Green Camping : Put Nature First
- Wednesday, 04 August 2010
Green camping may seem redundant—what's more green that spending a weekend or a week or two in the wilderness? But many campgrounds cater to our comforts rather than nature, and a lot of campers are anything but green. The good news is, greening your camping trip is simple: it's all about planning ahead and putting nature first.
The first step toward greener camping is to think light when packing. Most people travel a considerable distance to get to the campground of their choice, and the heavier your gear, the worse your fuel mileage will be. Not only will lightening your load save you money on gas, you'll also keep greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum. If you normally haul a tent trailer, consider switching to a lightweight tent and foam pads to keep everyone comfortable.
Forget all the unnecessary gadgets that require batteries or hook up to your vehicle. Flashlights are a must for getting around at night, but there are crank and shakable models, or you can use rechargeable batteries. If you have an air mattress, pump it up yourself with a foot pump rather than using an electric pump that hooks up to your car (you really don't want to drain your battery in the middle of nowhere).
Some campers enjoy a few tunes in the evening, but there are green options. Pick up a hand-crank radio or invest in a compact solar charger that can be used to power a small radio. Leave the hand-held video games and portable DVD players at home; your kids will survive without them. If you're worried about what to do on rainy days, bring along a deck of cards, paper and crayons or pencil crayons for drawing or writing, and look into programming at the park as many state and national parks have a visitors center with activities for kids.
Once you're at the campground, be kind to the environment. Your trash is your responsibility. Never litter, whether hiking, at the beach, or on your site. Paper products can be burned in your campfire, but plastics, aluminum cans, glass containers, and food scraps should be stored and disposed of according to campground rules. If you cannot make it to the garbage collection area before you hit the sack, place garbage in a plastic bag and lock it in the trunk of your vehicle.
While some campgrounds have recycling and composting programs, it's not a standard. If recycling is not available, you might consider carting glass, metals, and plastics home for recycling, so that only food scraps and non-recyclable waste will end up in the local landfill.
Campfires are a quintessential camping experience, but a safe campfire is a must. Be aware of any fire restrictions or bans during forest fire season. Regardless of risk, always keep fires small and contained in a fire pit, and make sure your tent and any flammables such as a propane tank are well away from the campfire. When building a fire, never use deadfall. Bring your own firewood or buy a bag of firewood from the campground. Forests rely on enrichment from the decay of dead trees and branches, and if campers collect deadfall and use it for firewood, the forests will suffer.
If you're bringing your dog, as many campers do, invest in a stake that screws into the ground to keep your pet secure. Tying your dog's rope to a tree can do harm to the tree's bark, which is its protection from the elements and disease. Dog waste should be disposed of in the garbage, not thrown into the bush.
Before you leave, make a sweep of your site and clean up any litter, excess ash in the fire pit, and any pet waste. Your site should look as pristine as the day you arrived—more so if you had to clean up something left behind by a previous camper.