Hitting the Forest, Green

By: Flora Richards-Gustafson

Getting out in the great outdoors, exploring the wilderness and terrain and relaxing in nature are what make a great camping trip. The government has taken steps to ensure that beautiful areas remain so through conservation and care. It is our jobs to take the same care when we are out camping, hiking and exploring this summer. We can all do this by being conscious of our impact as we camp and how we can reduce that impact to create a more green and sustainable camping trip.

Camping green really is not difficult. It just takes a little preparation. Let these prep tips guide you:

Reconsider the RV
RVs use an incredible amount of energy and fuel to run. For your next camping trip, consider packing up the car with a tent and sleeping bags. Big tents are cheaper and a lot more earth-friendly. The only think to consider with a tent is to take care not to pitch it outside of designated camping areas; this could disrupt wildlife and vegetation.

Use Reusable Equipment
Avoid purchasing packages of paper or Styrofoam plates and cups and plastic utensils. Instead, invest in sturdy plates, cups, and utensils that can be washed and used again. Also, consider replacing paper napkins with fabric napkins that can be easily rinsed and reused.

Conserve Where you Can
Get the biggest bang for your buck with LED lighting, which is the most efficient type of lighting that exists today. The bulbs in LEDs use up to 90% less energy. LED lights are brighter for a longer amount of time (up to 600 hours) than traditional flashlights, which drain batteries quickly.

Use Safe Products
When washing yourself or dishes while camping, it is important that the water you are rinsing away is not harmful. Find soaps that are biodegradable so that they are less likely to contaminate streams or harm animals that may drink from them. Where possible, use soaps at least 100-feet away from rivers, lakes, or streams.

Once you are out there, take precautions to ensure you not doing more harm than good. Here are some green tips for while you are camping:

Leave No Trace
Take care to take out everything you bring into your camping site. Don't leave trash or equipment when you leave. Plan to bring bags that you can easily carry back out at the end of your trip. Don't leave food or food scraps either as this can be dangerous for animals. Bury any human and pet waste thoroughly, including toilet paper.

Additionally, take care to avoid causing a wilderness fire. Create a contained fire pit with stones to help keep flames contained. Make sure your fire is completely out before leaving by covering it in water and scattering the cool ashes at the end of your camping trip.

Green camping is not complicated. It's not even more expensive. It is just a shift in thinking from 'anything goes' to 'what is the most eco-friendly option.' Use this tips as a spring board for developing other green habits for you and your family to follow while on your camping vacations this summer.

~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009

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