Respect the outdoors and pick up your trash


Kyle Wilkinson, Columnist

I hate seeing garbage outside when I’m enjoying nature. Whether I’m fishing on the Yakima River or hiking up Manastash Ridge, I can’t help but notice how much garbage we produce and leave outside. I’ve found candy wrappers, hand warmers, pool noodles, shoes, beer cans, life jackets, remnants of helium balloons, tobacco cans and the list goes on. Even if we aren’t the ones creating and leaving all of this trash, we aren’t helping anything by leaving it there.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, over 4.6 million pounds of litter was picked up across the state in 2018. That’s a lot of garbage! This trash ends up in our rivers, lakes, oceans and is unsightly in our wild areas.

I love the Yakima River. I see others using the river for fishing, rafting, floating and swimming. We all like to use the resource so much, it tends to get “loved to death.” We can’t help but pollute the resources as a by-product of our time spent outdoors. Sure, someone might not intentionally drop their candy wrapper on the trail, or lose a soda can in the river, but that’s still leaving behind trash.

What can you do?

Pick it up! I make it a priority to grab trash whenever I see it. I fill my pockets up on the trail and I stuff litter into the nooks and crannies of my backpack. I even have a five-gallon bucket in my boat that I put trash in. Every time I get out of the boat or see trash floating in the water, I pick it up. The last time I was on the river I filled that bucket. I know I can’t get all of the trash out there by myself, but I know that by picking up even just one piece of garbage, I’m doing my part to preserve and protect the outdoors that I love so much.

This type of attitude rubs off on others. There have been times when I start picking up garbage along the river and have others join me without any invitation. Because they saw me picking up trash, they decided to join in and help take care of the resource.

One way to help is by joining cleanup days and actively participating with organizations and groups that pick up garbage. CWU has held a Yakima River cleanup during Earth Month every year for the past 46 years. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, April 20. Pre-registration is required through the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement and students take off from the SURC East Patio at 9 a.m. This is a great opportunity for students to get outside. Other organizations like Trout Unlimited also hold river cleanups that focus on picking up garbage in and around the river to reduce its impact on fish and fishermen.

So the next time you’re hiking up Umtanum Ridge, walking your dog at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park or floating down the Yakima River, pick up that water bottle or that empty bag of chips and take it out with you. Every little piece counts and although one person might not be able to make much of an impact, a community of like-minded individuals can make a huge difference.