Ever since there were people wanting a getaway, camping has existed. Sleeping in a natural setting has not lost its romance and popularity. With people becoming more conscious of their “footprint” and wildlife protection, many are looking for more conscientious ways to participate in the outdoors without causing unnecessary damage. There are simple ways one can truly be a “green” camper and be as pleasant to the environment as it is to us.
1. Pitch a Tent and Ditch the RV
RVs use an incredible amount of energy and fuel to run, after all, they are mini-houses are wheels. The amount of energy required to camp using an RV is significant in comparison with other alternatives.
Instead, when going on a camping trip, pack up the car with a tent and sleeping bags. Big tents are cheaper and a lot more earth friendly. Pitch tents only on designated camping sites or areas that are clear of vegetation. Camping at a non-designated area can disrupt wildlife and vegetation.
2. Think Biodegradable
It is important to stay clean for one’s own health and hygiene. However, many soaps are not biodegradable and can make wildlife sick. Thankfully there are soaps that are biodegradable and the same soap can be used on one’s body, dishes, and clothing. The impact on the local water source will be minimal when the soap is used at least 100-feet away from rivers, lakes, or streams.
3. Think Reusable
Forget about purchasing multiple packages of paper or Styrofoam plates and cups and plastic utensils, which will only be used once. Instead, use sturdy plates, cups, and utensils that can be washed and used again.
Also consider using cloth napkins instead of paper ones. These can be easily and cheaply made by purchasing cotton fabric at the fabric store and then cutting them to size. If you own a sewing machine, the edges can be hemmed nicely. If not, the napkins will just have an outdoor-sy, “rustic” look.
4. Let There Be Light
Camping lights are essential for safety and security. Get the biggest bang for your buck with LED lighting, which is the most efficient type of lighting that exists today. The bulbs in LEDs use up to 90% less energy. LED lights are brighter for a longer amount of time (up to 600 hours) than traditional flashlights, which drain batteries quickly. Camping lanterns that use LED lights can be purchased in camping supply stores or online and can eliminate the use of oil, gas, or fire for light.
5. Clear the Evidence
One of the rules of thumb for camping is “leave no trace“. What this means is that one should not take anything with them (from the camp site), but take everything you brought. Removing natural items from the area camped in, or hiking on areas that are not designated trails, can leave a big impact on the wildlife in the area and may even be illegal.
When making a campfire, use only dead materials if using items found around the site. Line and contain the fire with big rocks or logs to prevent a wildfire. Clear all signs of a campfire by scattering cool ashes at the end of the trip and make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving.
Take all waste and garbage with you and dispose of it properly. Make sure no food is left out as well. Leaving trash at the site is not fair to future campers and the animals in the area. It is hard to become “one” with nature when it looks like a dump. Hungry animals may also get curious and consume left-over food or trash, which can make them sick.
With human or pet waste, it is important to bury it if restrooms are not available. The smells of waste not disposed of or taken care of properly will be an obvious sign that someone was there. Toilet paper should be burned or disposed of with the other trash being packed-out. Some areas require one take human waste away with them, like they would with other types of trash.
Spending some time in the outdoors is a great way to get away and feel rejuvenated. Green camping does not have to be complicated and can be easily done with a little forethought and consideration for the environment and others that may be in the same area. When it comes to nature, what you leave is what the next person or animal gets.
~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009