Green Camping & Hiking

Leave no trace

In a world of disposable cameras, one-time use razors and pre-packaged snacks that promise to make travel effortless, it's hard to think environmentally. But leaving no trace is essential if you want to have a natural habitat to return to. Fortunately, with a little planning, it's easier than you think.

Tote Your Trash

While some campgrounds offer trash disposal, be prepared to take out what you bring in. No one expects (or wants) to find a dumpster in the backcountry, and some conservation areas have strict carry-in / carry-out rules. For example, if you plan to camp under the stars on the floor of the Grand Canyon, you'll have to cart all your waste back out with you - this includes human waste, as well as any packaging. Also:

  • Always bring garbage bags with you.
  • Dispose of waste according to campground recycling rules. These can vary from a single dumpster to a sophisticated sorting system.
  • Never leave litter while hiking. Stuff wrappers in your pockets or backpack and dispose of them properly when you return to "civilization."
  • Use unbreakable dishes, cups and utensils. Don't avoid washing up by using disposable paper or Styrofoam versions.
  • Use your campsite's fish cleaning stations.
  • Do unto others. If you expect responsible behavior from others, leave your campsites litter-free every time.

Be a Tree-Hugger

  • Never tie your dog to a tree. This can damage the delicate bark and lead to the tree's premature death. If you bring your pooch, keep him within your site's borders with a screw-in stake.
  • Bring your own firewood. While gathering downed timber from around your campsite may seem eco-friendly, it actually threatens the forest's future. When fallen trees and branches decompose, they return nutrients to the soil, feeding the surrounding trees and vegetation.
  • Don't strip branches off trees for marshmallow sticks or to support a sagging tent.
  • Stay within your site's boundaries and on paths. Venturing into the forest threatens fragile plants and disrupts the homes of animals living there. And every time you veer off a path, you create an opening for others to follow - which will eventually widen the trampled area and reduce wildlife.

Washing Up

  • Wash dishes and your body with non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free soap.
  • Dump "gray water" (old dishwater) in designated areas, away from fresh water sources and not in the bushes.
  • Shower and do dishes sparingly.

Fire Finesse

  • Keep campfires small and contained to a pit.
  • Don't burn plastic, metals or woods that have been treated with chemicals.
  • If you use an outdoor grill, dump the ashes in your fire pit or dispose of them in designated areas.

Ban Batteries

  • Use solar panels instead of generators.
  • Use crank or shakable flashlights.
  • Use crank radios.
  • Replace disposable batteries with rechargeable, whenever possible.
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