Reducing waste while camping

Camping is a great opportunity to get outside, to experience nature up close, to appreciate the beauty around us, and to generate a lot of garbage? Say what?

When you think of camping– do paper plates, single serving items, and disposable bags to hold food and items come to mind? Over time, and in the name of convenience, practices have evolved to include an increase in the use of disposable items.  Organizations like Leave no Trace remind us how to camp and hike without having a negative impact on the environment. There are many steps that can be taken to reduce waste while camping. Check if your campground has potable water available —if so, pack a reusable water bottle. Attending a festival? Invest in a mug and cutlery set that can easily be strapped to your backpack. Check out additional festival-goer green tips here. 

But, what about the cost?  Camping gear can be expensive, but an exploration of the back of kitchen cupboards, local garage sales, and friends and relatives unused items can produce a lot of what is needed for a successful camping trip. Rain gear can often be found at second hand stores and packed with camping gear.

First off- pack a few reusable containers with lids to hold leftovers, small items, snack etc. Freeze water in these containers for the cooler, and when they melt you can use the drinking water and then the container itself. Pots and pans from garage sales or discarded by friends can be great camping items. Washers and dryers at the campground are a welcome site on those days your sleeping bag gets soaked by the rain. For sunny days, however, the campsite is a great place to hang laundry to dry—make sure you pack some rope.

Planning ahead saves money and time. Instead of costly pre-cooked food, cook items at home and store in a reusable container in the cooler. Dry ingredients for pancake mix can be easily prepared in batches and kept in reusable containers (flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt if desired).  Corn husks can be presoaked and cooked on the fire and hot dogs can be cooked on a stick–practices that don`t require foil. Small reusable containers can hold single-serving sizes of snacks (taken from larger containers) for the beach, hike or day trip. Reduce straw use—fill reusable drink containers for children instead of using single use containers. They can be pre-filled and chilled overnight for the next day.

Old items around the house make great camping items. Broom handle snapped? Save the brush to use to clean out the tent. Have a few odd dishes that don’t match because too many are broken? Put them in a reusable storage bin and they make great camping dishes. Old party tablecloths make great camping tablecloths. Grab some dishcloths from the kitchen to use and hang them on the line to dry to use them again—no need for disposable dish cloths. Just remember to leave the firewood at home to avoid transporting invasive species of insects.

Most campground now have facilities to collect recyclables. Bottles that can be returned for a refund can often be donated at the campground to support charitable causes. Always leave your campsite clear of litter, otherwise wildlife could be harmed and trash can end up in our waterways. Make sure batteries and propane cylinders are disposed of as hazardous waste.

These are just some of the many ideas that exist to reduce waste. Turning to single use disposable items when vacationing or traveling does not have to be the default.

Find out more about sustainable practices being used at some of the Lake Simcoe area campgrounds:

Barrie KOA: (level three certification with Kamp Green) 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. Barrie KOA embraced the Kamp Green program since it is an extension of their existing environmental practices and their belief in the importance of protecting the environment. Read more.

In the South Lake Simcoe area, visit  Toronto North Cookstown KOA (part of Kamp Green) – information on sustainable initiatives coming soon.

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