If you’re an avid hiker or outdoorsperson, you know how important it can be to bring a snack with you on a longer outdoor adventure. A banana, apple, or some other type of snack can make all the difference in how you feel and how far you can go. But when you’re done with your apple, you can just throw the core into nature, right?
While your banana peel or apple core will decompose when exposed to nature, it is not necessarily safe for the environment for you to do so. Glacier National Park recently took to Facebook to bust some myths about leaving your organic waste behind. There are some things they want you to take into consideration.
Food waste might not degrade quickly
If you’ve ever had a compost heap, you know that when you throw something in the compost, it takes some time to biodegrade and turn into rich, dark soil. Compost heaps are often the most ideal possible places for this organic matter to break down. The ground near your favorite local hiking trail is not.
Natural food items may simply not degrade that quickly, especially if wildlife opts not to eat it. Some of these food items can actually take years to break down!
Leaving food waste could harm wildlife
If you leave an apple core near your favorite outdoor adventure spot, a deer may come along and decide to finish eating it for you. The deer may be happy with the find, but feeding wildlife increases habituation.
Wildlife habituation occurs when an animal becomes accustomed to finding food sources in a particular place. If an animal becomes habituated to finding apple cores along roadsides, for example, it increases the likelihood that it will be hurt or killed by passing traffic.
Similarly, if an animal becomes habituated to finding food near a camp site, it could imperil the lives of future campers and wildlife alike.
What if everyone did this?
If you’re lucky, your favorite hiking trail will be completely free of any kind of trash or waste left behind by other hikers. It is for that reason that tossing a banana peel into the woods may seem like an innocent thing to do.
But ask yourself this question: what if everyone did this? In a year, hundreds, maybe thousands of people will hike the same trail you’re on. What if each of them discarded a banana peel? Those peels would really start to pile up after a while, right?
A hiking trail with a thousand banana peels in various stages of decay may not be very pleasant!
Pack it in, pack it out
Ultimately, the best practice when experiencing nature is to pack out everything that you pack in, even biodegradable food waste. Humans have systems in place for dealing with the quantity of organic food waste we produce. Nature, on the other hand, may have a harder time dealing with our waste.