Stewardship can be defined as an environmental concept of responsible caretaking for land and its associated resources. Being a steward of the outdoors means one is not only taking care of the land, but the animals, plants, and resources that come from it. There are many easy acts an individual can do to better our natural surroundings. From picking up trash on your neighborhood walks to practicing good trail etiquette, being a steward in your community benefits everyone!

Discussion: What does being a steward of the outdoors look like to you? What ways do you think you can make a positive impact on our natural world in your own community? It is important to stay informed and strive to incorporate stewardship into your everyday life!

Handout: Decomposition Timeline

Activity: Clean Up Hike

  • Description:
    • Part one: Go outside for a hike in your neighborhood, city, county, or state park and collect the litter you see. Each time you find an item, use the above handout to see how long that single item will take to decompose. *Make sure to dress for the weather and activity and bring the materials listed below.
    • Part two: After you have finished your clean up hike and have disposed of the waste properly, take a moment to reflect. Think of all the items you found, could they have been packaged differently to take less time to decompose? What did you tend to see the most of? Use this reflection to see if there are parts of your everyday life that you can adjust to become more sustainable.
      • Remember the 5 R’s of waste management
        1. Refuse
        2. Reduce
        3. Reuse
        4. Repurpose
        5. Recycle
  • Materials: 
    • Gloves
    • Garbage bags
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Bright colored jacket or vest
  • Next Step:
    • Take a friend with you next time and teach them how to be a steward for their community. You can make it into a friendly competition to see who can collect the most litter! You can also volunteer with organizations that host events focused on cleaning up our environment. Below is a list of a few local organizations you can volunteer for, You can also search your area to find out other opportunities where you can lead a hand!
    • Volunteer opportunities:
      • Venture Outdoors hosts a Paddle without Pollution program each summer where participants clean up our rivers while kayaking. We also run a variety of trail cleanups and informational sessions.
      • Friends of the Riverfront helps to protect and restore Pittsburgh’s riverfront.
      • Tree Pittsburgh is dedicated to enhancing community vitality by restoring and protecting the urban forest through tree planting, care, education, and advocacy.
      • Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy works to restore Pittsburgh’s park system through projects and programs focused on our environment.
      • Student Conservation Association protects and restores national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks, and community green spaces in all 50 states.