Top 4 Tips to Become a More Sustainable Camper

Top 4 Tips to Become a More Sustainable Camper

We often escape to the wilderness to appreciate the beauty of nature, but are we always doing so in a sustainable way? Whether you’re an RV enthusiast, hiker, camper, or van-lifer, there are ample opportunities to be more mindful of the environment and promote eco-friendly practices in your travels. From the Appalachian Trail to the Chesapeake Bay, campers across the great state of Pennsylvania can enjoy camping in a more earth-friendly way with our sustainability tips. Even small sustainable improvements can help preserve the beauty of American wilderness for many years to come. 
What is Eco Camping?
The phrase eco camping refers to ecologically responsible camping. Essentially, the purpose is to keep environmental stewardship at the forefront of your camping plans. This includes all-encompassing factors such as where you go, what you do, and how you treat the campsite and national forest. Eco camping is also called “sustainable camping” or “zero waste camping.”
Four Tips to Become a More Sustainable Camper
Sustainable camping is not about perfection, but about progress. It’s about identifying your own wasteful habits and starting to make behavioral adjustments that contribute to preserving natural spaces. In an ideal world, all camping would be zero waste camping, however no one is perfect and everyone has the opportunity to learn and improve. Below, we’ve provided our top four tips to become a more sustainable eco camper and easy ways to make eco-friendly changes.

1. Minimize energy consumption
Whether camping in a tent or an RV, you can find ways to minimize energy consumption on your camping trip. Excess energy consumption puts a strain on natural resources. Being mindful of your energy use aligns with environmental preservation. Maybe lowering energy consumption is a reminder to leave unnecessary electronics at home or limiting use of RV air conditioning. Otherwise you can minimize energy consumption by investing in energy-efficient camping equipment. Below are a few simple ways to help reduce your energy use:
● Portable Solar Panels: Harness the power of the sun to charge your cell phones, run small appliances, or charge personal devices. Take a step towards sustainability by investing in portable solar panels. They can be repurposed to offset energy usage at home too!
● LED Lighting: LED light bulbs are up to 75% more efficient than traditional light bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. Use LEDs for flashlights, lanterns, string lights, or interior RV lighting for an easy swap that saves energy.
● Use Rechargeable Batteries: Another sustainability tip for small devices is using rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries have a 5+ year lifespan, so you can power years of camp trips while reducing landfill waste.
● Avoid Using Energy-Intensive Amenities: Avoid using energy-intensive appliances and amenities, like air conditioning or heaters, whenever possible. Try parking in shaded areas on hot days and in direct sunlight on cooler days for natural heating and cooling.

2. Pack with the environment in mind
The materials and camping supplies you use make a difference. It’s important to note that sustainability is not about buying the latest and greatest gadget, but rather using the materials you have on hand and making strategic investments. These practices reduce your environmental impact both on and off the campsite. Below are our favorite eco-friendly packing tips:
● Use What You Have: Get the most of the equipment you have on hand. Consider borrowing or renting supplies that you don’t. This saves money, reduces excess consumption, and saves space at home after your trip is over.
● Avoid Excess Packaging and Plastics: Limit the amount of packaging on food and other supplies. Consider DIY trail snacks and meal prepping using leak-proof, reusable containers. A set of uniform reusable containers also makes for easy, organized packing.
● Bring Reusable Water Bottles: Keep trails and parks clear of unnecessary plastic by bringing your own reusable water bottle. Most campgrounds have drinking fountains available to source your daily water. For more remote camping, consider a portable water filtration system for safe drinking water on-the-go.
● Use Eco-Friendly Personal Care Products: Make sure all personal care products and cleaning supplies are safe for the environment. Look for biodegradable, earth-friendly versions of toiletries, sunscreen, bug spray, and cleaning products. Dispose of any contaminated water at least 200 ft away from any waterways.

3. Create a waste management plan
While most campgrounds have dedicated waste and recycling areas, having a waste management plan will keep you organized and expedite the clean-up process at the end of your trip. Here, we’ve provided mindful waste management practices for improved environmental stewardship:
● Prioritize Recycling: Recycle any plastics or other waste whenever possible. If you can’t avoid single-use packaging, make sure any materials you bring into the park are recyclable or compostable.
● Bring Reusable Cookware: Reusable cookware and dishes significantly reduces campground waste that would otherwise pile up in a landfill. Pair reusable cookware with biodegradable, eco-friendly dish soap to create a sustainable campsite cooking plan.
● Separate Waste: Use clear plastic garbage bags to separate  your recyclables and your trash. The visibility of clear plastic makes it easier to sort items at campground recycling facilities. 
● Pack Out What You Pack In: At the heart of it all, just make sure to pack out what you pack into a campsite. Eco camping is all about leaving nature just as you found it, if not improving it. Take time to sweep your campsite before driving away.

4. Respect your Surroundings
Ultimately, the goal of camping is to find peace and relaxation in nature. Sustainable camping is centered around the concept of respecting your surroundings and the local biodiversity. Whether you’re staying in a manicured RV Park or a remote campsite on a hiking trail, there are always opportunities to be respectful and promote environmental stewardship. 
● Don’t Go Off Trails: While off-roading sounds like an exciting adventure, it can devastate the natural foliage and animal habitats of a national park. Always observe signage and follow trail markers to help preserve the beauty and biodiversity of national parks.
● Try to Camp in the Off Season: Whenever feasible, try to plan your camping trips during the off-peak seasons for a more serene and less crowded experience. Off-season camping puts less strain on local ecosystems and campground amenities.
● Practice Fire Safety: Research beforehand about whether there are fire bans in place. Build your campfire in a designated fire pit. Keep flammable items at least 10 ft away. Don’t burn trash or excess food. Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is fully extinguished before leaving your campsite. 
● Leave No Trace: We all play an essential role in protecting national parks and wild spaces. The National Parks Service has created seven Leave No Trace principles to help minimize the environmental impact of inhabiting these spaces. Together, our collective efforts preserve the beauty of these spaces for generations to come.

 Preserve Paradise One Sustainable Camping Trip at a Time
Incorporating sustainable practices into your camping adventures benefits the environment while also enhancing your overall experience in the great outdoors. By minimizing your energy consumption, packing thoughtfully, disposing waste responsibly, and respecting biodiversity, you can leave a positive impact on the places you visit. Every small step towards becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly makes a world of difference in the natural spaces you love. As you plan your next camping trip, make environmental preservation a priority and leave nothing but footprints behind.

Also read: The Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

Article by: Kat
Kat is a Cleveland transplant who hails from the Pacific Northwest. When she isn’t busy writing about sustainability and the energy industry, Kat is passionate about creating dialog and visual art illustrating the intersection of environmental conservatism and modern technology.