Greening Your Camping – Getting Started

Camp fire

Camp fire

Camping is a low impact and low cost way to vacation either by yourself or with your friends and family.   We find that it is a good way to spend several days of quality time with friends that is not horribly expensive.

There are a lot of green websites that talk about how to go that extra step to make your camping trip even more green.   We’ve written some of these posts as well, including alternatives for dealing with bug bites, using reusable utensils and even camping with cloth diapers.  We went camping at a state campground recently and we realized that some people may benefit from a list of basic “green” things for camping.  Our blog is about step by step to a greener lifestyle, so here is a list of some of the basic things to get started with green camping!

Camp At An Established Campground

About half the U.S. states have public campgrounds and there are private campgrounds all over the world.   If camping in the United States, check out Reserve America to find a campground where you want to go that meets your needs.  Camping in a campground lessens your impact on the environment, especially if you are not an experienced camper.

Buy second hand equipment

If you expect to camp less then 3 or 4 times a year, it makes sense to buy second hand equipment such as tents, cook stoves, sleeping bags and other gear, rather than spending money on expensive quality equipment or cheap equipment that won’t last more than a few trips.  There’s nothing more frustrating than having equipment break or fail while you’re camping.

Don’t Burn Plastic 

Let  me say it again: DON’T BURN PLASTIC. Plastics give off toxic fumes when burned and shouldn’t be burned on a campfire.   This includes water bottles, plastic bags, silverware and plastic wrap from your food.  These should be disposed of either through recycling, in provided dumpsters or take it with you when you leave.  Burning plastic is bad for the environment, bad for your health and bad for the health of the people around you. Not to mention, it smells bad.

cloth diapers drying on a clothes line in the woods with a tent in the background

Cloth diapers drying at our campsite

Take Out Everything You Bring In 

Upon returning from camping I asked my children what thing should we tell people to make their camping better for the environment.  My 6 year old says “Don’t leave your trash behind”.   If the campground does not provide dumpsters, please take the trash with you.  Don’t burn your trash.  In addition to plastic, don’t burn cans – they leave sharp residue behind that could hurt the next person and you’re wasting material that could other wise be recycled.

Don’t Throw Batteries In the Fire 

Really.  It’s just dangerous.

Keep Radios & Conversations at a Low to Moderate Volume

When you are out in nature try to enjoy the nature around you.   Radio music is disruptive to the wildlife around you, animals will be upset and confused by the unusual noises.  Other people camping near you don’t want to hear your music.  Remember that there are no walls or windows that people can close if they don’t choose to hear what you’re saying, doing or playing.   Sound carries a lot further than you realize in the wilderness.

Walk to the Restrooms 

Unless you’re in an unusual situation, or have special needs,  most campgrounds are set up such that tent sites are with in a reasonable walking distance from the restroom.  Starting your car and driving to the restroom not only uses fuel unnecessarily, but is disruptive to the other campers.

Turn Your Car Off 

If you do need to drive within the campground for some reason, turn your car off when you get to each destination.  Running it wastes gas.  It puts noxious fumes into the air we breathe and if you’re already camping, you really shouldn’t need those extra few minutes of air conditioning or heating.   Sometimes showers are less convenient than restrooms, but it’s healthier to hike over to the showers than drive.

Consider Changes To Your Routine 

If you’re someone who automatically takes a shower every morning, think twice before heading over to the shower bleary-eyed.  Many people don’t take daily showers when camping, or take them later in the day after they’re sweaty or dirty.

Use the Water Provided 

Public and most private campgrounds provide fresh drinking water. We use something called a platypus to carry water from the spigot to our table that we fill cups and bottles from.  Bringing sufficient water for your trip in your car can be significant extra weight to drive and most likely means you’ll have a lot of annoying empty bottles afterwards.  (Exceptions exist, you may want to confirm what facilities are available when booking your site or before arrival.)

Use Reusable Plates, Silverware and PotsIMG_4878

Its more work to wash dishes than to just  bring disposables ones that you throw away or paper ones that you burn.  However, it’s much lower impact if you have plastic or metal dishes that you wash and reuse.  It takes time, but if you’re camping with friends you can wash dishes together and spend time together.

Use Biodegradable & phosphate free soaps

Not all soaps are good for the environment.  When you toss your wash water, either pour it down a drain if provided, or if doing dishes at your campsite, take the water far enough away from your tent site that any animals that might be attracted aren’t attracted to your site.

Happy Greening!

Other articles in our Greening Your Camping Series:

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