The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 149: Waste Training

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

You put it down the drain, bag it up, or in the basket. It seems pretty easy to get rid of your junk in the city. But keeping your waste out of your favorite wild place takes a bit more skill. This week on The WildeBeat; Waste Training

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one forty nine.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: The third principle of Leave No Trace is Dispose of Waste Properly. Most of us have a pretty good idea of what that means. Everyone I talk to gets that they shouldn't throw trash along the trail or in the water. And they've usually heard the phrase, "pack it in, pack it out." This is the third in our series of programs featuring J.D. Tanner and Emily Ressler. J.D and Emily are the senior traveling trainers for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Here is J.D. and Emily's typical public presentation on this principle of Leave No Trace.

J.D. TANNER: Hey everyone, thanks for coming out. Uh, today, we would like to talk to you a little bit about the third principal of Leave No Trace. And the third principle of Leave No Trace is disposing of your waste properly.

EMILY RESSLER: One ...of the main things you can do is before you even leave home, is compress a lot of the litter that you're taking out there -- potential litter -- items that you're taking out there by repackaging your food, peeling off fruit labels, and then bringing a trash bag with you. I know that sounds like common sense, but when we stick those pieces of litter in our pockets it's really easy for it to fall out on the ground and we never even know that we've, we've caused that.

EMILY RESSLER: And then another thing we like to talk about is what we call micro litter. And micro litter is any of the little things ...that you're dropping and you're not really seeing, so when you're ...sitting down and taking a break, and eating your granola bar, it's all those little crumbs that are falling out on the ground. And those may not seem like they're that big of an impact, and it might seem kind of nit picky to even mention picking that stuff up, but if you think about birds in the area, or small mammals, they're really going to be attracted to those popular areas because they are finding that micro litter that they can come along and have a meal and become pests, cause issues between humans and those animals.

J.D. TANNER: One of the most common phrases you hear with dispose-of-waste-properly, is "pack it in, pack it out." So what do you guys think about the possibilities of packing out your human waste?

J.D. TANNER: It's sounds kind of gross, but it's possible. There's all kinds of fancy little things these days. Uh, the WAG BAG, the Restop, are great little, I guess they're called "toilets in a bag." And [opening package] whenever you open up a WAG BAG and you pull it out or a Restop, either one, you open 'em up and inside you'll find two plastic bags, and you'll find some hand sanitizer, and just enough toilet paper to make you angry. And whenever you open up the bigger plastic bag, you look inside, and there's a little bit of powder in the bottom. And we call it "poo powder," and what happens is, when your feces and some of your urine come in contact with it, it starts to gel... And whenever it starts to gel, it helps to start the decomposition a little bit faster on that feces. And it supposedly knocks down the smell a little bit.

J.D. TANNER: But, whenever you're finished doing your business in the bag, you take it [bag rustling sounds] and you put it back into the other bag, ...And then, ...however you've decided to pack out the rest of that, whether it's through a poop tube, which is this large piece of PVC. You can screw the top off it, and take your WAG BAG and shove it down in there... Climbers have a little bag, that's uh, just looks like a little dry sack, is what it looks like.

J.D. TANNER: So packing out your feces, or your human waste, you know, is kind of at the top off the spectrum. Um, not everybody is comfortable doing it, so, you know, Leave No Trace isn't the law... If you're not comfortable doing that, we would suggest that you go down to the next level, which would be to dig a cat hole. And uh, in most of the United States a cat-hole depth is about six to eight inches. Six to eight inches is the level in the soil where all the organisms live that are going to help decompose your feces faster.

J.D. TANNER: The all-too famous orange plastic trowel that you can buy just about anywhere usually has a little measuring of about six inches long, so it helps you measure out your cat hole... Dig your cat hole about two hundred feet away from your camp, two hundred feet away from your trail, two hundred feet away from water.

J.D. TANNER: As far as urine goes, ...most parts of the United States, it's OK to just find an area away from your camp, away from your kitchen, away from water, and urinate right onto a rock. ...Sometimes animals are attracted to the salts in our urine. So urinating on a plant isn't the best idea because animals might come up and destroy that plant.

J.D. TANNER: Toilet paper is the other thing to consider whenever we're out going to the bathroom and causing those impacts. You can, number one, at the top of the spectrum again is to pack your toilet paper out. To do that, you can take a little plastic bag and put some duct tape around it, and put your T.P. in there, and it kind of eliminates the, you know, the gross look of your toilet paper... Just below the packing it out, you could opt to bury your toilet paper in your cat hole... Try to use some type of biodegradable, organic, unscented toilet paper is always the best way to go on that. Leave No Trace does not recommend burning toilet paper. A lot of forest fires have been started from, from it and other, other issues. So we no longer recommend the burning of toilet paper.

EMILY RESSLER: Another topic... is how are we going to take care of our waste water once we've washed our dishes after dinnertime?

EMILY RESSLER: One thing that you can do is, make sure that you're trying to eat as much of the food that you've brought along with you, and that kind of falls into that plan-ahead-and-prepare stage, you don't have to worry about packing all that out.

EMILY RESSLER: When it comes time to actually doing your dishes... We recommend using really hot water. If you use plenty of hot water you're not going to have to use as much soap. ...just like going to the bathroom, you're gonna want to go two hundred feet from the water source, you're trail, or your campsite to wash your dishes, and we recommend just using a couple drops of a biodegradable camp soaps... So once you've ...washed all your dishes, another thing that you can do is strain, um, [pot rattles] strain that gray water so you're getting any of the food particles that are left over in it.

EMILY RESSLER: So we recommend just getting, a normal kitchen strainer. After you've done your dishes, and then pouring the water through that strainer into another container. [Water pouring.] So now I've caught all of the food particles in this strainer from my dishes, and I'm just gonna put that in my trash bag and pack out those last few particles with me. And then I'm going to disperse the rest of my gray water, And what I mean by disperse is, basically I'm going to sling it far and wide. So, I'm going to try not to get this on any vegetation because the water might still be kind of hot and I'm just going to toss it as hard as I can [water being flung.]

J.D. TANNER: So obviously, when we're going outdoors, you know, we still want to kind of take care of ourselves, keep ourselves clean... Try to use small amounts of, toothpaste, [sound of cap coming off tube] and then whenever you do your brushing, you know, get a good brush in, [sound of brushing teeth]. And then whenever you're ready to get rid of all the excess toothpaste -- it's not a good thing to swallow your toothpaste -- so, again here, we will recommend, the dispersal or the broadcasting method, where you actually take the, your, toothpaste that's in your mouth, and get a little water in there [swishing and spitting sounds] and actually just kind of spray it. So obviously, the less toothpaste in your mouth, the better. If you decided that you're going to be out for a few days and you want to take that bath, we recommend that you take your pots and pans, get your water, get about two hundred feet away from your water source, and, uh, use that water that you've taken, and some camp soap, use small amounts of camp soap, and do all your bathing and then your rinsing two hundred feet from water.

J.D. TANNER: You keep hearing us say two hundred feet from water, and two hundred feet basically, ...a safety zone... All the ground, and throughout the United States, is going to filter a little bit differently, so depending on what you've got, whether it's your, the dirt from your own body, or your food particles or whatever, if you give it that two hundred foot buffer zone, the chances that whatever it is, that spill might be, is going to filter before it gets to your water source, why we recommend two hundred feet. So after you're finished with your bath, you can again broadcast your leftover water that you might have into the woods.

EMILY RESSLER: We'd just like to thank everybody for coming out, ...and realizing that it's not difficult to minimize your waste when you're in wild places. It just takes a little thought before you actually go there to make that easier for folks to do. Thanks.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your ideas for keeping our wild places cleaner, and we always want to hear any other comments you have about our show. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find links to more information about Leave No Trace, to J.D. and Emily's blog, and download a high-quality stereo version of this show, on our web site.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you please help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham and Kate Taylor, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Insitute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one forty nine. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- ancient firemaking.

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