I love camping: getting the family together, sleeping in tents, swimming, riding my bike, sitting around a campfire making s’mores — the list goes on! Literally, camping has been something I’ve done since I was six months old. Every year, we would go camping with my entire extended family, uncles and aunts, all my cousins, and even my grandparents would stop in for a few nights. It was the one trip my family took each year, and as a kid, it was a trip I really looked forward to. It is the one time when you can really feel a part of nature.
Camping is about being outdoors, enjoying nature, seeing the stars, hearing birds and insects, and being part of the environment. What’s troubling is that in our effort to enjoy the environment, we sometimes make choices during our trip that negatively impact it.
Often times you pack in a rush on a Friday afternoon, which results in buying too many disposable items that are “easy” and “convenient” for you, but not so good for the environment.
This year, I encourage you to start packing a little earlier so you can pack using the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are a few hints to remember when you are packing for your family camping getaway:
1. Pack reusable items instead of throw away. Think reusable plates, cups, bowls and cutlery. It may be a little extra effort to wash them while you are vacationing, but the payout goes a long way. Bring a tub to wash your dishes on your site, using biodegradable dish soap which can be purchased at most local stores. And remember; if possible, dump the water down a drain, not on your site.
2. Buy in bulk. Instead of buying individually wrapped items such as water bottles, pop cans, or cereal boxes, buy in bulk. Buy a large water jug, one type of cereal that everyone can agree on, and 1-litre bottles or cartons of juice or pop. Bring food in reusable containers, rather than its original packaging. The less waste you create on your site the better.
3. Talk to park staff. When you arrive, ask the park what kind of recycling programs they have. What materials do they accept, do they have any specialty programs such as propane tank recycling, or local charity collections. Collect recycling material at your camp site, use a box or bag to make it easier to bring material to the park’s recycling bins.
4. Try cooking over the fire instead of the traditional BBQ. Try to create meals that can be cooked over the fire rather than using propane or fuel. There is a lot of camping equipment out there that can be used over the fire to make meal time easy.
5. Once you’ve set up shop, park the vehicle. Bring your bikes and use them to get around the park and local area. Pick up a trail map and explore your surroundings. If you want to go outside the park for ice cream, bike there!
In fact, you don’t even need to drive to a camp! Park Bus provides bus service to major Ontario parks like Algonquin, Bruce Peninsula, Grundy Lake, and Killarney. What a great way to minimize your environmental footprint!
6. Camp only on designated sites. Make a plan before you start setting up tents. You want to ensure you are not encroaching outside the campsite. Encroaching causes destruction of new plant life.
7. Leave the electricity at home. Bring your own coolers with ice instead of mini fridges. Use LED flashlights instead of plugging in lanterns.
8. Leave only footprints. Remember, always leave your site in the same state as when you arrived. Make sure to bring home broken gear, check the ground before you leave to ensure you’ve removed any ropes, pegs etc.
Perhaps I’ll see you at one of the many great camping opportunities we have in Halton Region: Bronte Creek Provincial Park, Conservation Halton parks, or Milton RV Park. And for those of you who want to camp even closer to home — June 23 is the Great American Backyard Campout — we can do that here in Canada too!
What tips and hints would you offer to other campers who want to minimize their waste and environmental impacts?