The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 7, 2007

Eco-Running: leaving the route better than you found it.

26-year old Samuel Huber started what he calls “eco-running” as a way to help the world while out doing his favorite thing, running. On his eco-runs, he carries a few small garbage bags and picks up litter all along the route. Recently, he has made the switch to biodegradable, compostable BioBags. Check out his web site and mention of BioBags and this blog, Fake Plastic Fish, at http://eco-runner.blogspot.com. I want to not only commend him for his efforts but join in the eco-running movement he’s trying to start.

So, this morning, BioBag in hand and latex gloved, I did a 30-minute eco-run towards Berkeley and back. My bag was full within the first 12 minutes, and I found I needed to stop picking up big things and concentrate on the items that, if washed down a storm drain, could end up inside the bellies of marine animals: bottle caps, small toys, a comb, a pacifier, plastic bags, even a rubber glove.

Stopping to pick up garbage slowed me down a bit (my average pace was 11:20/mile) and actually got me out of competition mode, the mode I tend to be in while recording my stats with the Nike+ iPod. You know, I’ll bet running would be a lot more fun if I gave up the Nike+. But I don’t know. The accountant in me wants all numbers all the time! (What, you couldn’t tell that from my weekly plastic tally?) Chi Running’s Danny Dreyer recommends leaving the watch at home. Maybe I’ll try it once a week on my eco-runs.

And yes, if you’re wondering, it was a little weird passing people as I ran carrying a garbage bag and wearing a latex glove. But at this point in life, I’m pretty much over caring about how I seem to other people. (Actually, I think I stopped caring by the end of high school, but that’s a story for another day and another blog.)

Speaking of latex gloves, does anyone know whether modern latex gloves are made from natural rubber or some kind of petroleum-based synthetic? According to this web site, they are made from rubber. But are all of them? (Here’s a cool video about how latex is made.)

So, what to do with all the trash I collected? My plan is to retrieve the hard plastic bottle caps and other pieces of plastic, wash them off, and add them to my collection. I have this idea that I’ll use them in some kind of weird art creature thing some day. Then, any recyclable items will go in their proper recycling bins, and I’ll tie up the bag around the rest and put it in the garbage can. I may be saving 100% of my own plastic waste, but I’m not about to start hording other people’s.

12 comments
Cousin Yellowstone
Cousin Yellowstone

I can't tell you how happy I was to come across your blog entry! I started picking up trash years ago, but got overwhelmed and now pick up only recyclable items. It's still overwhelming at times. Anyway, although I knew there must be someone, somewhere, who also picked up trash, I've been feeling isolated. It's so good to have tangible evidence I'm not the only person "crazy" enough to go out picking up trash. Now I feel motivated to pick up more trash, not just the recyclables.

ashley
ashley

I went to the beach last summer in Southern California and there was trash all over the beach. People were just laying around seemingly oblivious. I tried to restrain myself but I couldn't help it, I grabbed a bag and started picking up trash. I'm sure it was a very small dent in all the trash there, but if everyone could just pick up some it would help. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who likes to pick up trash. :)

ecbatana eagleturtle
ecbatana eagleturtle

I'm an eco-artist, and would like to warn about cermaic grout with plastic bottlecaps - fine for fill, but tries to pull away from plastic, and definitely will not work like glue. I'm looking now for a way to connect the caps in formed shapes as well as mosaic patterns. Trying to avoid epoxy (durable, rigid) or hot glue (quick) to create with heat-melding. Making outdoor lampshapes and garden accents.mental-work-in-progress

Clif
Clif

Great idea, eco-running. I'm an eco-walker, though and I've found that paper bags are easier to use because they hold more and they don't blow in the wind but stay open for easy deposit. I carry two bags, one for garbage and one for recyclables. My best hunting ground is the local middle school campus. I should probably get over there when school lets out and follow the kids down the sidewalk with my bags...think they would get the hint?

Amy
Amy

Nice post! Good to hear how you enjoyed it and how quickly you made a difference.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Aw. This brings me back. When i was younger my parents and I would hike through the woods by our cabin and my mom would always bring bags and we would collect cans and bottles along the way (at the time i didnt realize how sad it really was to see so much garbage thrown out in the forest since i was so little...started at 4!). good for you. if i ever get over my "i hate running" attitude i'll join you someday. but as for now...the eliptical in my living room 4 days a week is still giving me attitude problems. but good for you and im proud of all your efforts! *marika

heather t
heather t

Just a thought about your plastic bottle cap collection - I wonder if they are compatible with standard grout used with ceramic tiles and could therefore be used in a mosaic-type art project.Might be a fun/scary project to do with the kids next summer - collect all the plastic bottle caps we use over the school year and put them into an art project. (Yes. We are trying to cut down.)

terrible person
terrible person

Just FYA: the word is "hoarding", not "hording". You amass of "hoard" of stuff, like treasure or food; you -- especially if you're Genghis Khan, who I don't think you are, but he probably didn't use much plastic -- get together a "horde" of people, like Mongol warriors on small horses, in furry hats. (The Mongols are in the furry hats, not the horses. Well, maybe the horses, too; I wasn't there.) Anyway, a missing "a" so early in the AM isn't a big deal, but I just thought I'd point it out in case you reedit these posts.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Anonymous, I do agree that I can reuse the biodegradable bag if it's not full. Here are the reasons that I disagree with the rest of your comment:1) There are many other uses for plastic garbage bags than putting them in a landfill. They can be reused many times as bags. And once they are worn out as bags, they can be made into many different objects (like knitted fake plastic fish or more useful things like baskets and totes.)2) While plastic bags do not biodegrade, they will degrade in a landfill, especially in contact with other toxic chemicals. They degrade into smaller and smaller plastic particles that can leach from the landfill into the surrounding soil. And yes, all landfills do leak. The EPA allows a maximum amount of leakage from all landfills. A corn-based bag, on the other hand, is not going to degrade into something harmful to the soil. Plastic does not belong in landfills.3) I would not just drop loose plastic items into my household garbage bin without tying it up in a bag because that is the way to send it flying back out into the street and down the storm drains. You should see the way the trucks collect our garbage. The bins are lifted by mechanical arms and dumped roughly into the truck with small, lightweight refuse often flying back out into the street and left there.

Ingrid
Ingrid

This is so exciting to read because I did this in my urban neighborhood and had similar thoughts: who cares what they think, oh my God, how much trash in just a few minutes... I feel good, especially since bending down to pick up trash enriched the monotnoie of just running, I think. Good for me and the 'hood.Keep doing this, I applaud you!

Least Footprint
Least Footprint

FPFAfter seeing five plastic bags float across my window while driving I came up with an idea about to enlist people all across the nation to do what you just mentioned you are doing. So, I started a site about a week ago called the "PUP Brigade" at www.pupbrigade.org PUP standing for Pick Up Plastic, of course. It is a way for people to work together, and even create clean-up parties with a central calendar. I just got this started so it hasn't gone too far yet but every journey begins with one footstep right. I'd love to see you join in the fun and maybe help get some Pick Up Plastic clean-up parties going in your area. What say?To answer your question, Latex gloves are natural rubber. There are latex-free gloves as well if you are allergic to natural rubber. Check a medical supply store or Costco used to have them as well and sometimes paint stores sell the latex-free gloves too.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Just a note:If you're planning on landfilling non-reusable, non-recyclable materials, there really isn't any point in using compostable bags to do it in. Organic material doesn't compost or properly biodegrade in landfills. It breaks down anaerobically, producing methane.It would probably better to reuse one of those pernicious plastic shopping bags, which would ensure that its marine-life killing career would be diverted to a landfill and save the biodegradable, compostable bags for an application that will actually result in their decomposition (like collecting compostable waste) instead of just making us feel better.If, as you describe, you are sorting out recyclables and landfilling only a small amount, you could probably reuse the compostable bag and put the landfill-bound material in with your household refuse.