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Granite Gear Gets the Garbage: 10K Pounds Collected in One Year

grounds keepersThe Musser family picking up trash together as part of Granite Gear's Grounds Keepers program; (photo/Kaitlin Musser)
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Thanks to a community program from Granite Gear’s company, 15 people spent the year removing trash from trails and parks across the country.

If the hiking trail near you looks a little cleaner than usual, you might have a Grounds Keeper to thank for it.

That’s the mission behind Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers program, which compensates hikers with a sweet gear package for a year of trash-picking in nature.

Relying on 15 volunteers, the program collected more garbage than ever this year — 10,000 pounds’ worth, in fact. By weight, that’s equivalent to roughly 250,000 plastic bottles, all collected by hand.

“It’s hard to fathom what the Grounds Keepers have accomplished this year. Five tons of trash,” Granite Gear Sales and Marketing Manager Julie Bacon said. “We are so grateful for the hard work from everyone involved and the huge impact that this program continues to have nationwide.”

Or, in the words of the younger generation, “Be trashy; all the cool kids are doing it.”

Granite Gear’s group of garbage collectors includes a diverse selection from the outdoor community. Each year, the company receives 150-250 applications for the program, and selects only 15-30 for duty.

The program began in 2017 and has since diversified with hikers, kayakers and nature lovers. When they visit beaches, national parks or campgrounds, they do so with plenty of trash bags.

In total, the program has resulted in 35,000 pounds of trash removed from nature, mostly bar wrappers, bottle lids, and toilet paper.

One Family’s Trash-Picking Mission

While all of Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers helped out this year, there’s no denying that one family went a bit further than the rest.

After earning a spot this year, Kaitlin Musser got her entire family involved. The always-traveling family picked up a whopping 6,006 pounds of trash — a feat Musser documented on Instagram.

This family effort comes with a bittersweet twist, however. Musser applied for the program at the urging of her legal guardian son — who has since returned to his biological family after 9 years with Musser.

The family certainly wanted to fight climate change and protect public lands. But their work was mostly about “one little boy’s love,” Musser said.

“You would not think hauling out pounds of other people’s garbage off of public lands would be a way of healing,” Musser said. “We applied as Grounds Keepers because our legal guardian son wanted to leave the wild ways better than he found them. His love became our love and when we painfully said goodbye after raising him for nine years, this love kept us from falling apart.”

musser family
Grounds Keeper Annika Bee met up with Kaitlin Musser family, including daughter “Buckets” and son “Monkey” (trail names) for picking up trash for the Grounds Keepers program; (photo/Kaitlin Musser)

Grounds Keepers Provide Education

Out of hundreds of applicants, Grounds Keepers earn their jobs based on their passion for the outdoors, cleanup goals, commitment to DEI initiatives, and outdoor experience, said Julie Bacon, who manages the program.

Retha “Pikachu” Charette, for example, is nearing her 1,000-pound goal for 2022. She said the program should remind people that it’s not too late to save the planet.

“I’ve always picked up trash while hiking, but being a member of the Grounds Keepers lets me know I’m not alone,” Charette said. “Being an advocate can be tough sometimes and being part of this team reminds me that a few dedicated people really do make a difference.”

For Bacon, the Grounds Keepers program isn’t about the amount of garbage removed from parks and trails. It’s about leading the outdoor community by example.

Instead of pointing fingers at those who simply walk by a pile of trash, Grounds Keepers provide “a gentle education” of how to improve the outdoors for everyone, Bacon said.

“The goal is to bring people in and build up the community,” Bacon said. Even though it’s a small group, they’re each making waves in their own communities … We just hope that that reverberates.”

Interested in being a Grounds Keeper? Granite Gear starts accepting applications for 2023 in November. Those selected will receive a whole bunch of cool gear from the company’s sponsors, including backpacks, hiking shoes, and a variety of camping gear.

For more information on the Grounds Keepers program, visit the Grounds Keepers website.

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