Minimal Impact Camping | 7 Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact
1) Pick a Location Close to Home – Don’t Fly!
Travel is a significant source of carbon emissions. Flying across the country to stay at a famous park may sound fun, but there is an invisible environmental cost. One study found that transport accounted for almost 50% of the carbon footprint of tourism.
Source: Sustainable Travel
Say you lived in Toronto and wanted to go camping in Banff National Park. The closest airport to Banff is in Calgary. Flying from Toronto to Calgary would lead to approximately 428 kg of CO2. Instead, if we drive to Algonquin Provincial Park, that would lead to only about 50 kg of CO2!
Flying is a very carbon-intensive way to travel. It is sometimes necessary, but you should avoid it when possible. You definitely don't need to fly across the country to connect with nature.
2) Avoid Disposable Stuff
There is single-use everything nowadays. Single-use plates, cups, and cutlery are common, but you can also find disposable marshmallow roasting sticks, grilling accessories, and even pots!? Yes, it is easier to throw things out rather than clean them, but think about all the garbage!
If you are a hardcore camper, you should invest in dedicated quality camping gear that is lightweight, durable, and reusable. If you are a casual camper, you can use your kitchen and household essentials from home. There is no reason you need to use paper plates and plastic forks for your meals.
3) Reduce Food Packaging
It is hard to avoid excess packaging these days. Almost everything in the grocery store outside of the produce aisle comes with at least one and often two or three layers of packaging. It is much easier to manage this waste at home, as you can just pop it in the garbage can. In nature, you are responsible for every scrap of trash you generate, and you need to make sure it is managed.
One of the best ways to reduce the burden of garbage management is good planning. Pick foods with minimal packaging. If you can, transfer your food from disposable packaging to reusable containers before you leave. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of trash you generate at the campsite will make your life easier.
4) Managing Garbage When Camping
With all this discussion about reducing garbage, you may think you can go without bringing a trash bag. Not so! Even the most conscientious camper is going to likely to generate some waste. You need to have a plan to manage your trash when camping.
Some folks use loose trash bags to hold their waste. This is a mistake - they get blown away, knocked over, and lost. Use the EcoGarby Collapsible Camping Trash Can to manage your garbage. Its sturdy frame will stop your garbage bag from falling over, and the lid will reduce the chance of attracting critters. It is also reusable, so you don’t need to worry about generating extra waste.
5) Don't Hurt Trees
When you are in the middle of a forest, it can look like the supply of trees is endless and that they are invincible. In reality, the number of trees is declining, and it takes decades for a tree to become fully grown. You can kill or damage trees by driving in nails, breaking branches, or stripping bark. Trees are at once strong and fragile, so do not damage them unnecessarily.
A particularly bad idea is cutting down trees to use for firewood. You are not a Medieval peasant heating their hovel in the dead of winter, so you don't need to collect firewood to survive. Just buy firewood - there are usually plenty of people selling wood on the side of the road or at gas stations in the vicinity of a large park.
Speaking of fires…
6) Don’t Start Forest Fires
Forest fires are a serious threat. Every year we have another round of record-breaking fires all across North America. We often associate this with the Southwestern United States, but forest fires are possible in any forest. You don't want to be the person who starts the next megafire!
Here are some quick fire-safety tips:
- Be aware of fire bans - just because it looks safe to build a campfire doesn't mean it is is.
- Pay attention to any trees, grass, or shrubbery close to your fire pit - limit the chance the fire jumps outside the fire pit.
- Keep your fire a reasonable size.
- Don't go use accelerants like gasoline, and keep all flammables far away from the fire.
- Be sure to keep a large bucket of water on hand in case the fire does manage to jump.
- Make sure you put the fire out when you're done by thoroughly soaking it - don't let fires "die out on their own."
As Smokey the Bear always says - don't start a forest fire, ya dummy! (I think that's what he says?)
7) Clean-Up When You're Done
"Leave no trace" is the camper's motto. When you pack up camp, your site should be exactly the way you found it. Don't leave any wrappers, food scraps, or other odds and ends. This junk will likely make its way into the brush or to the bottom of the nearest lake.
Camps are not hotels. In a hotel, you assume the whole room will be cleaned between your stay and the next guest. It makes little-to-no difference if you leave the bedding in a mess, your towel on the floor, or bits of garbage on the desk. Parks don't have a legion of house cleaners who come and scrub your campsite after you leave. Be considerate to the next camper and to nature as a whole.
The great outdoors will only stay "great" if we keep it "great." While it sometimes feels like there is enough space for everyone to do whatever they want, this is an illusion. Being an eco-conscious camper is an essential practice for environmental responsibility. Keep our parks in a state that campers can appreciate the wilderness for generations to come.