Camping is a great way to unplug, enjoy the great outdoors, and appreciate nature. However, because you are not part of this natural environment, you can cause disruptions to this delicate balance.
Therefore, following sustainable camping practices is very important. Sustainable camping is also known as eco-friendly or green camping. It is a practice that focuses on promoting conservation and the preservation of natural resources. It involves making conscious choices to minimize waste, conserve energy and water, and LEAVE NO TRACE behind.
This article will take you through some of the ways we can disrupt nature, provide some tips to overcome these disruptions by following sustainable camping practices and provide suggestions on products that are eco-friendly.
How not following Sustainable Camping can Disrupt Nature
When camping we are guests in a very delicate environment. Even when we think we are doing our best to not disturb nature, we may inadvertently cause damage. Here are some of the ways we could disrupt nature:
Improperly disposing of garbage and litter can harm wildlife and soil. Plastic waste, food scraps, and other non-biodegradable items can take years to decompose, leading to pollution and potential harm to animals that might ingest or get entangled in the litter.
Campfires can leave scorch marks on the ground and damage the surrounding vegetation. Collecting wood for fires can also disrupt the natural habitat and deprive wildlife of essential resources.
Setting up campsites in sensitive areas or not adhering to designated camping spots can lead to soil erosion. Trampling and compacting the soil can negatively affect plant growth and soil quality.
Noises, smells, and human presence can disrupt wildlife, causing stress and affecting their natural behaviors. In some cases, this could lead animals to abandon their nests or habitats, which can be detrimental to their survival.
Invasive Species Spread
Introducing non-native plants or animals unintentionally can have a significant impact on local ecosystems, as these invasive species can outcompete native species and disrupt the natural balance.
Improper disposal of wastewater and the use of detergents in natural water sources can lead to pollution. This can harm aquatic life and make the water unsafe for both animals and humans.
When campers venture off established trails, they can create new paths, leading to habitat destruction and potential harm to delicate ecosystems.
Concentrating too many campers in a particular area can put a strain on the environment. Vegetation might be trampled, and the local ecosystem may struggle to recover from the impact of so many visitors.
Using single-use, non-biodegradable camping equipment and supplies can contribute to environmental degradation. For example, leaving behind broken tents, plastic bottles, or other trash can be harmful to the environment.
How to Become a Sustainable Camper
If you plan to go camping, before you hit the trails, it’s important to consider the way camping can impact wildlife and the natural environment. Here are some tips to get you started on your next camping trip to make it eco-friendly and as low impact as possible.
1. Choosing where to camp
When choosing where to camping look for campgrounds that prioritize environmental stewardship, such as those with recycling facilities, renewable energy sources, and low-impact infrastructure. National, provincial, and state parks and protected areas often have guidelines for sustainable camping. It is important that you follow these guidelines.
Once there, when choosing a site to pitch your tent look for established sites rather than creating new ones. This will help preserve the natural environment and prevent soil erosion. Also, avoid camping near streams and lakes as they are important sources of clean water for wildlife and humans.
2. Packing light and smart
Minimize the amount of gear and supplies you bring to reduce waste and energy consumption. Choose durable, reusable eco-friendly camping gear and opt for multipurpose items whenever possible. Bring re-usable containers for food and avoid single-use items.
Planning will also help you to minimize what you bring. Part of this planning includes checking the weather to avoid packing clothes for every possible scenario. If you know what the most likely weather conditions will be, you can plan accordingly. Meal planning will also help you to minimize on cooking gear.
3. Using eco-friendly camping gear
Choosing eco-friendly camping gear has benefits to both the environment and the camper.
If you don’t already have equipment, you should invest in eco-friendly camping gear made from sustainable materials such as recycled or organic fibers. Durability and lifespan of the equipment should also be part of the decision. Quality, long-lasting equipment can save you money in the long run. It will also reduce the impact on the environment.
If you already have equipment, even if it is made from synthetic materials, you should keep and use it for as long as you can. Do not replace it or discard it, because it is not new and conforming to today’s rules. The longer you keep it, the longer it will not be in a landfill. Always repair gear instead of replacing it when possible.
Choose biodegradable soap, sunscreen, and insect repellent to minimize water pollution.
4. Conserving water
Water conservation is an essential component of sustainable camping. Using water sparingly is the key.
Washing dishes can use a lot of water. There are some simple ways to reduce both the number of dishes and the amount of water used to wash them. Plan one-pot meals, reduces the number of dishes. Scraping, wiping with a damp cloth, and not letting food get caked on and dried out will reduce the amount of water needed to wash them. Use wastewater to extinguish your fire.
Collecting rainwater and using the water from your melted ice for non-drinking purposes like washing dishes or extinguishing fires can also help.
Showers is another source for high water use. Take quick showers by wetting yourself, cutting the water, soap and shampoo yourself, and then rinse yourself off. Another alterative is to take sponge baths. Use hand sanitizer to wash your hands. Micellar water to wash your face.
Avoid using soap directly in natural water sources to prevent pollution.
5. Cooking sustainably
Cooking sustainably while camping includes choosing zero waste food, energy-efficient camping stoves or campfires, choosing sustainable firewood options, and cookware and dinnerware that is sustainable.
Zero waste camping food is food that is either packaged in reusable containers or disposed of in a way that does not create waste. Opt for local, organic, non-perishable food whenever possible to minimize waste and support local communities. Canned and packaged food create waste, so go fresh and use jars.
Include the planning of minimizing your waste when planning meals, prepare food in advance, and avoid or remove single-use plastic packaging at home.
6. Respecting wildlife
To be a considerate camper you should observe wildlife from afar, give animals space, store food securely and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Storing food and garbage securely will prevent wildlife from being attracted to your campsite.
Sticking to designated trails and avoiding disturbing plants and habitats will help to keep the eco-system in balance. Do not remove natural objects like rocks or shells as this too is part of the habitat. Respect nesting areas and sensitive habitats.
Finally, allow animals free access to water sources. Your site should be located at least 60 meters from the water source.
7. Minimizing campfire impacts
Many people feel that you are not camping unless you have a campfire. Some people take pride in building the perfect campfire, which is a skill. However, the natural appearance of many camping areas has been damaged by the overuse of fires.
The development of lightweight efficient camping stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. They operate in almost any weather condition, unlike a campfire.
If you decide and are permitted to build a fire, you must weigh the potential damage to the forest and infrastructures and follow key steps to mitigate the impact.
Follow local regulations regarding campfires and firewood. Use established fire rings or designated fire pits, and burn only small, dry wood to reduce air pollution. Either buy or gather wood from a local source. Do not bring firewood from home to prevent the spread of invasive alien species.
Ensure fires are completely extinguished before leaving the campsite. Put out fires with water, not dirt. When leaving, clean up the area. Check about your responsibility in terms of packing out ash, return any soil and rocks to where you found them, and scatter unused wood.
8. Reducing energy consumption
One of the main reasons to go camping is to literally unplug and remove ourselves from all the electricity driven appliances we use in our daily lives. We do however continue to need some of these conveniences.
Use low-energy or energy-efficient alternatives such as LED lanterns, flashlights, or solar-powered lights. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Consider using renewable energy sources like portable solar panels to charge electronic devices.
Use a thermos or insulated water bottle to keep drinks cold instead of using a cooler. Use reflective tarp to keep your tent cool. Choose a campsite that has natural shade. Use a small portable clothesline to dry your clothes.
Pack lightweight, compact gear to reduce weight and energy needed for transportation. Use a small portable water filter or purification tablets to purify water, instead of buying bottled water.
9. Practicing LEAVE NO TRACE principles
There are 7 well-established and widely known principles of LEAVE NO TRACE. Many of these principles have been reviewed. Following the “Leave No Trace principles”, includes planning ahead and preparing, hiking, and camping on already established trails and sites, disposing of waste properly, leaving natural items undisturbed, minimizing campfires impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate to others.
Delving into disposing of waste properly, means leaving the campsite as you found it or better by packing out all your trash and disposing properly, leaving natural items undisturbed, and staying on designated trails to minimize your impact on the natural environment a wildlife. If you packed it in, pack it out. Thoroughly inspecting picnic areas and campsites for food scraps and trash is recommended.
Following proper waste management practices also means separating and properly disposing of trash, recyclables, and compostable waste in designated areas.
10. Supporting local communities
Purchasing locally sourced food and products by visiting local farmers’ markets and engaging in eco-tourism activities not only benefit the local economy to ensure that the camping area is there for the future. It also limits the introduction of foreign plants, seeds, and food waste as well as reducing the amount of fuel used to acquire supplies.
Some ways you can support the local community include hiring a local guide, attending local museums, concerts, lectures, and events, or just enjoying local coffee shops and restaurants.
Locally owned businesses strengthen communities and help to create the vibrant and unique cultures that many of us look for when traveling.
11. Educating yourself and share you knowledge with others
Finally, it is important that you educate yourself on the rules and regulations of the area you have chosen to camp. Your education need not be limited to rules, it should also include the enjoyment of the area. Find out what it has to offer to you.
Learn about the local flora, fauna, and cultural history of the area you’re camping in can build your knowledge on what makes the area special. Understanding the wildlife, the vegetation, and the rugged beauty make the trip more enjoyable. Taking up bird watching to see new species, or learning about mushrooms can build on your understanding of the complex eco-systems.
Share your knowledge with fellow campers to promote environmental awareness and responsible behavior.
Sustainable Camping Equipment Suggestions
The most sustainable camping gear is the gear you already own. If you are missing camping gear, consider borrowing or renting items before purchasing. You could also consider buying things second hand. If you need to purchase equipment and are planning on camping often or know you’ll continuously use it, buy from sustainable brands.
A good quality tent that is appropriate for the weather conditions and the right size is one of the most important pieces of equipment. The materials used to make the tent are also a very important consideration. It should be made of natural materials that are ethically sourced. Look to local brands that take all these considerations to heart and have a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. For a complete list of Canadian tent brands, consult the Outdoor Fitness Society.
Eco-Friendly Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags could arguably be the most important piece of equipment on a camping trip. It is also one of the most complex, with its sheer volume of materials, and up until now there has been a trade-off between performance and sustainability. Some key brands have spearheaded efforts to create great sleeping bags that are sustainable. Consult this article for a complete list of sustainable sleeping bags.
Sustainable Camping Chairs
You have probably owned or sat in a camping chair at one point. They can range in comfort and price with most being quite durable. However, have you investigated what they are made from? Finding an outdoor chair that is light and made from materials that have minimal environmental impact is important. TravelChair now has a line of camp chairs made from recycled materials.
Lighting is important when tidying up the campsite when it is dark and getting ready for a good night of sleep after all that fresh air. There are many lights now available to take advantage of the free energy provided by the sun. They should be lightweight, durable, compact, and versatile. See this list of options.
Finding a cooler made from 100% recycled materials or natural materials seems to be where there has been the least progress. In reviewing the best coolers in Canada, there is no mention of whether they are eco-friendly. The one plus is that they are all durable.
Eco-Friendly Camping Stove
There are a few options for camping stoves. Liquid fuel camp stoves are an environmentally friendly option. The fuel bottles are reusable. By reusing the bottle, you maximize the value and the life and eliminate the empty canister waste. Check out these options.
Switching to a wood burning camping stove is another great solution. It uses 100% renewable resources and is compact.
Single use and disposable dishes are the worst option for kitchenware. You should limit the number of pots and pans. You should also consider lightweight dishes and utensils. Consider using maple wood dishes and cutlery.
They are lightweight, durable, and easy to maintain.
They are 100% eco-friendly and JUstenbois produces zero waste.
Warm foods stay warm longer in wood.
Cold foods stay cool longer in wood.
Maple Wood is a natural anti-bacterial.
Will last up to 15 years with proper care.
Visit www.justenbois.com to learn more.
Biodegradable Dish Soap
Protecting the environment and our water can be an easy step while camping by choosing an eco-friendly dish soap. The soap should be chlorine free, phosphate-free, naturally scented, or unscented, low in toxicity, and biodegradable. Consult this list to choose which suits you best.
Zero Waste Toiletries
Similar to the biodegradable dish soap you should look for personal hygiene products that are also good for the planet. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, and bug spray should all be evaluated for their compliance. See these eco-friendly hygiene products and natural sun and bug protection.
Sustainable camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while minimizing your impact on the environment. With these eco-friendly camping tips in hand, you are now ready to plan and go on your next camping trip responsibly.