As individuals our values are a fundamental part of us: in essence, they define us. They represent what matters to us, how we behave, what we hold close. Our values influence every aspect of our life from friendships to how we vote. They are our moral compass when faced with difficult decisions. While the world revolves around us, they are what we measure ourselves by.
I’m willing to bet that you feel like you know your own values. When was the last time you said them out loud though? It’s not something that we need to do very often. In many ways, we shouldn’t need to. They are one of those things we just know.
For all the reasons that values are important to you or I as individuals, they are important to organisations. They are the same guiding principles and they actively influence how an organisation behaves, from big ‘strategic’ decisions to the day-to-day stuff. Organisations like ours face the same challenges that we all do at a personal level. At Trash Free Trails we need to decide how to spend our modest budget to make the biggest impact; think about how we communicate with you, our amazing TRASHMOB community; decide which companies to partner with; work out how best to reconnect people with the outdoors.
We make those decisions by talking, engaging with our A-TEAMers and community, and gathering data and information. We also make those decisions based on what feels right: our organisational values.
Just as at a personal level, we don’t need to say our values out loud every day. We just know. If we never say them out loud though, how will we hold ourselves accountable to them? How will you, or anyone else know that we are upholding the values that are important to us?
Today, we have published our values. You can find them here. These are our core values. Just because it isn’t written down doesn’t mean it isn’t important to us, but the eight statements below have been carefully thought about, talked about and acted on for the four years that Trash Free Trails has been in existence. They have our mission (to reduce plastic waste on our trails by 75% by 2025 and reconnect people with nature through purposeful adventure) at heart. They aren’t the nuts and bolts of how we will achieve the mission, but they are the foundations that we work on.
To borrow an analogy, they are a compass rather than a map or GPS tracking device. We will use them to keep us heading in the right direction.
At their heart (and our hearts: this bit is really important to us), they are a product of collaboration between TFT HQ, The A-TEAM and The TRASHMOB. Each and every rider, runner and roamer amongst us should identify with them, and feel comfortable and confident enough to share with their trail communities.
So, here they are. Our values, and a little bit more about them:
Are riders, runners and roamers. Everyone is welcome.
Well, of course, we hear you say. Well, here’s the thing. The outdoors in the UK isn’t always an inclusive place. Society in general isn’t always an inclusive place. Trash Free Trails is and always will be. This is important to us, not just because it's the right thing, but because if we don’t represent EVERYONE, how will we ever reach those people who are disconnected from the outdoors?
Respect our volunteers above all else. The fact that they have chosen to donate their time and talent to our cause is a huge honour and responsibility.
We know that your free time is possibly the most valuable thing you can give. We will never forget that, nor take it for granted.
Are nature connectors and spark makers.
Why do we care about trash? Because we care about nature. We care about nature because we feel connected to it. It is in our wild and natural places that we have fun, find adventure and reconnect with ourselves. It is the most natural thing in the world to want to take care of it. Not everyone has that sense of connection though. We see this as our biggest opportunity to make a difference: not just reducing trash, but creating that spark for more people.
Are always positive and solution focused; we will NEVER use blame, shame, guilt or aggression as a tactic.
Trash is an emotive subject. We are passionate about what we do. It’s natural to feel anger towards those who spoil our wild places. We want to change behaviours, though. Labelling people as litter louts or demonising them does not change behaviour, even if it makes us feel a bit better for a little while. We would rather focus our efforts on positive action: at an individual and community level.
Believe that no single thing is ‘responsible’ for the litter issue. It is a symptom of hugely complex, interconnected systems.
So what IS the answer then? There is no one answer. The reason person A thinks it’s okay to leave a dog poo bag at the side of the path is different to the reason person B lobs a Lucozade bottle into the hedge. We need to tackle every aspect of the litter issue from education to working with the corporations who make the fizzy drinks who’s bottles end up on the trail. And, of course, doing our individual bit to remove trash from our own trails.
Celebrate every single volunteer act, however ‘big’ or ‘small’ it makes an incredible difference.
Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. Millions of small acts make a bigger difference than a few ‘big bang’ activities. Every time we remove an item of rubbish from the trail we make a difference.
Commit to leaving a positive trace each time we visit our trails and wild places
We’ve all heard of the saying ‘leave no trace’. For us it’s not enough to simply not litter. We want to make a positive impact by removing the results of the actions of others, spreading the word. We want people to know where we've been
Encourage and empower people to DIO (DO IT OURSELVES!)
As an organisation, we are about action. We will not achieve our mission simply by talking. We and everyone who joins our cause will be the ones who make a difference. We can encourage, coach, empower and inspire others. Ultimately, only we can Do It Ourselves.
Together, we are Trash Free Trails.