by Charlotte Walters,
Use green practices while camping and hiking. Here are some tips about clean water and hygiene, food preparation, fire safety, and wildlife safety. Camping and hiking should bring people closer to nature. By using green practices, campers will be kinder to the wildlife and surroundings. Observe nature without disrupting it; to become part of the great outdoors is to enjoy it more fully. Here are some green practices that will help every camper and hiker be a friend to nature.
Clean Water and Washing
Buy a hand-driven water purifying pump for personal use, to purify local water sources that may be untested. It is small and can attach to water bottles. For cooking and washing, carry a device to measure the temperature of water heated over a campfire or stove. Be sure the water is hot enough to destroy any contaminants. Use organic soaps that are biodegradable.
Choose Designated Camping/Hiking Areas
Choose carefully where to camp or hike. Do some research to ensure hiking trails and tent sites do not encroach on protected wildlife areas. Designated camp and tent sites are located so as to protect plant life and wildlife. Staying on designated trails will protect hikers and habitat. For example, snakes usually avoid obvious trails where they sense vibrations, although a warm, sunny rock may tempt them to venture onto a human trail.
Unless the weather is cold, pack foods requiring no cooking. Main meals can include fresh organic fruits and vegetables along with nuts and cut-up cheese from packaged cheese sticks. Buy fresh organic foods along your way. Hiking trails often pass near local farms.
When cooking meals at the campground or tent site, buy a stove which uses renewable fuel, such as a solar cooker or denatured alcohol stove. For campsite and trail menu ideas, read Food to Pack on a Camping Trip. When cooking over a fire, choose organic chocolate bars to make S’mores.
Before setting up camp or taking a hike, call camp staff or park rangers and get information on fire bans. Fire bans are based not only on recent rainfall but on weather conditions in general, how quickly local grasses dry out, likelihood of lightning strikes, and time of year.
If allowed to build fires, bring or locally purchase wood for the campfire rather than combing the surrounding area for firewood and stripping the forest of its natural habitat. For lighting, use hand-crank lanterns and flashlights.
Protect Local Wildlife
The number one key is to keep the campsite very clean. Foodstuffs must not only be stored away, but packages containing food should be hung up in trees away from the sleeping area and out of reach. Invest in an animal-proof storage bin.
Do not feed wild animals. Any bits of food left around the camp site will encourage hungry animals to forage in camp – a nuisance behavior. The animal may repeat this foraging behavior. Repeated complaints about the animal could cause it to be destroyed.
Use Natural Insect Repellents
Mosquitoes and other pest insects can generally be kept at bay using frequent spritzes of natural or homemade insect repellents. Wear long sleeves and long pants at dawn and dusk, when swarms of insects are more active.
Two of the best natural repellents are sprays made with lemon eucalyptus oil or catnip oil. Both eucalyptus and catnip oils have been shown to be as effective as ‘DEET’, but must be reapplied every hour. They smell pleasant, and a little extra trouble is worth it when protecting the environment. For more information, read Homemade Mosquito Repellents.
Disposal of Trash and Waste
It’s green to be clean! Minimize trash by packing reusable tableware. All trash should be packed and taken out. On a long hike, plan to stop in towns along the way to dispose of trash.
Properly dispose of human waste. Pack along a folding steel shovel and bury waste at least six inches deep. If there are latrines along the way, toilet paper may be dropped into those, but in the wilds, packing out used toilet paper is a must. If there is no local fire ban, used toilet paper may be burned.
Get a Green Education
Before the camping or hiking trip, get educated about the flora and fauna of the area. Call ahead and find out about Park Service programs being held in the area, and make reservations to attend. The forestry service may offer some wonderful hands-on activities perfect for educating and entertaining youngsters.
When the family gets home from the camp or hike, make a scrapbook about what was seen, heard, and learned, before time passes and valuable nature lessons are forgotten.
In conclusion, when on a camp-out or nature hike, using green practices will not only protect the flora and fauna of the great outdoors; green practices will bring campers a feeling of greater harmony with nature.