Camping is all about appreciating the natural environment. Waking up to the sound of birds, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the first cup of coffee outside are some of the simple pleasures of camping. Being outside reminds us how nature deals effectively with waste, it reminds us of the power and value of water, shows us how reliant we are on external sources of energy, and reminds us to appreciate clean air and the plants and animals around us. As a reflection of this spirit, KOA campgrounds created the Kamp Green program which provides individual KOA campgrounds with three levels of standards to apply to increase the sustainability of their operations. Barrie KOA embraced this program since it is an extension of their existing environmental practices and their belief in the importance of protecting the environment.
KOA Barrie makes it easy for campers to incorporate sustainable habits into daily camping life. When it comes to waste management, garbage is collected at each site and recycling is separated from waste. Campers are given a clear bag to increase diversion and to allow recyclable material to be seen (and removed by staff if necessary). Pet waste bags are available free of charge. Convenient Orange Drop bins are located at the campground for campers to deposit used batteries and propane tanks. Return for deposit bottles are collected separately. Organic waste is separated at the camp office, store, and pizza outlet. For community events—such as pancake breakfasts—campers are asked to bring their own plates and cutlery to reduce waste. As an added benefit, the campground collects discarded electronic waste and sends it to an Ontario Electronic Stewardship-approved processor (ECycle) who makes sure the components are reused. This collection – while convenient for campers—also generates a revenue stream which is funnelled back into the KOA Care Camps to provide kids with cancer a safe, fun summer camp experience.
The image of a roaring fire, marshmallow, and camping are synonymous. In an effort to protect the trees in the area, KOA delivers wood directly to campers, eliminating the need for them to bring wood which could potentially be contaminated with forest-damaging pests. But efforts to protect wood resources doesn’t stop there—landscaping on the campground is natural, FSC paper is used in the office, hand dryers are used instead of paper towels, and paper products all contain recycled content. Reusable microfiber cleaning cloths are used. Other environmental efforts include the installation of Peat moss septic systems, and the sale and use of natural cleaning and RV care products. Trees are also planted on an ongoing basis.
Walking through any campground at night is a magical experience—the crackling of campfires, chance sightings of wildlife, the sound of the wind blowing the leaves on the trees, and the opportunity to see the stars without interference of city lights. Thus, the KOA campground use of reflective signs to replace lights, and the addition of solar lighting are both natural fits. Energy efficiency is important at KOA Barrie, and in an effort to reduce electricity use by 10%, timers are used at the campground entrance and on site, hot water pipes are insulated and Energy Star appliances are used. Signs alert campers to timer use on lights in case they are surprised if the lights go off due to lack of movement. Campers are asked to do their part by not running air conditioners when they are away from their RV, and to be conscious of energy and water consumption choices. The next step for Barrie KOA will be to explore solar heating options for the on-site pool.
Water hook ups provide added convenience for campers, but since water comes from a well —low flow adaptors are used everywhere including toilets, showers, and water faucets. Newer RV’s are also ultra-efficient when it comes to water use. Grey water is collected in these trailers to be recycled and used for toilet flushing (something that would be great to have at home). Most water is sold in large jugs instead of individual serving sizes which reduces waste–however, since potable water is readily available, not many jugs are sold.
When considering where to set up your camper or tent, make sure you keep the environmental sustainability of the campground in mind. When you choose well, you can sleep peacefully knowing your campground is working hard to protect the very environment you have come to enjoy.
About The Author – Aileen MacMillan holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from the University of Waterloo, and has worked as an independent consultant on environmental projects related to waste management, water quality protection, and environmental education. She has many years of experience working in small business and working collaboratively with teams and individual stakeholders.