Top 10 tips for greening your camping trip!
By Justine Stewart
with Zachary Astran
Leaving the city behind for the great outdoors and reconnecting with nature is always good for the soul, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is always good for the environment.
Greenpop is made up of avid campers and hosts sustainable events focused around the environment. I joined the team in Zambia for five weeks where we hosted the Greenpop Zambia Festival of Action 2017. With tented accommodation and a zero-tolerance-for-waste kind of attitude, I learned a lot when it came to keeping green while camping. Over the five weeks, where approximately 250 people passed through, we left behind very little impact and barely any waste.
1. Mosquitos have feelings too
Zambia is considered a malaria area (albeit very low during the dry winter months) and so we had to ensure we were protected as soon as the sun started setting. Instead of lathering ourselves in harsh chemicals that can do more harm than good to our bodies and the insects, we kept the mosquitos at bay with Oh-Lief Natural Olive Insect Balm. With dreamy organic oils, we were even using it as a bit of face moisturiser in the dry evenings! We also burnt Fever-Tree candles that are made from indigenous South African oil to keep flies and mosquitos at bay.
2. Purify your water
Over the past six years that the Festival of Action has taken place, I learned that the main cause of any illness (from small to serious) that anyone experienced was predominantly dehydration. The winter Zambian sun has a sly way of dehydrating you without you even knowing it. The new parasites and germs also don’t always gel well with our own bacteria in our gut. We purified all of our drinking water with purification tablets and Kuro-Bo charcoal sticks that work by extracting any impurities from the water after just a short while. We had drinking stations everywhere and this year managed to have zero hospital trips! This also completely eliminated the need to constantly consume more plastic by buying water bottles!! We could simply refill containers and our reusable bottles while the activated charcoal did the rest for us. When camping, minimising your waste will also mean less to carry back. Win-Win!
3. Use earth-friendly cleaning products
Camping doesn’t always have to mean dirty! Keep in mind whatever detergent you use will be going straight into the ground with very little dilution. Make sure you use something that is as sensitive to the ground as it is on your hands. This year (and every other year!) we used Better Earth cleaning products that made our toilets, floors, windows and every inch of surface clean with a fresh smell. We also used Cape of Storms Apothecary laundry detergent that cleaned our dusty clothes with nature in mind. No surface was left dirty and not a square foot of earth was offended.
Compost. Compost. Compost! We can’t stress the importance of how beneficial this is.
4. Earth-friendly toiletries
One of the most simple and environmentally friendly areas of life is to have earth-friendly toiletries. Look at the chemicals that you are going to be using on your head and body and how that affects the earth. Also, trying to find a product that is made from recycled or earth-friendly materials is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you use. Considering that we use toiletries on a daily basis this a great place to start, and not just for camping but for every day. For sun block, because there are so many chemicals involved, we used Oh-Lief natural sunscreen that protected our skin during the Zambian winter sun.
5. Take reusable cutlery and dishes
We all know that taking reusable cutlery and dishes anywhere is more environmentally friendly to begin with. Instead of bringing plastic forks, plates and disposable napkins that create unnecessary waste, bringing cutlery and dishes that can be reused multiple times on a camping trip is wildly more environmentally friendly. You will you make your life easier in terms of how much you will have to carry back AND you’ll be less wasteful and kinder to the environment!
6. Take pride in compost toilets
Compost. Compost. Compost! We can’t stress the importance of how beneficial this is. Instead of flushing a toilet – wasting water and energy – composting toilets are low maintenance and extremely environmentally friendly. If you don’t have time to build a beautiful compost toilet, simply take some toilet paper and go on a loooong walk, dig a hole about 6 inches deep, do your business (apparently squatting is natural to us anyway!), put the used toilet paper in a paper bag, cover up your business and then incinerate the bag or light the toilet paper with matches. Compost toilets also have the added bonus of often providing a loo-with-a-view as opposed to being cramped in a toilet! As for sanitary waste, the easiest way for women to avoid sanitary waste is to purchase a mooncup, have a look at Faithful to Nature for more information and options.
7. Take care of your waste management
Waste is always a topic at the front of our minds at Greenpop. Wherever possible we stick to the rule of the five Rs, in order, according to Bea Jonnson – Refuse what you don’t need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse by using reusables, Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, Rot (compost) the rest! Recycling is not a common practice in Zambia and so we had to get creative and we found contacts that would reuse our glass and tetra packs, a pig farmer who would use our surplus compost and we had upcycling artist Heath Nash with us who repurposes trash into art. One handy trick when camping is to create an eco-brick and hang it from your tent entrance. You simply take any used plastic bottle and stuff it with non-recyclable plastics (cling wrap, soft plastic, chip packets, chocolate wrappers, etc.) and cigarette butts. When you are next in Cape Town, simply drop your eco-brick off at our nursery in Woodstock (corner of Balfour and Mountain Road) and Waste-Ed will pick them up to build houses out of them!
8. Solar-powered camping equipment
We all know the importance of harnessing energy and power from natural sources. In a similar fashion to how we use solar power in our homes and businesses, we can use solar power while camping. We’re not asking you to strap your tent with solar panels (not the safest or most enjoyable process to set up!) but figuring out a way to set up simple, and efficient solar-powered lights to harness energy in a different way can prove to be extremely beneficial and environmentally friendly. Have a look at portable solar lamps and charges that charge in the day and then can be used in the evening.
9. Live on the edge and take a techno detox
Now, this may not have a great environmental impact (besides not having to use more power to charge), but we do believe it will have a great impact on your mind! Abstaining from your digital connection to the world for just a few days can help you become more present, relaxed, focused, and connect with the people and environment around you. Some of our team members did it for most of the five weeks and they loved it!
10. Leave the area as you found it (or in even better condition!)
This means leaving not a trace of litter behind. When packing up our very large campsite we would go on MOOP (matter out of place) missions, which meant scanning every area we occupied to eye out and pick up any small pieces of trash (bottle caps, paper, bits of plastic, and so on). This also means not damaging, picking or harming the natural environment or any animals around you.
P.S. If you ever need to hire tents (or an overlander) for your camping adventures in South Africa, contact Greenpop at [email protected]
Keen on going camping with us, planting trees and getting active about the future? Come to our Eden Festival of Action to help us regreen the Garden Route.
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Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.