In in our previous blog with Trash Free Trails we talked about the environmental impact of single-use pollution, but what about the impact it has on our own wellbeing?
Forests are where we go for escape, adventure and connection. They care for our mental health as well as our physical health. As part of our ongoing partnership with Trash Free Trails we headed to the Forest of Dean to explore how finding litter in the forest, and helping to clear it up, makes us feel.
In our latest video Clare, one of our Active Forest Rangers, and Sam, a member of Trash Free Trails’ A-TEAM, talk about how helping to take care of the forest they ride in has a positive impact on their wellbeing.
How does litter in the forest impact visitors?
Clare: I think that when visitors come across single-use pollution in our forests they may feel that some people don’t care. You don’t expect to come across litter of any type in places like this and that’s not what I want as someone’s first impression of coming to one of our forests.
Sam: I think it leaves a negative feeling. People think ‘that was a dirty place, it’s not being cared for’ and that’s not necessarily the case. The message people get as they come across single-use pollution is one of two things: they’re either really upset to have seen it on the trails and they don’t believe it should be there, or others see that it’s on the floor and think ‘why don’t I just drop it as well’.
How do you think trail cleaning can help connect people to nature?
Sam: Taking time out to pick up what you find gives you a chance to slow down a bit and look at things from a different perspective. In fact, you spot more than you realise was there in the first place. There’s something calm about being surrounded by trees and getting a chance to stop and look up. Forest environments are magical.
Clare: Today it’s lovely and quiet, you can hear the birds chirping from time to time. If you’re not used to that or don’t get much exposure to nature it gives you a different approach and absorbs you in a different way.
What are the benefits of being part of community trail cleans?
Sam: The community element of being involved in Trash Free Trails is wonderful. Trail cleaning gives people the chance to access the outdoors and connects you to people you probably wouldn’t have spoken to or had the chance to. You connect on common ground however you enjoy the forest – you’re there to improve what’s around you and it’s a nice way to make new friends.
Clare: It can do so much to unite different people and bring communities together. It doesn’t matter what your background is, where you live, or how often you visit, you’re all there for that one purpose and can all see the benefit of that. You learn lots about each other and find other ways to enjoy time together - it sparks new relationships.
What would you say to someone thinking of getting involved?
Sam: Get in contact with local trail centre, local cycling group or A-Teamer. There’s usually someone that’s up for trail cleans or organises them.
Clare: I think the simplicity of activities with Trash Free Trails means everyone can get involved, whether with the whole family or friends. It’s a really simple notion of picking up litter, recycling and knowing you’ve done something to help out. And trail cleans are fun! You get to see some really random stuff, everyone has a laugh, and they’re really encouraging, welcoming groups to be part of.
Why is it important to have a positive impact?
Clare: The wellbeing implications of being in the forest, out in nature are really well researched and documented. We need to make sure people are happy and comfortable in these places. Remember how good it feels to help and give back to the environment.
Sam: I want others to enjoy the forest the way I enjoy it – as a clean space for everyone. I feel genuinely happy when I’ve taken trash away from trails and for contributing to the positivity of the environment.