Admit it. When the sun is out and you are at your favorite campsite or cottage on the lake the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time cooking a meal. Often, when vacationing, the lure to purchase instant foods is strong.
Unfortunately, these convenience foods often come over packaged usually including some type of plastic. As we can see when we come across trash in the wilderness, the plastics tend to linger the longest - other than maybe glass and metal. Nothing ruins the feel of a pristine, natural area more than a bunch of garbage. Numerous studies prove that tourists return to an area primarily for its cleanliness and greenery. In this era where the economy has come to rely more on tourism, cleaning up is truly a benefit for the community.
We soon realized that walking by these messes and complaining over such disrespect, we were behaving not much better than the polluters who left it. Now when we hike we pack a supply of plastic bags (grocery bags work well) to clean up as we go. Often we earn up to $10 in returnable bottles and cans in the process. When you take a bit of time to clean up some trash not only do you have a better trail or beach to come back to, you have helped to make it safer and nicer for the next user. This simple measure just might influence others to keep it clean, as well.
When on the water with the canoe we also clean as we go by diving for garbage below the surface using a mask and snorkel. It is amazing the finds we have from these excursions under water. One of the first times we did this, we found an expensive diving mask in about 30 feet of water - enough incentive to continue this practice! We have found antique bottles, jewelry, fishing lures and reels.
It feels very good to clear up a beach of shards of broken glass hiding just below the surface before an unwary swimmer splashes into it. It does not, however, feel as good to find a large fish hook by imbedding it in the bottom of your foot. Take heart in knowing you have done a good thing as your expletive echoes off the far mountainside. Imagine an innocent child stepping on that hook instead of you and decide if it is worth taking the time. . .
Dave and Lillian Brummet - Authors of the environmental book Trash Talk, and of Towards Understanding, a collection of poetry. (http://www.sunshinecable.com/~drumit )