The Littlest Footprint: A Photography Project by Sunshine Tucker

A photography project showing us how the smallest bit of litter can ruin a beautiful place.

Photographer: Sunshine Tucker

Sunshine Tucker was always seeing trash in beautiful places, so she decided to photograph it (and throw it away) to show how annoying it is.

 Sunshine Tucker is a photographer from Chicago who went to England to get her Press and Editorial Photography degree at Falmouth University. Sunshine’s original project did not even involve trash, but when she was exploring the idea of the project she would keep seeing trash in photos and in person when she would go and visit the parks. After seeing it so much she decided to change her project to trash in National Parks.

Why did you start “The Littlest Footprint” project?

My original project started with me going out with national park rangers for a day (Exmoor and Dartmoor respectively). I wanted to show what park rangers did on a daily basis. What I came to realize is this: they pick up a lot of trash. More than I ever dreamed someone could find in a national park. Quickly, I shifted my focus to litter in national parks and The Littlest Footprint was born.

What made you photograph trash in National Parks?

I thought hard about how I was going to create this project and make it visually interesting while also keeping it educational and informational about just how much trash people leave in these places. After trying a few different ways to go about the photographic process, I decided the straightforward images – kind of like the images on TSA’s Instagram – worked best and made more of an impact because the pictures can just keep piling up.

What did you find out by doing this Project?

I realized what weird stuff people leave in parks and how much people left.

Sometimes I would create my own stories for the garbage and how it got there, or I would take a guess and who left it. I found a lot of used condoms (ew!) in certain areas that were more hidden, and of course a lot of food and plastic bags. The plastic bags really put into perspective the need for the bag tax and the more dire need for a plastic bag ban. However, I also found really great people while doing this project; people who would come up to me and say that I’ve inspired them to start carrying around a bag and those saying they love what I’m doing for the parks.

Photographer: Sunshine Tucker

What was the most common trash you found?

Either plastic bags or aluminium cans! It’s probably a draw.

How big of a problem is this?

Definitely a big issue. As tourism rises, so does the amount of trash. For example, according to the Washington Post, just in the US more than 100 million pounds of trash is generated by park visitors each year! 100 million! That’s insane! 

Do other countries have it as bad as the US?

The US is huge and has some huge national parks, so the average amount of trash is going to be much larger. But with that said, I was genuinely shocked by the amount I would find in the national parks in the U.K.

Do you think little trash like this has a bigger effect on global warming?

I think every little bit adds up and definitely affects climate change.

How do you think these non-biodegradable products were made – even as small as they are? It’s like in a store when you keep filling your basket up with small items but by the end, you end up spending $85 at Walgreens regardless (this happened to me today). It all adds up and every little bit affects the environment around it, which turns into something tarnishing the whole world since this is happening everywhere.

Photographer: Sunshine Tucker

What do you think about The President and his beliefs on Climate Change?

President Trump is a monster (in most ways) when it comes to climate change.

The lack of ability to even claim it is real – going as far as saying it is a hoax created by the Chinese – is hard to swallow. Without a president who has a firm stance on the issue and is willing to put forth an effort to help the situation, we are alone and need to take the situation into our own hands.

How can people help their ‘Little Footprint’?

I think people need to try to minimize their trash production. I know it’s hard, but reducing the amount of trash you create really is the best way to start. Recycling is a really easy and more accessible option these days and there are always crafty people who love to work with things you’d like to throw out that may not be recyclable! Sticking to the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is the best place to start. After that comes things like carpooling, alternative transportation, not supporting the meat industry (one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions in the world), and more. It’s an easy google away and a not a difficult life to start living!

Find Sunshine’s project on Instagram.