Many of us go into nature to find our way back to a feeling of gratitude, simplicity and awe. Being surrounded by a thousand different shades of green, the warm brown hues of bark and fluffy white clouds in the baby blue sky reminds us that the world is bigger than ourselves. That the earth is ancient and wise, yet young and vibrant all at once. It grounds us and nourishes us, in one fell swoop. But sometimes, suddenly out of nowhere, a bright orange color catches your eye. “Wait a minute! That’s not a color that belongs here!” you might stammer in your brain. You approach, apprehensive, only to find that it is an sad orange peel, left haphazardly on the side of the trail, jerking you out of your serene moment and into a new reality: the reality that humans can be careless, they often lack respect for nature, and think that everything will sort itself out if they just walk away.
Now that might sound harsh, but don’t worry. You’re not one of those humans. Because you know better. You know that you should always pack your trash out instead of throwing it into nature. That’s why you always bring a little plastic bag, or put snack remnants in your zipper pockets. Providing animals with people-food or food not native to their ecosystem alters their diet, makes them less able to hunt for their needs, and eventually is the reason “trash pandas”, or bears, end up in our receptacles at home or outside your tent at night.
Also, dense food scraps like orange peels do not actually decompose easily or quickly. The peel will be sitting on the side of the trail for at least 6 months or possibly indefinitely in dry climates like central Oregon, jarring people out of their peaceful, natural experience and into the aforementioned reality. So please, in the name of your own dignity, the trail’s aesthetics and all other hiker’s experiences, kindly remind your friend this when they go to drop the peel on the ground, exclaiming “But it’s compostable!! It’s just food!!!”
Beyond being bad for the flora and fauna, dropping your fruit trash on the ground shows blatant disrespect for mother Earth. It is essentially a big neon sign touting how humans are more important than the trail, and that ignorance is bliss. Walking away from the trash does not mean that the earth quickly swallows it up, turning it into a beautiful butterfly in the blink of an eye. What littering is actually saying is that the half-second act of putting the peel into your backpack and half-second of throwing it away when you get home is more inconvenient than dropping it on the ground and making the earth work tirelessly to decompose it for 6+ months while every other hiker has to see the process. It outsources responsibility to everything and everyone but yourself, and cheapens the powers of nature. Remember that the earth supports every single thing you do in life from providing food to letting the lights turn on. But I don’t need to tell you that — you’re one of the good ones.
So next time you see a sad and lonely orange peel on the side of the trail, pick it up. As a sign of respect for all hikers and earth alike and as an act of pride for yourself. Because you know better. And if you ever see someone in the midst of dropping the godforsaken peel onto the trail you can ask: “Hey cutie, why you actin’ like trash?”
Bronwyn xx 💛