Leave it Better than you Found it

Leave it Better than you Found it

I have an amazing job with the Idaho Potato Commission where I actually get paid to travel the US and do cool stuff. My co worker Ellis and I try to get out and discover as much local stuff as possible. This week in we are in one of my favorite states Tennessee and it did not disappoint. Today we went to Blue Hole Falls in Elizabethton.
ahhh it's everywhere

An absolutely stunning waterfall and plunge pool. The bummer is a closer look and there was beer cans and water bottles scattered on the small banks and wedged between rocks in the stream. I know there is a not a easy way to change litter bug behavior (perhaps we could start by not such a giving throwing your trash on the ground such a cutesy name).

It was so unsettling that I told my Ellis that we needed to hike back to the car and go buy some garbage bags. Luckily we stumbled upon a house nearby and ask for a garbage bag. We filled it completely and then some. One thing we could do more of is people like us who love spending time in the outdoors, would be to bring a bag, even a grocery bag every time we go on a hike and fill it with debris left by others. Now we just need a clever hashtag for it….suggestions?

42 Responses to Leave it Better than you Found it

  1. Jeanne says:

    When I lived in Jacksonville, FL I used to frequent Hanna Park. I was so saddened by the trash on the beach I began bringing big black contractors bags with me and picking up the trash while I was there. The beach patrol saw me hauling the big bags to the trash bins and began stopping by my beach chair on their rounds. I like to think I made a difference.

  2. harrisfr says:

    There are scenes like this almost everywhere I go. It hurts my heart. I pickup what I can and toss it later. I guess they’ve not heard the news that there’s no more AWAY.

  3. Ruth Koson says:

    Each place that I go to explore, my motto is: “Take more with you, than what you came in with.” Imagine how much cleaner our world would be if each and every person shared the same motto! I admire you for going out of your way to make this beautiful place just a little more welcoming! I hope that many people start practicing not only taking their trash, but just one more piece of trash that they see laying on the ground or better yet? Spend your time filling up a trash bag and more like you did as being a part of the journey. Teach your children to pick up garbage young and it will stay with them the rest of their lives.

  4. Justin says:

    My comment doesn’t mitigate the trash, and I apologize for that in advance. Most, if not all the trash you see there is washed in from upstream when the creeks get high in heavy rains. It then collects at points like those rocks along with the natural debris you see, which is more evident in the YouTube video. Sadly, this happens a lot in this part of the country. It can be from hikers littering, or even trash bins along the trails getting washed down during heavy rains. We love our home, we love when folks visit, but sadly more people seems to equal more trash. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I salute you for bringing attention to it.

    • kristiewp says:

      I want to point out that this isn’t just an issue in the south. I have been to nearly every state and while some more commercialized groomed trails have less trash it’s an issue that really is everywhere. When I lived in the country on a tree farm in Boise picking up bottles and cans became an obsession and my recycling bin and car were always overflowing with it.

      You also make a very worthy point – not all litter is intentional and other things we can do to cut down and prevent that should be taken into consideration too.

    • kristiewp says:

      Hey Justin it’s not just Tennessee I have visited every state and it really is an issue everywhere for sure.

  5. kara says:

    Nee and my husband do this everywhere we go and we also reach our kids. I see so many kids even litter in their own homes. I get so upset. I
    My kids know better now. California used to have some beautiful places I went as a child and now when I take my kids it’s even disgusting. You are awesome Kristie and I will step it up after reading this post

  6. Brian says:

    I’d love to hear more about your position and exactly what you do. Hoe does one get started in such a profession? Thanks for everything you do!

    • kristiewp says:

      Hey Brian you know it’s a really odd job that I have. I tour the country for Idaho potatoes and essentially do interviews and events and public appearances as kind of a spokesperson.

      I’ve never really had a career path in mind I always choose to work at places that I can learn from and that intrest me. It’s worked for me well so far :)

  7. Jason says:

    Well done Kristie & Ellis. Handmade signs at the locations, trailheads, carparks and lookouts will help to prompt others. Dickheads will rip the signs down but if enough people are picking up trash and making new signs it will become a movement.
    One man started clean up Australia day, which has become a global movement. http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/About/the-clean-up-story.html
    #naturekarma #taketrashaway

  8. Steven says:

    My small town, does robo trash, the one can per house system, although recycling is growing, I recycled before I was forced too. I have a house full. Mother in Law, Brother in law, 3 daughters, (adults college age) and my sister’s youngest daughters. I also walk my dogs 2 miles a day, and always pick up this weekends party trash, I have a person on my street that has a 5 hour energy habit. Also a bud light drinker, the street is 2 miles long and dead ends, so for sure they live here. I recycle what I find along the road and that is fine, so far no limit on amount, but the trash, oh my gosh the trash people toss on the side of the road, a found a skinned animal (a cat? a rat?) and every kitchen/laundry machine ever made. I gave it up after I broke my ankle but My oldest daughter got her friends together the weekend the doctor gave me permission to walk the dogs. I just don’t understand how people can do it. To all the road warriors out there, your work does get notice.

  9. Susan says:


  10. suzanne1953 says:

    I hate to be negative, but… which waste was worse: the pile of garbage you found at the falls, or the amount of jet fuel, etcetera, you used to get there? Think global … but act local. That’s the old idea that seems to keep getting lost…

  11. Ben says:

    I live in Knoxville, TN and I hike all over the state. I see these things all the time and it is a pleasure to know there are others out there like me that actually pick up the trash that others left behind. It is sad that many times these are the true outdoor people backpackers, hikers, and others that should know better. I think if more people had the opportunity to travel abroad they could see first hand the impact of trash and pollution. A kudos and thanks from myself and fellow citizens of Tennessee.

  12. Deb Seymour says:

    Just posted on my own blog about picking up litter on Kauai where we go every year for our vacation. It drives me nuts to no end how mindless some people are about toshesing garbage out of their car.

    Me: I actually packed back all my personal trash from the vacation that couldn’t be recycled on Kauai and some general garbage that can’t be recycled anywhere. (I keep a trash count at home (my 2015 goal is to fill up only one 2-quart Mason Jar every two months. Lofty, I know, but so far, I am on track!)

    Mahalo for picking up the Big Island stuff…and for your tiny houses, too! My own house is “normal” sized (a 1925 Seattle Bungalow) but I am have been on a 20 year project eco- retrofitting it with solar hot water, rainbarrels, updated insulation and windows, etc. etc. Much progress in that dept!

    Respectuully Yours,

    Deb Seymour http://www.debgoesgreen.com

  13. Carole says:

    There would be less trash if we brought our own bottles on our hikes, take the time, fill one with your favourite juices, water, beer….then you bring the container back and re-use it. The thing is we are always in a hurry and don’t take the time to prepare for our outings because, there’s probably a store close by where we can buy…..take the time!

  14. A&J says:

    Hi my wife and I stumbled onto your tree house video on YouTube. Great job thanks for sharing it. We go to Hawaii every year (we are from Calgary Canada…must get away from snow!!) Hopefully we will write again for tips with intentions on doing something similar.

  15. PayLayAle says:

    Read “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley. It does make a difference.

  16. tom gaffner says:

    so creative, good for you!!!!!! I built trailers for yrs, now that I’m retired been thinking about just building frames for tiny houses, but live in Minnesota, not much activity with those around here,any idea’s??? take care , tom

  17. Carol says:

    You are an amazing person. I am inspired ! Love all your ideas
    You’re living the dream. At least my dream. One thing i did manage to teach my kids when they were young was not to litter. We had a few clean up America walks I called them. Just me and my kids, but i think it stuck with them. I also pick up trash while out walking my dog when i remember to bring an extra bag. I got a bonus one day and picked up a $20 winning scratch off lottery ticket someone tossed. Would love to check out your treeouse in Hawaii some time. Keep up the great work!

  18. Brian says:

    I pick up other people’s litter too. How about #bagitforward as the hashtag?

  19. Richard Snow says:

    Great Idea! Perhaps I’ll use cleaning up as an excuse to get out and see more trails. Kind of makes me wish litter-douchebags were punished by mandating that piles of garbage be stored in their homes and cars for several months.

  20. Ben Dover says:

    A lot of cans in that photo there…

  21. Hi Kristie, just discovered you. Yes, the “litter bug” name needs to have a little more scorn, like “spits on mother’s face” or “earth trasher”…but, yes, always encourage everyone to head outdoors and when they do always take a a couple of grocery bags or a trash bag, better yet, use one of your lined linen grocery bags and just let that be your go to trekker trash bag. I hike a great deal in NC/TN area and it’s always a given to find and pick up trash…wear it like an honor badge knowing the next set of souls to walk by will not have to see it. Love what you’re doing wonderful lady.

  22. Kevin A. says:

    Hi Kristie,What you pack in ,you pack back out.Please check out Hoover Grade school
    Underground school,Santa Ana ,Ca.Yes I did play basketball on the roof top in 4th
    and 5th grade.Kristie,you are Beautiful on the Inside as well as the Out,it shows
    working with your MOM.I think you would like my step Dad’s custom two story
    floating Cabin,San Juan Islands,WA All the Best, God Bless.

  23. Tracy Lawrence says:

    I sailed my boat to one of the islands on Lake Muray in Irmo,SC. The place was trashed . That day I went to store and bought 6mil contractor bags. I invited a friend from work to go sailing the next day. We ended up covering the top of my 25ft boat with 14 large bags of trash. When we got back to yacht cove, where I lived, we were helped by many neighbors unloading and hauling off the trash. I took lots of pictures of the lovely island and scenes as we took kayak along the edge of the island. The video ended like a service announcement with litter being shown at the end. My neighbors thanked us. I learned to pick up trash from my stepdad. He would say,”Pick it up and you own it.”
    Even when my girl was 10, I’d get her friends to walk the road and make a game of picking up trash. Whoever collected the most got a box of sgirl scout cookies. In the end they all did.

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