27 Jul 2018
Amman, Jordan
Sustainable Tourism

Jordan is a hiker’s paradise, where outdoor enthusiasts can explore verdant valleys, thick forests, rock formations, and swimming holes. But there’s one big problem: hikers have to share the trail with heaps of trash. Littering in Jordan is a growing concern, with people not only tossing their trash onto city streets, but in natural settings as well. That’s why one group is trying to make a difference, to pick up trash one piece at a time, to clean up Jordan’s natural environment for everyone to enjoy.

Just a short drive from Amman, there are hikes for every level, through forests, valleys and near sparkling streams. Journalist Nader Manaseer has been hiking for years, as a way to de-stress and get away from the crush of cars and people inherent to city living. But he kept noticing one thing: trash.

“People go out for a barbecue, especially on a Friday night, and they enjoy nature but then just leave all their trash,” says Manaseer. “When I saw that trash [is] everywhere, I really started thinking about the environment, about the animals and nature.”

It pained him to see pollution in such a beautiful environment, so he got an idea. He created a post on Facebook, asking friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to join him for a hike and to pick up trash along the way. The response to his post was astounding.

“So many joined me on this first hike, I had 35 people,” says Manaseer. “Then, the next hike I had 50, and the hike after that, 100. And the event just kept growing on Facebook.”

The growth of Eco Hikers:

Eco Hikers has turned into a movement, with people meeting every weekend for the past five months to go on a hike and collect garbage. The hikes are usually around 10 kilometers, accessible for a wide variety of levels.

“We bring a truck to the hiking trailhead and that’s where we put the trash in big bags,” says Manaseer. “We take some of it to a recycling plant, and throw some away. We also try to educate people to pick up their own trash and hand out trash bags. Many places in Jordan don’t have garbage cans, so it can be hard for people to throw away their own trash.”

Sometimes, recycling companies send a truck to the trailhead for Eco Hikers to load with bags, other times Manaseer rents a truck then delivers the trash to a facility.

While picking up trash is a main goal of Eco Hikers, there’s another goal as well: to bring people together who are of diverse backgrounds to have language and cultural exchange.

“There are so many people from different countries living in Amman,” says Manaseer. “Groups are usually made up of half local participants and half foreigners working or studying in Jordan. As we hike, we do a language exchange and it’s a chance for people to learn. We are also able to introduce the Jordanian people to beautiful, natural places in their own country.”

What hikers say about their experience with Eco Hikers:

Every weekend, anywhere from 35-100 hikers go on an eco-hike outside Amman. Jordanian Lina Anthem has been on seven or eight hikes so far, and says she joined them for the environmental cause.

“Humans are destroying this planet, so for me, it was a great opportunity to help our planet and explore Jordan on a budget,” Anthem says. “I have had the most amazing time, have met a lot of wonderful people from all around the world, and have made some good friends. I would say 70-80% of the trash we pick up is plastic.”

Tareq Haboukh also goes on eco-hikes regularly, and says at first, he thought the concept seemed odd so was hesitant to join, but then had a great time on his first hike.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment after a hike, and it’s great meeting new people as well as discovering more of my country,” he says. “We mostly pick up plastic bottles and aluminum cans.”

Eco Hikers plans for the future:

On a recent hike in Jordan, Eco Hikers picked up 300 bags of garbage. Another time, hikers picked up enough waste to fill two trucks. Every hike is different, but every hike makes a difference to the environment.

Manaseer hopes in the future, more people will be inspired to pick up their own trash and recycle.

“There are many places in Jordan without trash cans, and we hope to raise funding to buy trash cans,” says Manaseer. “We also want to put up signs to encourage people to care more about the environment. We want to clean up all of Jordan. This is our dream.”

 

 

 

Learn more about Eco Hikers through their Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Eco Hikers.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
You can now collect trash as you eco-hike through Jordan’s beautiful nature | The Switchers
Eco Hikers Sustainable Tourism
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