It’s easy to breathe deeply and unwind in the mountains: enjoying the intact, often unspoilt nature of the Alps whilst hiking is good for body, mind and soul. Each of us can make a contribution to ensure that we can also enjoy the power and beauty of nature in the future. It’s quite simple: even with a few elementary tricks you can make your hike more sustainable.
Wherever people go, they leave a trail. Unfortunately, not just footprints, but also “reminders” in the form of plastic bottles, wrappers, cigarette butts or tissues. That’s unsightly and also an enormous burden on the sensitive ecological system in the Alps.
It can take many hundreds of years until our rubbish has rotted. As bacteria stop doing their job above a temperature of 10 degrees, there are fewer of these useful helpers, which degrade the rubbish biologically, the higher the altitude.
So that you can get a better idea of how long it takes:
- Chewing gum takes five years to decompose completely.
- A cigarette but takes two to seven years.
- A tissue is degraded in five years.
- A banana skin takes one to three years.
- Particularly long-lasting items: plastic bags (120 years), aluminium cans (400 to 600 years), babies’ nappies (500 to 800 years), plastic bags (up to 1,000 years) and glass bottles (up to 50,000 years).
Rubbish is not hazard-free
Litter is not just unsightly, it can really damage the fragile nature in the alpine region. Cigarette butts for example are full of poisonous substances, which after smoking remain in the filter. With every single cigarette butt thrown away tar, nicotine and traces of sulphur seep into the ground and water cycle. Just one cigarette can pollute 40 to 60 litres of clean water. If wild animals such as rabbits or a dog, accompanying its family on a hike, unwittingly eat a cigarette butt, they can die agonizingly. Broken glass and metal cans can injure humans, grazing and wild animals, simply by stepping on it by accident or swallowing it. Fragments of glass can also start fires due to the sunlight by the magnifying effect.
It’s so simple
It’s not that difficult to make your trip in the mountains more sustainable: PET bottles can be exchanged for reusable bottles made of stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic. Such bottles can be found in all shapes and styles, almost all of them are dishwasher safe or can simply be washed in hot water after use. Instead of clingfilm or tin foil simply use a lunch box to transport your sandwiches, sausages, eggs, vegetables, whatever. Find out more about how to put together the ideal snack for your hike here in our tips for ideal food on the mountain.
Don’t leave anything behind
If you don’t want to do without wrappers, please make sure your take them with you after enjoying their contents Stow them carefully so they can’t fall out of your rucksack or trouser pocket by chance. The ideal solution is to take a bag to put all your litter in. That way you keep your rucksack clean (there are also special containers for cigarette butts which also contain the smell). Those wishing to collect karmic bonus points are welcome to bend down along the way and pick up dropped muesli bar wrappers or empty coke bottle which other people have left behind. Mother Nature and other hikers will thank you!
Treating nature responsibly also means abiding by other alpine rules. Your hiking route is also habitat for plants, wild animals and livestock plus recreational area for fellow human beings. You can make a worthwhile contribution even just by avoiding a few things:
- Noise in the forest – wild animals should remain undisturbed in their natural habitat. Other hikers also have the right to enjoy their time in the mountains in peace.
- Contact with grazing animals – cows don’t see the funny side when their calves are used as photo subject. As grazing animals live very free and naturally on the alpine pasture, there are a few behaviour rules to note: Mind the Cows
- Shortening the signposted route – taking short cuts is appealing for weary legs, yet damages the sensitive forest ground and destroys gentle sprigs. Plus your safety can only be guaranteed on signposted paths.
- Picking plants – if you are collecting flowers, mushrooms or herbs, please make sure you leave the roots and only pick (legally allowed) quantities, so that the stock can recover. It is forbidden to pick protected plants.
- Cutting branches. Those looking for a walking stick, should please just pick up a piece of old wood from the ground and not cut branches from living trees. One advantage: old wood is very stable and less resinous! Tip: if you wish to take your walking stick home with you as a souvenir, you can pimp it up with a stick badge from Zauchensee.
- Unnecessary car journeys – if you are undertaking a mountain tour with others, you can leave one or more cars standing and create a carpool. Travelling together in one car to the mountains is more fun and saves petrol too. Your purse will be happy as well as the environment. Plus in regions such as Altenmarkt-Zauchensee there is a “wanderbus“ that runs daily from valley to valley. All infos, stops and the timetable can be found here.
If we all spend our time amid nature respectfully, we’ll be able to enjoy our unique mountain landscape for a long time to come. Come and discover how beautiful the mountain summer is here on your next hiking tour in Zauchensee! See you soon, we look forward to welcoming you!
Photo credits: Zauchensee Liftgesellschaft, Salzburger Sportwelt