By Staff Writer Brendan Pringle.
If only that were completely true.
Every year, 45 million Americans take camping trips in order to get closer to nature, yet many fail to treat these natural preserves with sustainable behavior. Before you prepare for your next camping trip, be sure to take the following tips into consideration:
1) Pack Lightly and Simply
It may seem obvious, but it’s best to pack lightly for any camping trip. Whether you are hauling all your camping tools in the SUV or dragging it along by a hitch, consider your fuel mileage. By downsizing, you can ease up on the gas pedal and be gentle with your pocketbook at the same time.
And to truly become one with nature, the stuff you bring should be green as well. Yes, this means that even your camping wardrobe should be eco-conscious. It’s always important to look sporty for your upcoming excursion, and luckily, “eco-friendly” is slowly becoming the new “black” in the camping fashion world.
“Vegan footwear” may appear to have the tag “eco-friendly” built into it, but consumers should check the manufacturing details behind these items. The production of synthetic materials is often harmful to the environment (as materials are mainly petroleum-based), but these can easily be replaced with products that use hemp, organic cotton, water-based adhesives, and recycled content. Be sure to watch out for outdoor gear that uses synthetic chemicals for qualities like waterproofing. Such toxins can destroy ecosystems during the manufacturing process.
As for all those complex camping gadgets, try to stay simple. For instance, you may want to think twice before bringing out your deluxe propane stove. Instead, consider how you can maximize the potential of the basic campfire. On the same note, it’s important to limit the size of the fire, utilize previously used spots, and to pick up only fallen wood to feed the flames. To get the fire started, try using a 100% natural resin fire starter like Fatwood© instead of hosing the firewood down with lighter fluid.
If the fire pit doesn’t fulfill all of your gourmet needs, seek sustainable alternatives to heat your food. For example, the Ecoflame™ Warming Gel effectively reduces emissions by providing a natural alternative to petroleum based cooking fuel. Derived from sugar cane, this gel is sustainable from its harvesting techniques to its recyclable packaging. In the green world, it doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
2) Waste and Wildlife . . . A Horrible Equation
Once you arrive at the campground, the most fundamental way to stay green is to mind your waste. This may sound simple, but this means more than just throwing away empty bags of marshmallows. Liquids should never be emptied on the ground, as even stale coffee can harm a fragile ecosystem. This likewise means bringing a container for toothpaste and mouthwash refuse when there is no bathroom around, and cleaning cooking materials with plain old water.
Furthermore, you may wish to brace yourself for a “Bambi”-style guilt trip moment, but scientists have proven that “humans have the greatest negative impact on the environment and wildlife.” It’s about time to stand up to this reality and do our best to minimize our impact.
The number one rule, of course, is “Don’t feed the bears.” While such an act may have good intentions, feeding wildlife makes them only more dependent on humans and deprives them of the proper nutrients necessary for survival (which are lacking in human food).
Beyond this, trash disposal and storage is key. Plastic bags have become a major threat to wildlife (especially marine life), causing suffocation, choking, and digestive complications for tens of thousands of creatures annually. The best way to deal with this issue is to always tie plastic bags into a large knot, even before disposing of them.
And for those pesky insects you would like to terminate, hold back your bloodthirsty urge to whip out the traps. Certain pests are a key component of many natural ecosystems. Instead, breathe deeply and deter the insects instead by covering all food, putting out citronella candles and using netted outdoor tents. In other words, nip the problem in the butt before it nips you.
3) Staying Green from the “Grounds” Up
Sustainable camping can be difficult in today’s society, but fortunately campgrounds and RV parks around the nation and across the globe have started implementing the foundations for a greener future.
Campgrounds have already taken measures to save water and conserve energy, and the cooperation of campers will ultimately guarantee overall effectiveness. With over 25,000 campgrounds functioning in America alone, the impact of these minor changes could be dramatic. And it is actually in the economic interest of campgrounds to incorporate inexpensive energy- and water-saving features in their facilities.
As for the RV world, America has become a key player in the movement to make parks and campgrounds greener. The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has just introduced its Plan-It Green Program, through which RV parks are evaluated for their green practices. If half of the criteria is met, the parks receive recognition as participants in this program. For those that have not yet fulfilled such standards, there is the ARVC Plan-It Green Pledge program, where participants can pledge to “reduce, reuse, and recycle and to educate guests about the benefits” of environmental responsibility. Thus far, over 100 parks have made this pledge.
Over the last century, camping has evolved into a misunderstood and overly technical form of recreation. It only takes a few small adjustments to make your next camping a little greener. These minor compromises will allow us to truly get back in touch with nature, and embrace our inner John Muir.