Take a moment to imagine your favorite place. Imagine the place where you go to think, clear your mind, explore, relax or find pure bliss. Is it your grandmother's living room with that old shag carpet? Is it the neighborhood park you grew up playing cops and robbers in? Perhaps it's a sandy beach or a snow-covered mountain? Wherever it might be, imagine what it looks and feels like to find litter scattered throughout that special place.
That is the exact reality that led me to a journey of picking up litter for 365 consecutive days. On May 30, 2017, I went for a hike at my favorite place in Austin, the Barton Creek Green Belt. During that hike I kept finding trash scattered about the trail, so I started picking it up as I walked along. By the time I was ready to head back to the trail head I had two hands full of trash and still had to leave litter behind. I'm not going to lie. At that very moment in time I was mad, I was frustrated. I couldn't even enjoy the rest of my hike because I was so bothered by other people's carelessness. And then I started thinking, what can I do to make a difference? Is it possible for one person to have an impact?
That's when the idea for 365 Days of Hiking was born. I thought, what if I lead by example and start picking up trash when I hike? What if I challenge myself to do it every single day, rain or shine, for an entire year? I immediately started to imagine what kind of impact that could have on the environment and on other people who might see me doing it along the way. At that point, with garbage overflowing from my two bare hands, I knew what I had to do.That very day, I took a photo of the trash I found. Documenting and sharing my findings was going to be a key element to spreading awareness, and hopefully inspiring change, related to the litter and waste problems that were quickly becoming more evident to me.
Fast forward nearly 200 days since that fateful hike on the Green Belt and so many crazy, wonderful things have happened that I never imagined. I've had both close friends and complete strangers tell me they were inspired by me to pick up trash on their morning jog or while walking the dog. I've heard moms whisper to their kids "she's picking up a trash, it's important not to litter" while I'm out for my daily hike. I've had countless people tell me thank you in passing or stop to ask me questions about what exactly I'm doing. I learned what poison ivy looks like from a published botanist, and met a plant-loving retiree who showed me how to identify various central Texas wildflowers. I've discovered new-to-me parks and trails all over a city that I've lived in for almost a decade. I've been given the amazing opportunity to share this journey with you.
I thought, what if I lead by example and start picking up trash when I hike? What if I challenge myself to do it every single day, rain or shine, for an entire year?
Julie Sondecker, 365 Days of Hiking
These experiences are the proof that small, individual actions truly do add up to create big, impactful change. Change within yourself and among entire communities. If you find my story inspiring and you're looking for ways to get involved, I encourage you to act on it! Keep an eye out for Keep Texas Beautiful's upcoming spring cleanups
across the state, or do a quick search to see if there is an affiliate group
in your hometown. Pick up the next piece of litter that comes across your path. Find ways to reduce your personal waste, like skipping the plastic produce bags at the grocery store, or ditching single-use water bottles for a reusable option. Whatever you choose to do, always remember when you're being change
you wish to see in the world, no action is too small.
Looking for inspiration to get involved on a personal or group level in your community? Check out Julie's
or KTB's instagram pages
, sign up for an event, and follow along for more tips on cleanups and eco-friendly living!
Julie's project began on May 30, 2017.
Julie is regularly outside, hiking and supporting the environment.
Tiny Flowers, Big Change
Being in nature, in any community, can bring you surprisingly beautiful sights.