Park Ranger Transforms Trash From National Parks Into Beautiful Landscapes

There are many ways to appreciate nature around us. For some, it’s as simple as looking out the window or going for a walk. Others use social media to take them to faraway places whose beauty can still inspire. Still, others choose to recreate nature through artistic expression, adding their own twist to the impressive vistas they come across in their travels.

For classically-trained landscape painter Mariah Reading, artistic expression dovetails with her true passion: environmental protection and sustainability.

“I pivoted to eco art when the parallel between painting landscapes and feeding landfills became overwhelmingly apparent,” Reading writes on her website. “The landscapes that so richly inspired me were being hurt by the waste I created in order to depict them. To rectify this unwanted connection, I have developed a zero-waste practice that involves creating canvases from debris found during my travels through National Parks and protected landscape environments.”


This means that rather than traditional canvas, Reading’s art reclaims forgotten and discarded trash, turning it into a beautiful reflection of the landscape it was found in.


“My practice revolves around ways I can lessen my footprint upon Earth and leave it better than I found it,” she explains on her website. Born and raised in Bangor, Maine, Reading “plans to continue her project in all 63 US National Parks,” and bring attention to the need to protect and preserve these “wild spaces.”

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To that end, she’s worked “as an Arts In the Parks Volunteer at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, assisting in Yosemite Facelift efforts, developing a K-12 STREAM curriculum with University of California Santa Barbara Oceanography students, and creating conservation workshops with the Channel Islands National Park,” according to her site.


Reading also works as an interpretive park ranger in Acadia National Park, giving tours and teaching about the importance of conservation. Writing on Instagram, Reading describes her work: “I’m very thankful for the supportive friends/ coworkers I’ve met and the opportunity to learn about the park I grew up in!”

While some of her work has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, she has also been able to use National Parks’ rise in popularity to boost her message, writing, “it is now more critical than ever to leave no trace,” echoing the motto of the Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics.


Reading plans to continue spreading the word about conservation through her art, education, and advocacy.

Keep up with her at her official site or see more of her stunning paintings on Instagram!

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