Posted on 06/08/2020

Author: Leo Rust, mountain guide, tall man and outdoor enthusiast.

Why I encourage you to pick up rubbish on your next run:

  • Well why not? I hear people moan and post pics online in disgust at humanity: OK knock yourself out. I don’t think this approach helps much though. Why not make a game out of it? It takes a little practice but now I routinely stop to pick up the smallest piece of plastic.
  • “Nobody is coming, it’s up to us” @thirtysecondsout. Take responsibility. Nobody is coming to clean up behind me*, I need to take full responsibility. For me and for others.
  • Do the best you can. I draw the line at tissues (or toilet paper for that matter). Pretty much anything else I will pick up. It is certainly not impossible to include the above, it just takes a bit more planning like carrying rubber gloves and a zip lock bag.
  • Make it a game. I had a German guiding client of mine remark how clean our trails were. Immediately another client in the group remarked it was only so because I had picked up all the pieces of rubbish ahead of my group. Without saying anything I noticed that the next day other members of the group started to clean up during walks. And so the message spreads!
  •  I am not trying to brag but I consider it as booty to find pieces of trash on the trail. Mostly I have a running pack or belt with me with an extra pocket into which to stuff the cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and cooldrink bottles. My wife does scold me for stompies though, only because they stink (especially as I tend to forget them in a pack pocket for a few days 😉). 
  • I don’t particularly like glass shards or rusty tins only for the risk of hurting myself if I were to fall. I tend to carry these in my hand.
  • I know I have an impact on the environment. I leave footprints. By accident I break some plants or erode a path. I have been known to break a Disa bush too (seriously unintentionally). All our actions impact on the trails we like. This is one small way of levelling the score and having a positive impact. Maybe even paying something forward.

Why do I do it?

I go outdoors to be in beauty, to connect with nature. I appreciate a trail which is clean and feels untouched. I would like to offer other users that experience. That is one of the reasons why I guide clients on walks and runs. 


Forgive my direct tone above. Right now it seems like there are so many new users to the outdoors. We have a responsibility to ensure that the trails are there for all to enjoy for the future. My fear is that many won’t read past the first few bullet points. Hopefully they get one takeaway at least!

My point is that every little bit helps and this is a good start.

We can get more nuanced and specific but right now we don’t have the time. 

For further reading have a look at:

 Leave No Trace™ is a great initiative in that it gives 7 principles for outdoor use.

Love our Trails is local and does great work with trail clean-ups and awareness.

I believe we need action. And every little bit of action helps. Go and have fun and enjoy cleaner trails!

*We can argue the fact that “they” should clean up the trails, whoever “they” are. The reality in South Africa is that “they” often don’t exist. 

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