Registered: December 2016
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People often think that environmental stewardship needs to be some grand gesture that makes a worldwide impact. It is true that worldwide gestures do apply to stewardship, but those gestures take a lot of time, effort, and occasionally money. Encouraging environmental stewardship can be so much more effective by doing small things around the local community because while the gesture is small, it makes an impact. I have always cared about the environment ever since I was a little kid because my parents encouraged me to value the spectacular scenes that took place in nature. As I grew up, I nourished the care that I had for the environment and turned it into a passion and I discovered several years ago that I want to study the environment and encourage environmental stewardship. I chose to do this project because I always do my part to take care of the environment and I thought that completing such a project could encourage my peers to help me in my efforts and thus spread the impact.
I decided to go to Apache Junction and hike the trails on Silly Mountain, a popular hiking destination for families. I went with my friend Miriam, her family friend Sherri, and Sherri's daughter and her daughter's friend (5 of us total). We spent half the day at the mountain, going throughout all the trails and scoping the landscape. When I left my house for this excursion, I did not think that this would become my project; but while we were hiking, I noticed a wrapper hiding in a bush and a Pepsi bottle lying on the ground. Without a second thought, I picked them up and put them in my bag. (I became deemed Trash Girl.) We continued hiking and I kept picking up the trash I found on the side of the trails. To me, it was natural to pick up trash because I do it all the time whenever I go out. But throughout the hike, the two younger girls noticed my actions and started mimicking me, calling out trash they found and making sure they did not leave any behind. At the end of the hike, we had accumulated a pile of trash that we doled out to the trash and recycle bins. In addition to picking up trash throughout the hike, we would move loose rocks that littered the trail to the side in order to keep the trail clean and to discourage people from leaving the trail. People trampling off of the trails is a major cause of destruction to the desert, so by redefining the trails, we were making it easier for people to stay on the trail. It is important to take care of hiking trails especially in desert environments because of how fragile desert ecosystems are. People love to hike and will take to hiking as a way to experience the world, yet they do not realize that every step they take, they can be scaring timid animals, crushing a small den, or even killing small organisms. Refining the trails prevents people from wondering into the wild habitats and disrupting the environment. Cleaning up trash that has fallen aids animals health because wild animals will eat whatever they can; animals easily mistake trash and a new food source and can either become dependent on food scraps or be poisoned by food and litter. Not to mention that micro-plastics enter the animals bodies and can potentially kill them.
Hiking up trails and just picking up trash may seem like an extremely simple project idea and something that everyone does. But it gave invaluable excitement to actually take care of the environment. Those little girls that were with me now think that it is cool to go out and be in nature and also take care of it by cleaning it up. The best part about hiking and cleaning up trails, is that it costs little to no money and is something that everyone can do with it or without friends. Cleaning up trash and fixing trails is beneficial to the environment because it eliminates litter that wildlife can mistake as possible food sources, acts as an incentive for people to stay on trials because it is safer, and makes the trails look prettier which promotes people actually leaving their houses to go outside and experience nature. This project has inspired me to go to my school and establish a small group of high school students that can aid me in my efforts to clean the environment. Cleaning up any trash that I find has always come naturally to me and I never stop to think twice about it; I hope to inspire others to feel the same way. The very simple act of picking up trash has a plethora of benefits that help the environment beyond compare, and it is something that be done in spur of the moment.