Happy Campers Camp Green

Make your next vacation an eco-friendly one

It’s the heart of the summer: the perfect time to trade the boundaries of our homes for a trek out into nature for some sun, a little R&R and the chance to sleep under the stars.

Although nothing might seem more natural than, well, spending time in nature, many of us abandon our everyday eco-attitudes when we leave our concrete city playgrounds. So, on your next vacation with Mother Nature, aim to up your eco-consciousness as you trek out into her world.
 
Here are some tips to keep you, your camping buddies and your kids on your best eco-behavior this season:
 
Plan mindfully
 
Whether you’ve been planning your outdoor adventure for months or have a weekend whim to head into the mountains, take the time to thoughtfully consider where you will be staying, the area’s ecosystem, and the gear and food that are appropriate for the trip.
 
After choosing a destination, do a quick Internet search to research any regulations in place in that area. Many national forests, parks and camping areas boast delicate ecosystems, and human activity can disrupt the natural flora and fauna.
 
Pack with care
 
When preparing for your trip, be mindful to only pack in what you’ll need — items like a first aid kit, weather-appropriate clothing and gear. And, be thoughtful when it comes to the food you bring. If possible, buy local fruit, vegetables and nuts in advance. Pre-make dishes such as hummus or tabouli and seal them in reusable containers, which can be used again later on the trip, are lightweight and help you avoid packing in disposables. Make sure that you seal your food well and store what trash and compost you create tightly to avoid unwanted critter visitors. Not only can an encounter with a bear seeking out your food be terrifying and downright dangerous, it also significantly affects the bear's natural environment and that of other wildlife. Remember, we are visitors on their land and unmindful human behavior can alter their natural environment and the way they interact with it.
 
Use alternative transportation
 
Although some backcountry destinations are difficult to reach without the convenience of a car, consider seeking out alternative transportation to make it to camp, if possible. Many areas provide busses that travel into the high country. If your destination is close by, consider biking in. At the very least, keep your carbon emissions lower by carpooling.
 
Stay on course
 
It’s important to hike and camp only in designated areas. Many ecosystems are sensitive to human interference and can be destroyed with as little as a slipshod footstep. When hiking through delicate areas, pay attention to signage. The information that these rustic signs provide is vital for your well-being and that of the critters and plant life that inhabit the area.
 
Keep the noise pollution down
 
Be respectful of your neighbors — both of the human and furry sort — and keep the volume low. Although you are on vacation and might feel the desire to get a little rowdy around the campfire, recognize that people travel to camping destinations for a variety of reasons. While some folks might be out in the woods to celebrate Mother Nature and a break from routine, others might be seeking solace for a meditative or spiritual retreat.
 
Pack it out
 
Be careful not to take a vacation from recycling and disposing of trash responsibly. Leave No Trace, an outdoor ethics nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colo., urges campers to be prepared to take out what they bring in. The organization suggests carrying garbage bags; disposing of waste according to campground recycling rules; never littering on a trail; using unbreakables like reusable plastics for dishes, cups and utensils; and promoting responsible behavior in other campers by cleaning up after yourself.
 
They also caution campers to dispose of their human waste carefully to avoid polluting water sources and potentially spreading disease. They explain that in most locations, burying fecal matter is the correct and most effective way to deal with human waste. Information on Leave No Trace’s website suggests creating "catholes" while camping overnight. They advise creating a cathole at least 200 feet away from any water source, choosing an inconspicuous spot and using a garden trowel to dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. When packing out, cover the cathole with natural materials. In some places, however, note that regulations state that all solid human waste must be packed out.
 
And, remember that the example that you set now for the small stewards who may be accompanying you on your outdoor adventure will create precedence for how they perceive and interact with their natural environment.
 
Enjoy your outdoor adventure
 
While hiking a mountain, trekking through a forest, soaking in sun on a beautiful sandy beach or falling asleep under a million stars to the sound of crickets, enjoy. Spending time in nature is good for the heart, and it’s the best reminder you can give yourself as to why it is so important to act as an Earthly steward.
 
Stick close to home
 
Really close. What better way to keep your carbon footprint down and enjoy a starry night (even mid-week) than to tote your family, some sleeping bags and a tent out into the backyard? Camping regularly close to home base is a great way to “unplug” the kids (and yourself), interact with the outdoor world and fully appreciate warm summer nights. And, there’s a big bonus to backyard camping: no catholes!
 

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