Eco-warriors wage trash crusade

Posted May 09, 2012, at 2:57 p.m.

I’ve discovered we have our own band of eco-warriors. These aren’t the PETA-type people who protest elephant rides. These are people who devote part of their everyday bike rides, hikes and walks to picking up trash.

And some go a bit further.

A friend of mine read my Earth Day piece about trash left by hikers and cyclists and mentioned that he picks up trash — and takes his anti-littering message a bit further.

Toss a cigarette butt out your car window in a parking lot? My friend will come up to your window and kindly ask you to get out and pick it up.

Refuse? He will kindly pick up the butt himself — and gently place it under your windshield wiper.

So far, that’s as far as anything’s gone. Now, I’m not saying this type of behavior is the best way to stop people from littering. My buddy’s a weight lifter, and no one in their right mind would mess with him.

But my friend’s not alone.

Readers responded with righteous outrage at the photos I took of trash left by hikers and road cyclists.

Here are some of their tales from the front line:

Steve Rautus, Huntington Beach, Calif.

I started cycling (racing) in the early ’70s in Colorado. Bicyclists were “Mother Earth friendly” and promoted taking care of the environment. But that is not so today. To ride on the trails in Orange County, there are all kinds of trash, including broken bottles and cans. It is a shame that people cannot stick the empty gel packet in their pocket. The jersey will need to be washed anyway. Why not put punctured tubes back where the replacement tube was?

I had an incident in Newport Beach several months ago. A man got into his Porsche and parked in a trendy shopping mall. He immediately started talking to someone over the phone, unwrapped some food packages, opened his door and threw the trash on the parking lot.

I was six feet away and said, “Excuse me but you dropped something out of your car.”

He yelled that he was on the phone and let loose with a profanity-laden tirade. I stood there and he eventually picked up his trash, flipped me off, offered more profanity and left burning rubber.

Sharon Beauman, Brea, Calif.

On a recent trip to Long Island, New York, I was shocked, disappointed and disgusted by the amount of litter I saw along streets. Cups, papers, you name it. It was solid. I have never seen anything like it. It was that way in Queens. Dirty. After being in New York and landing at Ontario Airport, stepping out into the late afternoon air and looking at the mountains — clean everywhere I drove — I once again fell in love with California.

I am very thankful that California has had a litter removal and preventative education campaign for the past 30-40 years because it really has made a difference. Here, different groups gather together to clean streams and drainage ditches on a regular basis. If it weren’t for these people, we wouldn’t have a clean, pristine place to call home. We must keep diligent so that we do not descend into a litter mess. We need all the trash warriors we can muster.

Rick Truofreh, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Back in 1989, I ventured up Falls Canyon Trail with my two sons, Ryan, 8, and Randy, 6. We were disgusted at the amount of trash that was in the canyon, and we came up with the idea to pack it all out. We returned — twice. We carried out every scrap of trash we could find — from ’50s era Lucky Lager Beer Cans with “church key” openings to Wrigley gum wrappers and cigarette butts. Forty years of trash. We cleaned it up to near pristine condition. And it stayed that way all the way through the ’90s and into the 2000s up until my last visit in 2009. With growing publicity, however, we might just get back to the party crowds heading up there with their six-packs of beer and bags of trash, all to be left for others to “appreciate.” It’s a beautiful place with ferns growing on the canyon trail and plants growing out of the rock outcroppings. All the while, red-tailed hawks soar, screeching overhead. Please ask readers to pack out their trash.

Bruce Conradson, Orange, Calif.

I carry a plastic bag with me when I am out with my hiking buddy, Augie the doggie. We pick up dog poop and trash, so wherever we have been it is always a better place for those who follow. Empty water bottles, energy bar wrappers and coffee cup lids are the most common.

Lynn Gray, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Passing Lake Helen in Yosemite a number of years ago, I began picking up orange peels and eventually a Kleenex. I finally caught up with a group of hikers. As I followed, they dropped more litter — orange peels and a gum wrapper. When we got back to our cars, I handed the trash I had collected to one of them and remarked that it was something they had accidentally dropped. I got a nasty and very sarcastic reply.

Another time, my wife and I had sailed to Catalina and were anchored in Cat Harbor. We watched people on another sailboat anchored nearby prepare their evening meal. Rather than take their trash back to the mainland, they dumped it overboard.

My wife swam over, picked it up (it consisted mostly of potato peelings), offered it to them and remarked, “Please keep this onboard. We like to swim here.” Their answer: “It’s biodegradable.”

© 2012 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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