Orange Peels Don’t Belong in the Forest

In preparation for my upcoming PCT thru-hike, I’ve been spending a lot of time hiking around my local parks and trails. And I have noticed two things: Seattle Parks and Recreation does an awesome job at maintaining local green space, and people suck at throwing away orange peels. It seems like every time I am just about to get completely lost in my own thoughts, zoning off as I find my rhythm and my eyes take in all the greens and browns of most Pacific Northwest trails, a flash of orange pulls me back to reality. It’s not a mysterious forest spirit or a bright friendly flower. It’s just another dang orange peel.

Don’t get me wrong, I think oranges are a great trail snack. Self-contained and easily packable, fairly sturdy and the perfect balance of sweet and refreshing. But I always pack out my peels! It seems like orange peels are everywhere, except for the garbage bins where they should be. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’d like to think that most hikers assume that since an orange peel is biowaste, it will decompose quickly into the forest floor. But that is just not the case. I’m all for composting, but the forest isn’t one big compost bin. Orange peels can take as long as two years to decompose. And they so clearly stand out: bright orange amid an otherwise brown forest floor. If you throw them in the woods, you are littering; you are not giving back to the earth or helping the animals find food.

You. Are. Littering.

Being conscious about my impact is a central part of thru-hiking for me. I feel so grateful that those before me have taken the time and energy to act as responsible stewards to these amazing lands so that I have the opportunity to follow their footsteps. We all need to accept responsibility for the impact we leave on the spaces we recreate in and do our part in taking care of the land. Educate yourself on the seven principles of Leave No Trace so our beautiful public lands will continue to be spaces of play, retreat, and adventure for those that come after us.

And please, just throw your damn orange peels away.


Want to Learn More?

This is what Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has to say about orange peels:

You may have heard that these items are natural and therefore OK to leave behind. However, leaving these food items can attract wildlife and bring them into close contact with humans. Ultimately, this could lead to habituation with food conditioning. We could be putting their lives at risk if these animals become aggressive when seeking food from humans. Food scraps thrown from cars onto the side of roadways may bring animals closer to vehicles where they can end up as road kill. Always pack these items out.

And if you want to learn more, check out these videos created by the Leave No Trace Center:

Out Here, It’s Trash

How Long Does Trash Last?



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Comments 9

  • Mike B : Apr 18th

    So you’re saying citrus isn’t native to the Pacific Northwest? Huh,who would have known. 😲😁

  • Linda : Apr 18th

    Arhh! Yes, I’ve been saying this for years. Please people stop! Keep it green not orange!

  • Chris : Apr 19th

    I see your point but on the other hand which is better, the forest floor or the landfill or the incinerator. I vote for the forest floor. They should be disposed of off trail. I doubt you would notice them after one year let alone two.

  • Craig : Apr 20th

    I get it they are detracting from your enjoyment of the wilderness but please don’t turn this into something it isn’t. If you don’t like them take a couple of minutes to bury them in the earth or under needles. Encourage people to do the same but suggesting this is attracting wild animals or that it is worse than people stacking flat stones in certain areas near trails… It simply isn’t that dire. I would take a hundred orange peels over the stone pyramids people leave all over.

    • Tyler : Apr 20th

      Stone pyramids? As in Cairns? Where I am from those are very important for marking trail sections for people to follow in the winter months when trail markers are snowed over. Are they really that big of a deal?

  • Ray giles : Apr 20th

    Yeah except they are an incredible source of nutrients when they decompose . people have saved entire sections of logged forest by spreading orange peels . littering does not apply to naturally biodegradable organics that in turn fertilize the soil you think you are protecting

  • A B : Apr 20th

    “I’m all for composting, but the forest isn’t one big compost bin.”
    I see your point, but yes, it actually is.

  • Tara : Apr 20th

    Lol people mistake the idea “throw away” tgere is no away except from you. I agree with the person abive who said burry them. I would understand if this was a plastic water bottle or zip lock but its organic matter and yes the forest is a compost bin. You should see the forest i live in it’s not a human kept forest that looks like a park. Full of bacteria and microbes decaying every thing around.

  • Bruce : Dec 17th

    orange peels are extremely beneficial to the soil. The more the better. Several thousand tons of orange peels can revitalize an entire depleted local ecosystem. We should dump them throughout the Great plains!


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