Many people enjoy spending their free time outdoors, but camping sustainably is truly the best way to appreciate the beauty and importance of our natural environment.
Breathe in the fresh air, start noticing those little ants under your boots and never mind the fact that you lost your data signal 3 kilometers ago.
When we are close to nature, we more fully understand the effect that our lifestyle has on the earth and we come up with solutions that respect its integrity.
Here are some tips that will help you have a "green-er" experience next time you go camping with the family.
Pack package-less foods
Hiking a pristine and wild trail, full of amazing flora and fauna while snacking on a pack of Doritos seems wrong. Not only is the food itself full of chemicals and artificial flavours, it leaves you with a non-biodegradable bag that you will have to carry the rest of the way. Instead of ruining your nature experience with your choice of junk food, embrace natural and healthy snack and meal options that either come in reusable, biodegradable, recyclable packaging or none at all! Look for reusable snack pockets or other containers to store your food so that you won't end up carrying an extra bag of garbage at the end of your trip.
Refill your water bottles
Staying hydrated is especially important when you are spending time outside. Store your water in sustainable water bottles that will keep it cool and are easy to carry and drink from. Want to go the extra step? Look into investing in a water filter pump that can purify any water you find, weather from a stream, river, or a lake.
Throw dry sage leaves on the fire as natural bug repellent
Love the idea of keeping warm by the fire on those cool evenings? Make the experience even more delightful by throwing in a bundle of sage leaves. As it burns, it acts as a natural bug repellent, meaning that you get a wonderful nuisance-free bubble, centered right around your main attraction.
Use natural sunscreen and bug spray
Is an environmentally sensitive and protect area really where you want to be lathering yourself with chemical and toxic sunscreens and insect repellents? Especially since you will probably have a lesser chance to shower all of these harmful products off of your skin at the end of the day? Sub these camping essentials out with natural alternatives that will protect you from the sun and insect bites without polluting your environment and your own body. Don't think it's a big deal? Check out those rings of "oil" floating around you when you get into a peaceful lake. Yes, that is your sunscreen washing off of you and polluting the water.
Opt for washable and reusable feminine sanitary products
Having your period is always annoying, but especially so when you are out camping or hiking. The lack of facilities can create a big problem in terms of comfort and hygiene. The most sustainable solution is to use washable and reusable feminine sanitary pads or biodegradable tampons. Bummis Flo pads come with a little baggie to store your used pads until you have a chance to wash and dry them, and tampons can be buried as biodegradable waste.
Pack all-in-one biodegradable soaps and shampoos
Shampoos and soaps can be full of not just artificial fragrances, but detergents and other chemicals that can be harmful to sensitive natural environments. Pack biodegradable soaps, washes, and shampoos, as they naturally decompose and don't pollute the water. Just be sure to read all the instructions on the labels to see if you can rinse directly in bodies of water or if you have to rinse the product out into a pit to allow the process of it moving through the soil to properly purify the water.
Bring dry shampoo
If you aren't going to be bringing a natural biodegradable shampoo along with you, but you aren't a fan of looking like a cave man/woman, consider packing natural dry shampoo. Just a few shakes of this powder and your natural hair oils are soaked up and you smell (and look) amazingly fresh and clean.
Use washable diapers
Even if you find washable and reusable diapers as too much of a hassle for day-to-day use, a camping or hiking trip is a great time to have a few on hand. You won't want to be storing and carrying a week's worth of soiled single-use diapers. The smells and the weight will become an issue, believe us. Reusable diapers, like Bummis, can be washed, dried, and used again.
Bring a baby carrier/wrap
You've seen the signs asking you to keep to the trail. Though sometimes it's to protect the hiker or camper from harm, like dangerous wildlife or plants like poison ivy, it is mostly to protect the integrity of the ecosystem that exists there. Respect nature and ditch your huge stroller in favour of a more sustainable and comfortable carrier. It will be easier for you to stick to even small paths and you know you won't be encroaching on nature more than necessary.
Use solar energy to charge electronics
Instead of using electricity that you know comes from non-sustainable sources, invest in some portable renewable energy source that you can use while you're in the wild. You can find all kinds of flashlights, battery packs and even backpacks that harness the sun's energy to store or provide electrical power.
Bury biodegradable waste
You'll find that during your camping trip, you will have some biodegradable waste to dispose of, like apple cores, dishwater, or even toilet paper. Instead of just scattering it as you go, dig a pit as deep as you can, throw in your biodegradable waste, and cover it up. This will speed up the rate at which the materials will start to decompose and will keep small animals from digging it up easily.
Start your fire naturally
When you go camping, sometime you can smell the unfortunate odour of people trying to jumpstart their fires with liquid firestarter or just any liquid flammable. Not only is this unsafe, it is unhealthy, both for the environment and for the people inhaling the fumes and cooking over it. Look for natural alternatives to this desperate measure, such as stuffing a cardboard toilet paper roll with dryer lint, burning stale chips, and waterproofing your matches with beeswax for the times when the situation is a little…damp.
Camping sustainably can be a challenge and take more preparation and considerations than a regular camping experience. However, it shows so much respect for our beautiful natural environments and is a great tool for teaching kids to honour and conserve our Earth, not just with our words but with our actions. Use it as a springboard to jump into sustainable habits in your everyday life and you'll see that the next time you're out in the wild, it won't feel like an effort, it'll just be life as usual. Except maybe for the firestarters….