Well, camping season is here and while we are so anxious to get out there and spend some much-needed time in nature (especially since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began) we cannot forget or lose sight of the impact we have on nature - even when we are camping. We all know single-use plastic and the waste created by it is not sustainable nor is it environmentally friendly. New research published by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) states that for every metric ton of plastic packaging waste recycled, more than one ton of CO2 emissions is avoided, as it reduces the need for virgin material production and associated energy use. You can read the GAIA summary here.
Image Courtesy: Residentialwastesystems.com
Experienced campers out there already have single-use disposable as the top of mind when planning for meals, on the go snacks and easy cleanup – especially when camping with youngsters. However, there are a lot of environmentally friendly options to single-use plastic while camping. Here are just a few:
Change your mentality
Often items meant for one-time-use can be washed and reused. Don’t have the ability to wash the dishes? Consider bringing old milk or juice jug to rinse dishes and place them in a bin or bag so you can use them again or recycle the items when you get home in your regular curbside or blue bag program.
Not everything is burnable!
Disposable items such as plastic solo cups, plastic plates and cutlery might be convenient, but they are some of the main culprits of our plastic pollution problem. These items are often used once and then thrown into the closest campfire. Burning plastic waste is especially harmful to the environment as burning plastic leeches toxic fumes and dioxins into the atmosphere. There have been numerous scientific studies that proved that inhaling dioxins increases the risk of respiratory ailments, headaches, internal organ damage, and even cancer. You can read the study from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service here.
Spend a little more
Convenience comes at a price, so when shopping for plastic disposables, read packages to see what type of plastic it is made from as not all plastics are recyclable. At your local dollar store, there are alternatives that are also dishwasher safe but cost slightly more than their plastic counterparts. Worried about space? These items rarely take up more space than the single-use throwaways. Think about the money you will save in the long run, plus you’ll be less likely to throw them into the fire pit. Quick Tip: Once used while camping, rinse and place in a tote. When home - run a dishwasher load of your camping items. Clean the tote and empty the dishwasher directly into this easy to grab a tote and store it with your other camping gear.
Switch to paper disposables
A lot of paper cups and paper plates are fully compostable and you can even find bamboo cutlery that can be composted as well. Once used these items can be placed into a compostable bag and placed in the compost bin. If your campsite doesn’t have a compost bin available to you, place the entire bag full of compostable items in your local curbside compost green bin program at home. Compostable garbage bags can be found at most grocery and dollarstores, ensure to read packages to verify they are 100% compostable. Quick tip: these items are also great fire-starters!
Eliminate single-serve packaging
Examples of these are snacks and treats which are individually wrapped. Preplan snacks and place them into small serving sealed containers. Do you find it easier to pack a Ziploc bag of fruit instead of a bringing another dish or bowl? No problem - there are leakproof dishwasher-safe resealable bags available such as these silicone sealer bags by Net Zero Co. Made of high quality FDA approved food-grade silicone, these multi-purpose bags work just as good, if not better and can be reused over and over again. This also eliminates plastic trash from being mistakenly blown out of open garbage cans and or dropped on the ground.
Image courtesy: Reviewed
Include a 3 or 4-bin station into your camp set up
One for trash, one for bottles & cans (which can be taken to a bottle depot for a refund), one for recyclables (which can be taken home and placed in your blue bin) and one for organics/compost (which can be taken home and placed in your organics bin). Amazon is flooded with collapsible compartmentalized waste bins for your campsites. Quick Tip: Most campgrounds have designated bins for trash, bottles, cans and recyclable material for those who don’t want to haul these items back home
Pick up after yourself
When closing down your campsite at the end of your trip take a little bit of extra time to do a walk around and pick up any trash that might have blown out of bins or been dropped during your stay. It is also a good idea to remove any items from the fire pit that have not been burned as you don’t know when the next campers will arrive and you don’t want these items blowing out of the pit. Besides, no one likes seeing other people's garbage, even if it is burnable when they arrive to start their trip.
When camping – remember that you are not the only one out there, wild animals are attracted to trash and food waste. Take caution in how you dispose of food remains and always put your trash and unwashed items in your vehicle to help deter them from rummaging through your belongings.
So get out there, enjoy mother nature and have fun!
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