{Green Living} Keep our National Parks Beautiful – Take Out the Trash

Sandy Hook is a miles-long, ocean-front, National Park in New Jersey that promotes a “carry-in, carry-out”  policy, in an attempt to keep its beaches and parkland clean. It’s a simple enough concept – whatever you bring in to the park, you take out of the park. If you generate trash, take it back out with you and dispose of it properly. This includes everything from picnic leftovers to broken flip-flops and spent sunscreen containers.

Such a policy should encourage visitors to generate as little refuse as possible. Yet every weekend, when my husband and I walk the inlet, we come across an unreasonable amount of litter, either on the beach or bike path, or stuffed into the special receptacles meant only for tangled fishing line  – these receptacles are provided for the safety of the sea birds and other animals that fishing line can potentially harm, and, when choked with other trash, becomes an obvious problem. A few weeks ago we actually watched someone pack their picnic trash into a plastic bag and leave it leaning against a tree before driving off!

Other than the few bins near the food vendors, Sandy Hook is shy of trash cans, and for good reason. Why does Sandy Hook, in common with most U.S. national parks, have a “carry-in, carry-out” policy? The process of removing every single item of trash that enters our parks is extremely costly. In these tough economic times, such a policy is a reasonable way to help reduce operating costs and encourage us to be stewards of our own open spaces.

True, no one really wants to carry the detritus of their perfect holiday outing in the back of their car during the drive home. The best solution to that problem is to aim to reduce the amount of trash you generate.  What are some ways we can do that?

  • Pack your cooler with fresh (not packaged) snacks in reusable containers.
  • Bring a thermal container of iced tea or lemonade rather than disposable cans of soda.
  • Bring simple cloth napkins and camping utensils – no disposables.
  • Finally, designate a zippered and washable duffle or tote bag just for carrying your inevitable trash (however scant) back to its proper disposal place.

Please take out the trash. It’s a simple request and one we all can easily honor to help to keep our open spaces clean.


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