10 Tips: Eco-friendly Camping

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Summertime is a fantastic time to get outside and soak up the sun and fresh air. Camping is a great way to relax and enjoy nature by yourself or with loved ones. It can also an eco-friendly and frugal way to vacation! To make sure that your next camping trip is as green as can be, check out our top 10 tips!

1. Stay local.

Find the closest campsite to you so that you can minimize travel time and expended fuel! Bonus points if you can find an appropriate campsite within hiking or biking distance from your home – then hike or bike there! Check out Reserve America’s campsite finder.

2. Pitch an eco-tent.

Obviously, staying in an RV is not as green as staying in a tent. If you’re looking to invest in something of high quality, the Big Agnes Salt Creek tent is very green. With recycled components, 100% recycled, dye-free polyester, and eco-friendly anodizing, its footprint is minimized. It’s lightweight, sturdy and durable, too. But if your price range is much lower, consider borrowing a friend’s tent or purchasing a used one of good quality. This eliminates the waste from purchasing a new tent made of raw materials, and helps you save money.

3. Burn smart.

Instead of damaging the ecosystem, look for an area of ground that was previously used for campfire. Build your campfire using only “fallen wood” or dead, dry wood and brush. Don’t chop anything down! Be responsible about your campfire and keep an eye on it. Put it out when you’re finished with it and never leave it unattended. Remember Smokey the Bear? “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Care2’s got a top ten list of ways to make sure your campfire is eco-friendly.

4. Leave no trace… of litter.

If you have any trash at all, don’t burn it and don’t leave it there. It’s important that trash is reserved to be removed – when you leave, the trash leaves, too! And keep in mind that food scraps or trash can attract wild animals so bag it and hang it in a tree far away from your tent. Just don’t forget to properly dispose! We like GreenYour’s guide to properly managing campsite trash.

5. Use Earth-friendly products.

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it really requires some thinking ahead. Can you get biodegradable dish soap for washing your dishes? Natural insect repellent that won’t harm the environment? Eco shampoo and body wash so that you don’t pollute? Make your list and check it twice! There’s a wide selection of green camping supplies at Real Goods to give you some ideas.

6. Cast iron cooking.

Cast iron may be heavy, but it’s the absolute best choice for camping! It’s especially green as you’ll want pre-owned cookware so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time seasoning your pans. Look at thrift stores, Craigslist or tag sales, or ask around. Cast iron skillets and dutch ovens are ideal for cooking over the campfire. Cleaning cast iron is very easy – just rub with salt until the salt turns brown, then empty it out! Here’s a video that explains cooking with cast iron. It’s the best way to cook anywhere, anytime – a non-toxic, non-stick, time-tested healthy tradition.

7. Unplug!

Don’t bring portable electronics camping if you can help it. If you want a radio or cd player, that’s one thing, but bringing your DS Lite or your iPad is another story. True enjoyment of nature means you must unplug. Disconnect from technology and connect with the sky, trees and land. Bringing walkie talkies as a safety measure for your family is, of course, fine – just don’t bring your laptop or DVD player.

8. Play by the rules.

Keep track of what’s kosher at your campsite. For example, you might need to throw fish back into the water if they’re not a certain size. Or you may need to stay on set trails when you go on a hike. The rules are typically in place to protect both you and the environment, so stick to them! Can’t find official rules for your campsite? Try this handy list of camping regulations from a national park website.

9. Go local.

If you leave your campsite for any reason, try to find what you need locally. Support local agriculture by visiting the farmer’s market for farm-fresh food. Not only is supporting local businesses green, you’ll avoid using excess fuel to travel farther. We love Local Harvest for finding just about anything you really need (but especially food) locally grown and made!

10. Do some homework.

This is especially great if you have kids, but for anyone going camping – get to know the area a little before you head out there. Read up on local plants and wildlife and see if you can spot those subjects while you’re out there. Find nature guide books or videos at your library or bookstore and learn about the area’s history. Keep it in mind while you are at your destination. Take a look at eNature’s field guides. Staying connected to the Earth this way is important to living green!

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