For both the expert and the novice, camping is an amazing adventure vacation—living in nature, observing and exploring a pristine world so apart from the busy, modern lifestyle that many are accustomed to. In order to preserve the ecosystem that is being enjoyed, it is important to follow these simple green camping tips. Make the effort to have an environmentally-friendly vacation, which benefits everyone.
Green Camping Guidelines for Building Fires
Campfires are an important part of the camping experience. They can also pose a risk to the environment.
- Be sure to only use twigs and branches which have already fallen — do not cut fresh branches from existing trees.
- Try to use an area previously used to build a fire, as opposed to clearing new space.
- Only make small fires, minimizing the impact.
- Burn wood or coal completely; never leave embers behind.
- Do not burn plastics, and other man-made materials, as they will pollute the air.
How to Dispose of Waste on a Sustainable Camping Trip
The first basic rule of green camping is waste removal. Never leave anything behind. This includes garbage of any form; do not leave food packaging, bottles, tissues, paper, or any other material no matter how biodegradable it may seem. When leaving a campsite or area, be sure to do a thorough search for any trash, even if it was left by previous campers.
All food must be removed as well. Many people assume that it is alright to leave behind leftovers, or to poor out liquids onto the ground. Any foreign substance, from moldy bread to stale coffee, can have a negative impact on a fragile ecosystem. Plan ahead and bring enough bags and containers to be able to take all food refuse away from the campground to be disposed of properly.
Human waste is another concern of sustainable camping. If there are no facilities available on site, it is important to be responsible for personal waste. A simple solution is to dig a hole, six to eight inches deep and two hundred feet away from any water source or other camp area. Cover the hole well when finished. Never leave toilet paper or other hygiene products, even beneath the ground, as animals may dig them up.
Another solution is to use a camping toilet. Either a commercial, eco-friendly model, or a homemade toilet made from lining a five gallon bucket with a biodegradable bag, and then sealing the bucket with a snap on toilet seat and lid. Scoop wood chips or sawdust into the bag before and after use. When full, this bag can be sealed, contained within the bucket, and removed from the campsite.
Washing on Environmentally-Friendly Adventures
While staying in nature, it may not be practical to keep up with normal hygiene practices. It is possible to stay clean and to wash what is necessary. For dental hygiene, bring a container for toothpaste and mouthwash refuse. Do not wash in rivers or lakes, even with natural soaps and shampoos. This will pollute the water, potentially harming wildlife. For cleaning cooking materials, simply use water; do not introduce any cleaning products into the ecosystem.
Green camping ultimately means leaving nature as it was, if not better than how it was found. Following these guidelines is so important to ensure the preservation of the natural environment. Everyone will benefit from an attitude of gratitude for nature, rather than disregard.
Environmentally Friendly Products for Camping
Use soaps that are one-hundred percent biodegradable. Non-environmentally friendly soaps harm wildlife and contaminate lakes, ponds, streams, and underground water sources. There are soaps designed for camping that do not contaminate water sources. Burt’s Bees sells a product for camping called “Outdoor All-In-One Wash” that is available in many retail stores.
Steer away from using chemical bug repellents and use a natural herbal product instead. Avoid using fly and wasp traps by using citronella candles, covering food, and using netted outdoor tents. It is better to deter insects while camping than to kill them. Each species of insect has an important function in the wild and contributes to a natural environmental balance.
Resist the urge to feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife accustoms wild animals to human contact and weakens their natural caution of humans, which could put them in danger when around unfriendly humans. In addition, wild animals who are frequently fed by humans can become reliant on obtaining easy food and discontinue hunting or gathering. Wildlife whose diets consist of a significant portion of human food, often are not getting the proper nutrients they need to maintain optimum health.
Don’t allow pets to harass wildlife. Keep an eye on your pets at all times during your camping trip. Don’t allow them to chase wildlife or dig in wildlife burrows. Harassment by pets can cause wildlife to relocate out of fear.
Off Road Parking
Whenever possible, avoid parking off road. The heavy weight of automobiles can compact dirt making it hard for new plant life to grow and the weight can smash existing fragile tree roots.
If you must park off road, make sure to evaluate the ground area before parking, to make sure that you will not be parking on top of plants or an animal’s home.
Don’t drive stakes into trees or hang hammocks from trees. Stakes driven into trees can injure or kill the trees. Hammocks tied around trees may not seem like they are doing damage, but they often are. The weight from a person lying in the hammock can cause the rope used to tie the hammock onto the tree, to dig into the tree and injure it. Hammocks using a self supporting stand are a tree friendlier option.