Nothing makes you think about your ecological footprint like a stint in the great outdoors. You breathe in the clean air, take a dip in the cool water, and hope with all your heart that future generations will also have the privilege to enjoy this.
However, camping and traveling can often take us into "convenience" mode, where we don't mind the extra plastic, the disposable cutlery, and the lack of recycling options. Let's challenge this mindset this year and make this the summer of the #greencottage. You'll see that a lot of the times, the switches we make benefit both us and the environment, and there will definitely be less on your conscience when you sit to enjoy the beautiful sunset on the dock in the evenings.
Invest in Reusable Items
You might be shocked to find out that many people use disposable plates when camping or cottaging. Or, you might have done that yourself in the past. It's true that it means less washing up, but it also means a lot more garbage! Instead of bringing stacks of the disposable stuff with you, invest in a set for the cottage or for camping. They can be something as simple as old plates and cutlery from the thrift store, or recycled plastic versions from ReplayRecycled. In the long run, this will also be better for your wallet, as you won't have to keep dishing out for the trashy stuff.
Get a Compost Bin
The smelliest kind of garbage is usually the kind of waste that should be composted: items that rot. So instead of collecting it and driving it to the local dump on the one day a week it's open, or, even worse, having to drive home with it, set up a composting system on the cottage property. This will also mean less waste to deal with in general, something to consider if the dump charges you per garbage bag. An extra consideration, however, might be how your food scraps might attract animals. Be conscious of it being properly sealed and safe from little (or big) paws. Bonus: next spring, you might have some soil to use for an herb or pollinator garden!
Refill When Possible
Before you go up to your home away from home, refill on all of your favourite snacks, soaps, cleaners, and more. With recycling being an issue in some remote municipalities, refilling what you already have for the season is a better use of containers and then less hassle when it comes to disposal. Using glass or seal-able metal containers for foods like pasta, rice, flour, and more also keeps them safe from little critters and bugs who like to take up residence in our cabins when we're away. Pro tip: have some cottage mates that like indulging in beer while vacationing? Fill up your growlers with your favourite craft beer before you leave or being your growlers along to fill up at the local brewery.
Use Natural Products
It doesn't take much to connect the thought of putting chemicals in your water, on your surfaces, and on your plants with the thought of it ending up in the ecosystem that surrounds you, especially when surrounded by nature. In the city we tend to forget, but with everything reminding you of intricate (and sensitive) systems in place, the motivation to switch to natural should be there. From sunscreens, bug sprays, through dish soaps and shampoo, consider what you are putting into the environment when you engage with it. Make the switch from harsh chemicals that don't do good for you or the planet, to products that are biodegradable, derived from nature, and do little or no harm.
Get a Water Purifier
When camping or when at the cottage, we often doubt the quality of the water that comes out of the faucet, especially when we plan on drinking it. Instead of bringing packs and packs of bottled water, come up with a plan that engages a smaller footprint. Some ideas include refilling those big water jugs at the grocery store in town and using that to fill personalized water bottles. Alternatively, use a filtering pitcher to clean the water that comes from the well. Lastly, there are more and more options for bottles that filter water. That might be something worth exploring if you are moving around a lot during your outdoor adventures and wouldn't be able to refill from a big pitcher or bottle, ex. Backpacking trip or portage.
Reuse What You Have
While you can definitely invest in a set of beeswax wraps or silicone zip lock bags to keep your kitchen as waste and plastic free as possible, be resourceful with what you have. Finished the jam? Use that jar to refill with snacks when you go into town or use it to store leftover noodle salad from lunch. Finished off the orange juice? Use that container to bring up as much kibble as you need for your pet. Be more conscious of what you do bring with you, planning to either keep it there as an addition to your resources available, or to bring it back.
These are just some of the ideas that we came up with that would make the average cottage a little greener this year. What do you do differently when vacationing in nature?