Camping is considered as one of the best ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It may seen hard to make camping more “natural” when you’re already roughing it, but there are many ways in which you can make your next camping trip more environmentally friendly.
Below are 10 tips on how you can “go green” the next time you’re in the great outdoors.
1. Leave no trace
The golden rule of environmentally-friendly camping is “leave no trace,” or in other words, “bring out what you bring in.” Never leave wrappers, bottles, or other garbage behind. Bring extra garbage bags to ensure you pack up everything you’ve brought with you, even any litter you across from previous campers. Always leave the area as it was when you got there, or cleaner.
2. Go au natural
Motor homes and campers use an exorbitant amount of fuel and energy to haul and operate. Instead, go low-tech and use a traditional tent and sleeping bag. With the cost of fuel today, you’ll also save money. If you want to go hardcore with your energy consumption, leave your portable TVs, laptops, and other unnecessary electronic devices at home. Of course, bring a cell phone in case of an emergency.
3. Do the dishes
As you can imagine, paper plates, napkins, and anything Styrofoam is bad for the environment. Plus, you should take any garbage you accumulate back home with you (and those disposable plates and cups can add up!). Instead, purchase a set of reusable dishes and utensils, which you can wash and reuse. Instead of paper napkins, bring old dish towels or wash clothes from home, which you can wash and hang out to dry to reuse. Also, use a water bottle, not bottled water. Nalgene bottles, for instance, are BPA free and are thus better for Mother Nature.
4. Bug off
No one wants to be pestered by mosquitoes, deerflies, and other bugs, but shy away from using harmful chemical insect repellants, some of which may contain DEET, which has proven to be poisonous to water sources. Instead, use citronella candles or Avon’s "Skin So Soft" spray, which is much more eco-friendly. Also, wear long sleeves and pants at dusk, when insects are more prevalent.
5. Keep it clean
No one can really keep up with their normal personal hygiene routine while roughing it, but there are ways to keep both you and the earth clean. For instance, there are many organic and biodegradable soaps that smell great and that don’t warm wildlife if used in lakes or streams. You can also use these for cleaning reusable dishes, although most of the time water will simply do the job. And for dental hygiene, bring a single small container of toothpaste and an empty bottle to use for mouthwash refuse.
6. When nature calls
Human waste is another issue you’ll have to contend with. If you’re staying on an organized campground, look to use public restrooms there. But if you’re off the beaten path, consider buying an eco-friendly camping toilet. If worse comes to worse, do as cats do: dig a hole, six to eight inches deep, and at least two hundred feet from any other campsites or water sources. Do your business and cover the hole when finished. Although it may be gross, never leave toilet paper or other hygiene products in the woods or even buried. Bring a sealable bag to store your used toilet paper. To neutralize odors, partially fill the bag with cedar wood chips, saw dust, or an ammonia-soaked sponge.
7. Fanning the flames
When camping, you’re going to have to eat. Wood-burning campfires are always preferred to other options, such as butane or propane camp stoves. When constructing a campfire, only uses already fallen branches and twigs for kindling – never cut fresh branches from existing healthy trees. Also, build the fire within a designated fire ring instead of clearing a new spot. Never burn plastics or other man-made materials, which will emit chemicals and pollutants into the air. Lastly, be sure the fire is completely out – not even smoldering – to prevent any forest fires from occurring.
8. Keep food to yourself
You’re bound to run into animals on your camping adventure, from squirrels and chipmunks to possibly even bears. When in the wild, never feed wild animals, as that teaches them to rely on humans (i.e. other campers) for food rather than their natural instincts. Also, lock up any and all food in animal-proof storage bins or hang food in a canvas bag from a tree branch that is out of reach of animals. The last thing you want is a bear visiting your tent in the middle of the night.
9. Save leftovers for later
Didn’t finish all the hotdogs and roasted marshmallows? Save them for home. Many people assume that it is alright to leave behind leftovers or to pour soda and alcohol out on the ground. Leaving behind any sort of food, from coffee grounds to hamburger buns, has a negative impact on the environment, or can attract wild animals to campsites. Be sure to bring an ample supply of garbage bags to store any unwanted food to be properly disposed of at a later time.
10. Stay on course
When hiking, keep the forest as nature intended it and stay on designated trails. Cutting down branches and brush or trudging through an unmarked area can destroy an animal’s natural habitat and the overall ecosystem. You may think it’s okay for just yourself to do it, but what if everybody thought that way?