As the weather warms up in Kansas and the advent of graduation signals one last free summer for me, my mind is turning to camping. Since last September I’ve been carrying around a tent, sleeping bag and other camping supplies in the trunk of my car, and now that I finally have some free time I’m itching to spend the night outside, go hiking and simply enjoy nature.
While getting away for a weekend to the woods might seem relaxing, the benefits for nature are not necessarily reciprocal. Most of us probably camp the traditional way—sleeping bags and tents—but that doesn’t mean we’re minimizing our impact on the environment. While camping may seem like an eco-friendly activity, it’s important to leave no trace of our visit when we’re gone to preserve the land.
• Taking care of your trash is one of the most important – and obvious – ways of greening your camping. Be sure to take out everything you bring in. Keep bags around for collecting waste and for recycling.
• Dispose of waste according to your campsite’s rules.
• When hiking, stuff trash in your pockets. If you see any litter left behind by other hikers, be courteous and pick up after them. Just because it’s not your trash doesn’t mean you can’t help out!
Cooking and Dishes
• Bringing disposable paper or Styrofoam plates and utensils may seem the easiest option, but it’s certainly not the most eco-friendly. Instead, bring along reusable dishes and silverware that you can wash.
• When washing dishes, carry them far away from any water sources (about 200 feet), such as streams and lakes. Use biodegradable soap, and scatter the dishwater.
Enjoy nature while preserving it for future generations. When camping, bring recyclable dishes, use LED flashlights and propery dispose of your trash and human waste. Photo By mariachily/Courtesy Flickr
• If you’re going to bring a flashlight (and most people do), consider investing in a LED flashlight. LED lights can provide up to 600 hours of light from a single set of batteries, and they produce a brighter light than traditional flashlights. You can also buy wind-up LED flashlights. The friction created from winding the light’s lever will power it.
• Build your campfires within an existing ring and keep them small.
• If you’re going to fuel your fire with the wood surrounding your campsite, keep in mind that both standing and fallen trees, dead or alive, may be home to animals and insects. It’s always better to collect dead wood than saw off living branches, however.
• Gather wood from a wide area around the campsite so as to lessen your impact.
• If possible, use dry drift wood from rivers and seashores.
• Burn all wood to ash, soak in water (not cover with dirt) and scatter the remains over a large area.
If you’re not using a campground with bathroom facilities, it’s important to know how to properly dispose of your body waste. While urine leaves little to no effect on the environment, other types of waste can.
• Catholes: This is the most common and accepted way of disposing of human waste when you’re out camping. For this, be sure to bring a garden trowel with you. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches wide. Be sure to locate your cathole away from your campsite or any hiking trails, and place it especially far away from water sources as human waste can pollute them. If possible, place your cathole where it will receive the most sunlight, as this well help aid decomposition.
• Toilet paper and Tampons: Use toilet paper sparingly. Bury it deep in your cathole or carry out in a plastic bag. Tampons must be packed in a plastic bag and carried out; they don’t decompose, and animals are likely to dig them up.
For more information, check out Leave No Trace, a program that provides outdoor skills and ethics training.
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