This activity should take approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help participants learn about trash disposal in the outdoors, participants will be able to
Participants will imagine they are cleaning up a previously used campsite. After scouring the campsite for trash, they will evaluate the effects of trash on animals and the effectiveness of burning trash.
Set the stage for the activity when all of the participants arrive. Ask them to visualize that they have hiked 10 miles into the backcountry and have just arrived at their first night's campsite. Your group will be at this campsite for two nights. Previous campers have left the site full of trash. Send the group on a trash hunt to clean up the site. Give the participants five to 10 minutes to locate as much trash as they can.
Ask the group: What should we do with all this trash? Possible answers may be: Burn it, bury it, and pack it out. Have the participants vote on which option they think would be the best. They should be able to give reasons for their choices.
Ask group members how they found the trash. What senses did they list? (Participants most likely depended on their eyesight.) Ask the group how animals find food. Explain that animals have a much keener sense of smell, and often better eyesight, than humans. This keen sense of smell attracts them to food and garbage left behind in the backcountry. Even food packaging has scent. To simulate this experience, tell the participants they are going to take the "smell test."
Have participants close their eyes. Hold the various food objects, one at a time, under each participant's nose. Have participants identify each food item. Repeat until everyone has had a chance to test each food item.
A close review of the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace is needed to effectively lead a discussion.
Have a discussion with participants about an animal's use of smell to find food. Use the analogy of a dog burying a bone and using odor to find it later. The same occurs when animals find food that was buried near campsites. The odor of food is also what attracts bears to campsites.
Discuss the dangers of attracting wildlife to campsites. Also discuss dangers to wildlife dependent upon human food, including problems with digesting human food and packaging. Remember these animals are wild and a potential danger to human life. Animals that become dependent on human food often raid campsites or populated areas in search of food and often must be destroyed. These are just a few of the reasons it is important to leave a clean campsite.
Have participants divide their trash into burnable and nonburnable items. Ask participants: What happens to these items when you put them into the fire? Does everything turn to ash?
Show examples of items that do not burn to ash (i.e., foil lining, cans, glass). Bring out the partially burned items you collected for your activity and explain that not everything burns. Some items require a very hot fire and take a long time to burn. These remain as litter in the campsite. Burning trash also puts odors into the air and the fire site that can attract animals and flies to the site. Many places have fire restrictions that do not allow open fires. Campers should not burn trash as a disposal option. Plan to pack it out.
Have the participants divide the trash into biodegradable and nonbiodegradable piles. Define "biodegradable" if necessarycapable of being broken down into harmless products by the action of microorganisms. Have the participants explain why they divided the trash the way they did. Have them readjust their stack of trash if necessary.
Ask participants: How long does trash last in the outdoors? Have them guess how long different kinds of trash last in the outdoors. For example, it takes about 200 to 400 years for an aluminum can to biodegrade. A cigarette butt takes two to five years, and a banana peel may take three to five weeks. Refer to the sidebar "How Long Does It Last?" earlier in this handbook.
Proper trash disposal is an important responsibility for everyone and in every place that we live or visit. How well has the group learned to properly dispose of trash?
Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!
Teaching Leave No Trace