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We prefer to DIO - Spring Trail Cleans 2021

Photo: Rupert Barry

The Spring Trail Cleans are a big deal for Trash Free Trails. Ahead of launching our 2021 Spring Trail Cleans, we thought we’d explain why it matters so much. When single-use trail pollution is a year-round issue, why do we have big events like the Spring Trail Cleans and Autumn Litter Watch? Well, first up, spring is a great time of year to get people outside and taking care of their outdoor spaces. Even the hardiest amongst us tend to hibernate a little during the winter… and let's face it, it’s nice not to have to worry about hypothermia while picking up drinks bottles and chocolate bar wrappers. Nature is just beginning to wake up too. That means that brambles and foliage are nice and low still, making it easier to spot some of the rubbish that will be out of reach in a few weeks… but still there the year after (and for many years in the future) if it isn’t removed.

Building our community

That’s all the practical background on why the Spring Trail Clean will always be a key date in our calendar. What that practical stuff doesn’t explain is why the Spring Trail Clean is so important to us. (Spoiler alert: it’s got nothing to do with the weather). Let us indulge in a short story. Back in the early days of TFT, Dom and a small number of like minded, passionate people (many of whom are now the A-Team) were working hard in their local patches, organising trail cleans and making a small but important positive impact on the wild places they cared about. They knew they wanted the movement to grow. They wanted to connect with more trail users and spread the word. A tour of mountain bike trail centres seemed like the perfect way to do this. It made TFT visible to more people than ever before, removed a huge amount of plastic waste from some of the most ridden trails in the country and allowed the A-Team to connect with each other. It was one of the first times that Trash Free Trails truly felt like a nationwide community.

We don’t have to be together to work together

Now, last year was obviously a little different. There could be no meeting up, no travel: no Spring Trail Cleans? In fact the opposite was true. We realised that it was actually the perfect time for the TFT community to grow. More people than ever were visiting their local trails and green spaces. Many of us suddenly found ourselves with spare time. The Spring Trail Clean allowed hundreds of people, our TrashMOB, to connect virtually and work together to take care of the wild places they cared about. It meant that far more people participated than would ever have been possible at organised gatherings. We became global, with trail cleans taking place around the world. Most importantly, we quickly learned that we don’t have to be together to work together and make a fantastic impact.

Hundreds of acts of care left our trails... 300 people, connected over a shared love of their wild places to clear more than 200 locations across the world, from the Highlands to the Himalaya.

Photo: Paul Box

Reconnection and the Do It Ourselves Toolkit

Our mission statement has always been in two parts. Sure, we are committed to reducing 75% of single use pollution from our trails by 2025, but we want to do that by reconnecting people to nature. In 2020, we launched the Selfless Isolation Project at the heart of the Spring Trail Cleans. It encouraged people to go through a process of getting to know their local area before taking action to take care of it.

It will remain an important message long after our day-to-day lives aren’t impacted by Covid, so we have tweaked things very slightly and renamed the process. So, in a few days time; for this Spring Trail Clean and beyond, we are launching the Do It Ourselves toolkit. The name now reflects the core of what we are about: action, together.

Whether you are a dyed in the wool TRASHMOBber or you have recently found out about us and feel inspired to take part, the Do It Ourselves (DIO) toolkit will help you (and us!) get the most out of the valuable time that you are giving us.

The toolkit is made up of the nine Rubbish ‘Rs’ – Recognise, Route, Rally, Remove, Record, Recycle, Report, Reward, Repeat. It explains what’s involved with each step and how you can get involved. Why bother having a toolkit we hear you ask? Well, that’s a good point. One of the great things about clearing trash is that it isn’t hard and doesn’t require any special skills or equipment, just some energy and enthusiasm. And, if that’s all that you ever want to do, thank you!

There are a few wider things that really help us, though. Planning and sharing a Rubbish Route route on Komoot inspires others to take part, as does talking about your action. Recording and reporting the trash you remove lets us quantify the difference we are all making.

As well as helping us, we believe (and have found out for ourselves) that we can all get more out of the experience though. As a result of following the steps, we have felt closer than ever to our local trails, made new friends and even ended up with a greater sense of wellbeing as a result. This is a huge subject in its own right, so we are looking forward to reporting back with stories from this Spring Trail Clean, talking about some of your own experiences of using the DIO toolkit. In the meantime, here’s friend of TFT, Julia Hobson’s experience from last year:

‘And so I've continued, slowly collecting a bag of trash each time I walk, enjoying fresh air and the fact we are lucky to be able to get out once a day still where lots of people can't.

In doing so I've seen deer, heard and spotted dozens of birds, smelt the coconut scent of the gorse on the hillside, come across beautiful old trees and ruins of buildings from times gone by that iId completely missed before, and found some new lines to ride too! I've passed other people, smiled and called a friendly "hi!" and everytime come back feeling happier than when I went out, having escaped reality for a while in the woods. I'm really enjoying these walks, especially now I have a purpose, and the knowledge that I'm doing something positive. It's a small effort, but it makes me feel good in a time where it's easy to feel down’.

(Full story here)

DIO Community

There are few things in life that are certain, but we know one thing for sure. If you post your trail clean on social media and tag #trashmob, our Nepalese A-Teamer, Ram will give you a 💪💪💪💪💪. You’ll get likes and shout outs from other TrashMob members and you might just inspire a friend to get out there too. It feels good to be part of something positive, and our community is one of the most supportive out there. We are immensely proud of the people who make up Trash Free Trails.

Together we Do It Ourselves. Every single item removed from the trails during last year’s Spring Trail Clean was done by us. The same will be true this year. Together we are enacting change for the better.

Thank you in advance for getting out there and Doing it Ourselves again for spring 2021 and beyond. We can’t wait to share your stories.


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