Camping Season – Creating a Low Impact Camping Experience

Camping is a fun, seasonal, summer activity but it does impact the environment in ways that one might not consider – waste. Not only do you break you and your families recycling routine by adjusting to new city program, but many things that are considered ‘camping friendly’ are heavily packaged (usually in non-recyclable material).  This blog will address the gaps in the current campsite recycling system and list some ways you can make your next camping experience low impact.

Recycling at Campsites   

Generally when you are going camping, you are likely entering a different district or area that has a completely different set of recycling rules that differ from those usually followed for your curbside collection. It is always important to get all of the recycling details from the campground attendants, as usually flyers or brochures are available. If they don’t provide these resources, it is important to look at the ‘garbage station’ that they have on-site before throwing anything out to make sure you know what is and is not recyclable. I cannot emphasize this enough – know how the waste system works before you assume – they are SO different from district to district.

Something that I have noticed doing some out of district (and district) camping myself, is there is NO organics recycling. With the proposed changing to waste legislation occurring in 2022 (food waste ban), campgrounds in Ontario will have to get on board with organics recycling whether they like it or not. However, I think a large draw back, especially for those in Northern Ontario, is the fear of enticing bears to the property through this process. To those people, I argue that the food in the landfill dumpster is just as much an attractant to bears as organics alone would be. There is still food waste, out in the open, buried and on top of other types of garbage – easily still something to attract bears. However, if the organics ban does go through in 2022, the waste industry will need to be innovative in creating a bear proof container that locks in food waste in such a way that does not entice bears, to make campground owners and campers feel more safe about their garbage disposal practices.

Waste Free Camping Ideas

As said earlier in this post, it is easy to pick up food and items for camping that are considered to be that of ‘convenience packaging.’ Through this, you naturally create more garbage and unrecyclable material that otherwise you wouldn’t purchase or buy. However, there are some things that you could buy, do or use alternatively that may help to curve your waste generation while camping. Here is a small list of things that may help you get closer to nature without impacting.

  1. Beeswax Wraps

Since you are generally packing light when you go camping, you likely won’t be bringing along many containers for left over food. To make up for this, you likely will bring a roll of plastic wrap to keep and repackage food. This plastic wrap just creates more garbage and is not reusable. Alternatively, try beeswax wraps! These wraps are a material that is (usually) hand coated in beeswax. They are easy to clean, store and use, AND make a great alternative to plastic wrap! Vegan? They make vegan friendly ones too! Check your local eco-store or order online. You won’t regret it – they are awesome!

  1. Aluminum Foil Alternative

Instead of bringing along a wasteful roll of aluminum foil to cook things in the fire, consider bringing cast iron or fire safe pan to do your cooking. Use oil on your pans instead of lining with aluminum foil. This is a ‘convenience’ item and is not necessary during camping or everyday use. 

  1. Reusable Plates & Cutlery

A lot of people choose to bring paper plates and plastic cutlery when camping, for again, convenience. The problem with this is that there is usually no organics recycling at campgrounds, and therefore all paper plates and even ‘compostable’ cutlery is considered garbage. However, if you are using your paper plates as part of your fire starter, you are likely able to get away with using them, while still being eco-friendly. With that said, never put plastic utensils, or plastic plates, into your fire. Plan ahead and bring regular utensils and plates.

  1. Leave no trace

This is a big one. So much garbage, recycling and food waste is generated while camping. I have seen it so many times when people leave their campsites; they leave empty beer cans, plastic bottles or garbage bags out on their campsite. Be responsible for the waste you generate. If there are no garbage cans or recycling bins around, bring it home.

  1. Bring it home if its not recyclable

If you headed home after your camping trip and you notice an item is not accepted in the recycling program at the campsite, you can bring that item home to be recycled. For example, many districts and areas don’t accept plastic bags in their recycling system, but Niagara does. Bring the plastic bags home and simply recycle them in your home recycling/garbage program. It doesn’t take much effort and it is one way to do your part in low impact camping.

  1. Pick it up on a trail

This is my favourite initiative on here. When camping, you generally do a few trail/nature walks or beach visits. If you see garbage around, pick it up and throw it out (or recycle it). It takes minimal effort and you can clean up the environment for others to enjoy it. You can’t stop people from littering, but you can help curb the impact by doing your part.

Even though camping season is coming to an end, these act as simple reminders that we can enjoy the great outdoors without impacting it. Are there any tips and tricks you have come up with? Let us know!