Top 5 Tips for Green Family Camping

By: Emilie Sennebogen

Image Gallery: Camping Keep your camping footprint small. See more pictures of camping.
Image Gallery: Camping Keep your camping footprint small. See more pictures of camping.
©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

Roughing it isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy communing with Mother Nature, you surely want to be kind to her at the same time. There's no better place to practice your Earth-friendly ways than in the midst of nature.

Hiking into a campsite full of empty beer bottles and chicken bones is pretty disheartening. The old saying, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints," is something that should be observed by every outdoor recreationalist. And there's more to it than just picking up after your lunch or dinner. There are probably some things you were doing that you didn't realize were harming the great outdoors. Don't worry, we've got you covered. Here are some tips to green up your next camping trip.

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5: Trash and Recycling

When you're camping, you don't want to leave any trace that you were there. That means that everything you bring in, you must take out. So, you'll want to be sure to pack enough bags to take care of all your trash and recycling. Remember to tie your trash up high so animals can't get to it. Suspending the bag from a rope that runs between two trees will ensure that no tree-climbing critters can reach it. At the end of the trip, pack it all in the trunk, and then keep an eye out for trash and recycling cans in the parking lots for a quick dump. If you can't find any, then take it on home.

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4: Eating and Cleanup

Never leave your food or campfire unattended -- it could be detrimental to the forest.
Never leave your food or campfire unattended -- it could be detrimental to the forest.
©iStockphoto.com/intst

Leftover bones from your meals qualify as trash, so they need to be disposed of along with the chicken bucket. "The birds will eat it!" doesn't apply when it comes to camping. You never want to throw any food into the woods, and never dump your cooking pan grease on the ground or into a river. After you've eaten, just scrape all the leftover foodstuffs into a trash bag. For dish soap, only use the biodegradable kind, and even then, you should never wash your dishes in a creek or river. Dig a hole and wash your dishes with water and bio-soap over the hole. After you're finished, fill the hole back in.

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3: Insect Repellent

Mosquitoes, sand fleas, ticks and biting midges (better known as no-see-ums) are the worst part of camping. Insect repellent is a great thing to have on hand to combat these little buggers, but you want to avoid aerosol sprays filled with harmful chemicals. DEET, a chemical neurotoxin found in many insect repellents, is great for bugs, but it's not good for you or for the environment. DEET has been linked to everything from seizures to light headedness, especially in children. Luckily there are some environmentally friendly repellents out there that do a pretty good job -- just be sure to read the label. You also can use citronella candles and sprays, as well as lavender and lemongrass essential oils. All of these scents are great for deterring insects.

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2: Campfires

S'mores may not be an option if your campground doesn't allow fires.
S'mores may not be an option if your campground doesn't allow fires.

Building a campfire is one of the best parts about a family camping trip. It provides warmth, light, comfort -- and s'mores. But before you build a fire, make sure you're abiding by any restrictions in the area. Many places have no fire rules because of the high risk of wildfire. Other parks require a fire permit and have strict rules about placement and size of the fire. If you get the go-ahead, gather your wood from a large area so you don't disrupt the ecosystem too much in one spot. Never cut or hatchet anything from a standing tree; instead; use only fallen dead branches from the ground. Resist the urge to burn your paper products, and never burn plastic or foil.

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1: Bathroom Business

If you're going to be in the woods for more than 24 hours, then you know what that means. You're probably going to have to do some business. So, add to your packing list some biodegradable toilet paper and a small hand shovel. For a simple pee break, it's fine to do so on the ground -- just head away from the campsite and don't urinate on any plants, because it can damage them. And ladies, you never want to encounter poison ivy with your pants down. For the dirtier business, grab your shovel and paper and take a short hike. Dig a hole at least 12 inches deep and wide enough to take care of your needs, then cover up the hole with dirt when you're through. Some say it's OK to bury the biodegradable paper in the hole, but to be truly green wrap it up and take it back to the site for disposal into your trash bag.

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Sources:

  • "Chronological History of the Development of Insecticides and Control Equipment from 1854 through 1954." Clemson.edu, 2011.http://entweb.clemson.edu/pesticid/history.htm
  • Granger, Trey. "8 Ways to Green Your Camping Trip." Earth911.com, 2011.http://earth911.com/news/2008/07/28/8-ways-to-green-your-camping-trip/
  • "Green Camping Tips." Naturemoms.com, 2011.http://www.naturemoms.com/natural-camping-tips.html
  • "Observe eco-friendly campfire safety rules." Greenyour.com, 2011.http://www.greenyour.com/lifestyle/leisure-recreation/camping/tips/observe-eco-friendly-campfire-safety-rules
  • "Recycling in Zion National Park." Nps.gov, 2011.http://www.nps.gov/zion/naturescience/recycling-in-zion-national-park.htm

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