What do you do when you see an energy bar wrapper on the trail? What about when you approach a road crossing and find more trash? Or when you cross a river with an empty six pack along the bank?

Some days I have plenty of time and a mostly-empty pack, so I pick up more. Other times I am on a trail run for twenty minutes and I breeze by. But most of the time I’m on the trail, I try to pick up one piece of trash. 

This practice started when I first thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005. The trail is mostly clean and well-kept, but sometimes hikers accidentally drop a wrapper or don’t realize that orange peels don't immediately disintegrate, and it is common to find litter along roadsides or heavily used waterways. I knew that I couldn’t pick up every piece of trash between Georgia and Maine (Although some people have tried). But, I figured if I picked up one piece of trash, and if every other hiker picked up one piece of trash, then the trail would be clean. 

This past week, Blue Ridge Hiking Company donated 15% of Friday sales to relief efforts in Ukraine. We raised around $250. Our team voted on the non-profit to receive these funds and the vote was split between Doctors without Borders and World Central Kitchen. When we split our total and made the donations, it didn’t feel like much. 

Then, this morning, we received an email from one of our favorite gear companies, Sawyer, announcing that they have donated 10,000 water filtration systems to Ukraine. And while 10,000 water filters is a much bigger drop in the bucket than 250 bucks (Thank you, Sawyer) - I was reminded that no individual person or organization or government will be able to solve the world’s problems by acting alone. 

Sawyer’s contribution felt connected to our efforts and reaffirmed the idea that if everyone tries to do something good… if everyone picks up one piece of trash, if everyone makes a contribution that feels right and reasonable for their place in life, and if people let go of the lie that it’s too late and there’s nothing we can do… then it can - and it will - make a world of difference.