Respect is a pretty overused word at the moment, especially by rappers and politicians. Given that it is sustainable development week in France we are thinking about respect for the environment.

cigarette litter mountain
Smoking Kills - The Environment!

The Americans under the Bush administration have been much criticized for their attitude to the environment: oil exploration in wilderness areas and non-ratification of the Kyoto treaty aside one aspect that particularly impressed me is the way they treat their wilderness areas. “Packing out poop” being one of the more radical (to European eyes) aspects – leaving nothing but footprints.

We have a lot to learn. Many winter sports enthusiasts do not see ski areas once the lifts have shut and crowds have left. At their worst they are rubbish tips of cigarette butts, old lift passes and broken ski paraphernalia such as pole baskets and boot clips. Val Thorens estimates that as many as 30,000 cigarette butts are dropped under each chair lift during the season. Toxins from this waste acts as a powerful insecticide harming both aquatic and land based creatures. Plastic bags take 10 to 20 years to break down and it is estimated that alumunium cans and harder plastics may hang around for up to 500 years. Plastics can leech dioxins into the water table affecting the reproduction of fish and mammals.

It is not just ski resorts but popular walking and climbing routes. Last year the community of St Gervais organized “The Mountain in its Pure State” to clean up Mont Blanc, amongst the tons of rubbish removed from the mountain were three washing machines! On a less positive note the mayor has recently authorized a heliski landing on the summit of Mont-Blanc. We have noticed that a local beauty spot (The Col du Coq) has several fridges dumped in the fields – potentially harmful for the ozone layer as well as unsightly[1]. Another popular spot, the Lac du Crozet had cans, sanitary waste and plastic bags left lying around.

mountain rubbish
Pack Out Your Rubbish

What can you do? The environmentalists’ maxim of Think Globally, Act Locally applies. Do not drop litter from ski lifts and if you are visiting by car take your rubbish out of resort and recycle it down the mountain where facilities are usually better. Take a bag with you and pick up any litter you find lying around when skiing, boarding, ski touring or just walking in the mountains.

[1] has contacted the mayor of St Pierre en Chartreuse to organize the removal of this waste.

Posted by davidof on Thursday, 02 June, 2005 at 05:23 PM

I have gotten funny looks from other hikers by doing this (we carry plastic bags and pick up trash we find as we hike in summer) and think it’s very good advertising. The more people who do this, the more who will see and be influenced by it to do the same (or at least think twice before tossing that butt to the ground). I also have no shame and will actually tell people to pick up their trash if I catch them in the act of tossing it into nature....and I can say that rather snottily in 3 languages—so watch out for me on the trails this summer if you are the littering type! grin

Posted by  on  Thursday, 09 June, 2005  at 01:16 AM
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