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A Guide to Conscious Trekking

Learn How to be a Responsible Trekker

Since 2019, I have grown a huge interest in trekking. If you too are a fellow trekking enthusiast, high-five! But if you are not into treks, I strongly recommend you give it a try.

Taramati-Harishchandragad-sahyadri-maharashtra-trekking

To trek is to explore nature in a much more lively manner. And the best season to do that is monsoon. Be it in the Sahyadris, or the Himalayas, the luscious green meadows, the generous meet and greets with waterfalls, the sweet smell of mud wafting around after a slight drizzle of rain, and the beautiful scenery observed from the top of mountains, fill the chest of pleasures with tranquility. To be honest, any season is a trekking season!

However, many a time, this pleasureful rendezvous with nature doesn’t feel special when you happen to come across..

With trekking gaining popularity, an increasing number of people are trailing within the natural hot spots. And there is absolutely nothing wrong in it, as long as one chooses not to leave behind traces. Don’t you agree?

So, how can one be careful? How can you and I be conscious in regards to not leaving behind such footprints when on a trek?  

The solutions are simple. One has to responsibly manage his waste by following the principle of ‘ Leave No Trace.’

And today, to help you inspire and be conscious, I want to highlight the green efforts of one of India’s top trekking communities – Indiahikes.

In June 2019, I had an opportunity to go for a Himalayan trek with this team. It was then when I was first introduced to their concept, “Green Trails.”

What is Green Trails?

Green trails an initiative put forth by Indiahikes to clean and maintain the beauty of the Himalayas. Their objective is to reform the world of trekking in an eco-friendly and sustainable way to reduce the environmental impact.

How do they do it?

1. Eco-Bags

Before beginning with the trek, the trekkers are handed with an eco-bag (the one tied to my waist).

The purpose of this bag is to collect litter encountered along the trail. And it is strictly for the trash found in the mountains.

With the “take your trash back” policy, Indiahikes makes it clear that every trekker has to take their waste back with them, a rule we all should anyway follow.

Around 6000 Kg of waste is collected every year from the Himalayas, which is a lot!

2. Segregation

At each successive campsite, all the collected litter in the eco-bags get segregated into wastes that can go for recycling/upcycling, composting, and non-recycling waste.

The goal to minimize the amount of waste going into the landfill forms the cornerstone of the Green Trails. 

3. Dry Toilets

Did you know that human poop takes around one year to decompose?

Also, did you know that an average human produces around 500 g of poop every day? That means in 7 days, one trekker produces around 3.5 kilos of poop. A batch of 18 trekkers, in 7 days, produces 63 kilos of poop.

These numbers matter, especially when a group goes for a week-long trek. Pooping in the wilderness has its drawbacks as it can pollute the groundwater that flows into nearby rivers, or can even pass harmful bacteria from humans to the animals. Therefore, poop decomposition is crucial.

Luckily, Indiahikes has managed to find a way to reduce this impact by building Dry Toilets at each campsite. These are toilet tents with a deep pit, and two sacks – one with sawdust/cocopeat (powdered coconut husk) and the other with mud.

All you have to do is, and I’m saying this from experience,

  1. Squat over the pit,
  2. do your business, use the toilet paper, and throw it in the pit;
  3. Finally, cover everything with cocopeat and mud.

Why cocopeat?

Because it soaks up the moisture content and fastens the decomposition process, this makes the poop degrade within 6-8 months.

As water slows down the degradation, these dry toilets prove to be useful.

Now I know that for a regular one-day trek, you might not make the effort to carry along cocopeat. However, what you can do is find a spot at least 200 meters away from the campsite or the water stream, dig up a pit, excrete and cover it up. This way, you can ensure less impact on the groundwater and also maintain the overall hygiene of the surrounding. 

4. Workshops and Awareness Programs

Villages in the remotest of places, do not have municipal corporations to take care of the waste therein; this triggers the local people to dig up a giant pit, fill it with their garbage, and burn the entire thing. As a result, this process does nothing but simply piles up pollution levels.

With Green trails, Indiahikes organizes workshops to address the issue and help create awareness among the villagers, promoting the idea of segregation.

The team educates and encourages them to engineer upcycled products like eco-bricks. Eco-bricks comprise filling a plastic or glass bottle with non-biodegradable waste materials. These bricks prove to be of excellent use in the construction of local infrastructures.

Another such example is the creation of eco-pillows sold to the trekkers as souvenirs. Local women are encouraged to participate in crafting these upcycled products, and the revenue made is distributed among them.

Conclusion

  • Such grassroots projects functioning deliberately for the greater good of our society, call for the acknowledgment and support from recognized organizations that can help to achieve the goal with greater efficiency.
  • Indiahikes is doing their bit to keep their trail as clean as humanly possible. Awareness towards them can itself help change the perspective of us citizens to do our bit to maintain not just the wilderness but the daily surroundings as well.
  • We should not feel the need for such initiatives to go for a cleanliness drive, even picking up a piece of trash encountered on our way and discarding it into a dustbin can make a difference. Or from now on, let us carry an eco-bag of our own!

Comment down below and let me know what you think.