Sustainable living is wildly popular these days and it looks like the trend is here to stay. We only have one planet and a finite amount of resources so learning how to make the most of what we have makes sense.
There’s nothing better than spending a few days in nature and getting away from the craziness of city life. Waste is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of our everyday lives and camping is no different. Campers, by nature, seem to have a deep love for the outdoors and a desire to preserve it.
Eco-friendly living can be incorporated into all aspects of our lives, including camp life. The principles are pretty straightforward: limit your waste and reuse whatever you can. If you take a little bit of time and plan your sustainable camping trip, the hard work upfront will pay off for many camping trips to come.
Tips for Green Camping
I’m sure that everyone has shown up at a campsite and seen things that shouldn’t be there. Plastic bags in the bushes, garbage where it shouldn’t be, and a general disregard for the environment. It’s not our job to clean up after everyone else, however, we can do our part in maintaining the natural world to the best of our abilities.
1. Don’t use plastic water bottles
Water is an essential part of everyday life and the human body can only last 3 days without water. There are 8.3 million pounds of plastic garbage on the planet (source), needless to say, every piece of plastic makes a difference.
Get in the habit of using reusable water bottles. It limits the plastic waste, drinking toxins from the plastic and saves you money in the long run. There’s nothing worse than finding plastic bottles tossed in the bushes around the campsite, don’t be that guy.
Carbon Monoxide is the waste that is left behind from combustion engines and it only has one place to go, into the air. If you’re camping with a large group, make plans to carpool on your way there. It limits your carbon footprint and gives you time to spend with your friends and family on the way!
3. Pack reusable kitchenware
Plastic and paper kitchenware is super convenient and easy to use. The problem is you have to find somewhere to throw it away and then someone has to find a landfill for it to live. Bringing reusable kitchenware is going to save you money and time, two things that we could all use more of.
4. Separate your waste
Bring a few bags and separate your waste as you go. Recycling and reusing is the hallmark of sustainable living and it starts with limiting and separating your waste. Most campgrounds today have a bin for glass, plastic, compost, and waste so you might as well use them. If they don’t provide them, make your own!
5. Use biodegradable cleaning liquids
Toxic cleaning liquids have a negative impact on the environment (source). They all have to go somewhere and the chemicals often find a home back to the water table. Using biodegradable liquids is going to limit the impact that we all have on the world around and underneath us.
6. Buy used gear or rent your gear
If you’re not camping on a regular basis there is no reason to break the bank on a ton of new gear. Save some money and find a place to rent, borrow, or buy used gear. There are second-hand marketplaces, friends you can ask, and stores to rent all the gear that you need.
7. Camp close to home
Chances are there is some awesome camping close by. We’re not suggesting that an epic camping trip to a National Park should be avoided. However, if it’s just a weekend, away maximize your time outdoors by finding a campground close to home. You save on gas while limiting the impact of emissions from your car.
8. Stay on the trail
Exploring and finding new hidden places is one of the best parts of camping. Chances are that you aren’t the only ones with the desire to explore. It’s important to stay on the trail to limit trampling of fresh vegetation and soil erosion.
9. Use non-toxic sunscreen
Camping is awesome, that being said, sunburns are the worst. The problem is that many available brands of sunscreen contain Oxybenzone, a chemical that gets into the water and does irreparable damage (source). Instead of using chemical rich varieties, opt for natural or bio-friendly options.
10. Poop in a hole
Going number two outdoors happens and believe it or no,t there is a right and wrong way to poop outside. Dig a 6-inch deep hole, poop, and then bury it. The only thing worse than stepping in dog shit is stepping in a pile of human shit.
11. Shop at the local farmer’s market
Supporting your local farmer not only supports the little guy, but it also limits waste in the form of packaging. Bring your own reusable bag and pick out all your favorite produce for the week. It won’t be wrapped in plastic, you get organic vegetables, and the taste is almost always better.
12. Make snacks beforehand
Prep your snacks before you head out to the campsite. This will save you time and energy when you get hungry between meals and you can make is as healthy as you want. Packaged snacks are quick and easy, however, they produce significantly more waste than their pre-packaged counterparts.
13. Lose the aluminum foil
Cooking your meals in tinfoil is a super easy way to prepare a meal, however, a pot takes a little more work and you don’t end up with balls of foil to get rid of. Tin foil has its place, just use it sparingly.
14. Repair broken gear
Most damaged gear can be repaired fairly easily and anyone can do it by spending a couple of minutes doing some research. A good place to start is YouTube, you can find out how to repair nearly every piece of camping gear on the fly. There’s no point in wasting a perfectly good tent or sleeping bag if there’s a minor issue that’s easily repaired.
15. Use solar chargers
Solar power is finally to a place that it can be relied on. Solar chargers are a great way to charge small electronics, LED lanterns, and flashlights. You don’t have to pack a bag full of batteries and you have an unlimited amount of charges.
16. Solar powered showers
Solar powered showers will save on water and they don’t consume any electricity. Not all campsites have showers and if they do they often aren’t in the best shape. A solar-powered shower is a great way to guarantee you have a warm shower while saving on power and water. Plus, you have your own shower without having to worry about any foot fungus from public showers.
17. Minimize your water usage
Water is a limited resource and it’s a good habit to learn to use it sparingly. Shower only when you have to, wash dishes once a day, and reuse water whenever possible.
18. Buy organic food
Organic food is made without the use of chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides that have been shown to be harmful to the environment (source). These chemicals set into place a system of damage that sends ripples throughout the ecosystem. Look for foods that are labeled organic and spend a little extra money if you have to, it’s worth every penny.
19. Build safe campfires
Spending time around the campfire with the glow of the fire illuminating great conversation is amazing. Build your fire responsibly, burn healthy firewood, and use a fire pit or rocks to contain the fire. The last thing you need is to start a wildfire and do long-lasting damage to the place you call home on the weekends.
20. Use earth friendly toiletries
Bio-degradable toiletries are made with natural materials and are much better for the surrounding infrastructure. It will limit the amount of damage to the ground soil, water sources, and your body. Natural alternatives are not marketed the same, however, they achieve the same goal without the nasty stuff to worry about.
21. Leave No Trace
Memorize the Leave No Trace Principles and follow them to the best of your ability. They are put in place to limit the amount of impact that we all have on the outdoors so future generations get to experience nature in its purest form. They are a solid foundation to build a life outdoors upon.
Green camping is all about camping in a way that maintains the environment in a sustainable manner. It’s about making choices before you leave and while you’re camping that lead to little to zero impact on the wild world. It’s a way of life and something that you can share with others.
Not all of these tips are expected to be put in to place at one time, however, just having the knowledge is a huge first step. So pack your bags, plan a trip, and get outside.