Urban Wastelands: ‘Packing It Out’ Mentality Works In Cities

Born in the wilderness, this summer ‘Packing It Out’ has gone urban with 20+ cleanups in cities across America.

Handheld scale weighs trash after cleanup in Minneapolis
Handheld scale weighs trash after cleanup in Minneapolis

The long road west continues for our Packing It Out crew. After thousands of miles riding we caught up with Seth and Abby last week in Utah, where they coordinated a cleanup in Salt Lake City near downtown.

Since the tour kicked off this past spring, the pair has made it a goal to pick up trash—and pack it out—from dozens of parks and preserves across the country, both wild and urban.

Scouring the Midtown Greenway for garbage
Scouring the Midtown Greenway for garbage

The nationwide tour also includes 11 presentations at REI stores, the project’s sponsor. These gatherings give Seth and Abby a platform to talk about the Packing It Out concept, show their feature film, and connect with area groups.

Packing It Out In Salt Lake City

In Utah last week the pair led a cleanup near downtown at Sugar House Park. It was arranged to take place before the twice-annual OR Show. GearJunkie staff, as well as folks from Granite Gear, a few friends, and others joined the effort.

“One thing I learned at the cleanup is that even if a park looks clean, it isn’t. There are so many tiny pieces of trash everywhere, if you spend a few hours picking those up, the next thing you know you have bags of trash,” noted GearJunkie’s own Emily Reed.

On the road between cleanups
On the road between cleanups

Indeed, the Salt Lake cleanup crew managed to pack out 100 pounds of trash in just two hours.

It was a typical stop for Seth and Abby. From Georgia to the Beehive state, the pair has cleared debris from parks, paths, and along rivers. They bag the garbage and tote it to a dumpster.

Or the pounds of waste are lashed onto a bike trailer, to be disposed in a proper place.

Volunteers gather for a cleanup in Salt Lake City
Volunteers gather for a cleanup in Salt Lake City

The crew stopped at GearJunkie headquarters in early July. Our Minneapolis office is adjacent to a major pedestrian and bicycle path, the Midtown Greenway.

More than 50 participants came to “hike” and clean up the urban trail. Bikers streamed by as glove-wearing volunteers stooped to collect cans, cigarette butts, and all kinds of erratum.

Scenes from Packing It Out cleanup from GearJunkie hq
Scenes from Packing It Out cleanup from GearJunkie hq

In total, the Minneapolis cleanup, one of two in the city that week, netted 209 pounds of trash.

Several folks commented that they are now “seeing trash” when out on a walk or ride. Before the litter may have been part of the background, but now it’s hard to ignore.

“We spent just two hours cleaning up litter, but it changed the way I look at my trails and outdoor spaces,” GearJunkie project manager Jake Ferguson said. “The trash has been there all along, but now I’m compelled to pick it up and pack it out.”

Want to jump in? Packing It Out is rolling west now, and there are multiple cleanups and REI events still to come. See the full calendar and more info at the Packing It Out page, and check out some upcoming cleanup and tour dates below.

Packing It Out - Aug-Sept Cleanups


–Our 2017 ‘Packing It Out‘ coverage is sponsored by REICheck out the crew’s 2015 and 2016 efforts on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. Connect with Abby and Seth on InstagramTwitter, and their blog.

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