintain a nice park.
When I camp, I first inspect the site for any microtrash or outright garbage and clean it up. Get the trash out and make a nice site to enjoy and when I leave I do the same thing. Before leaving I inspect the site and remove all microtrash.
The experiences I had in YACC and experiences in my adult life, I think I have developed a few habits that I think are good. I am sharing them in hopes that maybe the word will spread and we can start overcoming the trash that blocks and wrecks the beautiful views our earth has to offer.
Lately I have been making a habit of tying a knot in plastic bags, right in the middle. In fact I usually tie several knots making the bag not flyable. I personally like the convenience of plastic grocery bags. They are convenient, waterproof and mostly strong. I hate grocery bags stuck in trees, clogging ditches and rolling across a field. All it takes it a few knots to stop the bag from being able to take flight.
I also do not like seeing broken glass because of bottles. In fact I don’t like seeing bottles glass or plastic on the side of the road.
As you have probably guessed I am from Michigan and if you have ever been to Michigan you know that there is a 10 cent deposit on all bottles and cans. I lived in Michigan when they first began the deposit law and at first it was a logistical nightmare. Michigan stayed with it and what happened was all the bottle and cans disappeared from the roads and the stores figured out how to manage the deposits and storage of the bottles and cans because they also got a deposit back from the vendor. Today, you drive through Michigan and I challenge you to even find 10 bottles or cans on the side of the roads. If you do I’ll give you a dollar! It was one of the smartest things they did.
If we're not careful, we can cause a lot of environmental damage through traveling. But if we just take a little time to minimize our presence we will continue to have one of the most beautiful countries in the world.