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Going camping already requires logistics, so adding taking care of the environment into the mix could seem like a big challenge. A good way to get started and have a measurable impact is to rethink how you cook! Here are some eco-friendly tips to implement at your own pace, one weekend at a time.
This article was produced in collaboration with Earth Day
In this article, you will learn how to:
If you only go camping occasionally, start by going through what’s already in your cupboards, or ask around to see if you could borrow some kitchen equipment. The following are on the list of essential items to bring: reusable dishes, portable pots and pans, a few sharp knives and, depending on the type of outing, a camp stove, a good ice box and an electric barbecue. If you have to purchase new equipment, focus on sustainability and buy quality items that will last you a long time. This may require a bigger investment at first, but both your wallet and the planet will thank you, especially if your gear is still in use ten years later.
Finally, choose local brands that include environmental responsibility as part of their values and manufacturing process.
Now for the next question: what should you put in your icebox? The eco-friendly response: good vegetarian or vegan local products that fit the needs (and size of the appetite) of each camper, wrapped in as little packaging as possible.
Going away for the weekend is the perfect opportunity to go for local purchases by supporting the markets and shops dotted along your chosen route. The environmental benefits speak for themselves: food that is produced nearby leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In North America, food travels an average of 2000 to 2500 km before reaching store shelves, so reducing travel distances makes a huge difference. It is also a good way to encourage production methods that respect the environment and help the biodiversity of the local area. Other advantages for you: you benefit from fresh local products that taste better, thanks to a know-how that has been perfected over several generations.
Another thing to keep in mind: food waste and over-packaging are often problematic when camping. To avoid this, start by planning your meals; this will help you stick to buying only what you need when shopping. It’s worth noting that a “leftover chili” cooked with everything left in your ice box will do the trick towards the end of your stay. Make sure you put seasonal fruits and vegetables on the menu, and use this opportunity to try your hand at bulk buying for cereal, nuts and dried fruits (this often works out cheaper than buying the wrapped options). When it comes to snacks, preparing zero waste snacks requires less time or creativity than you may think: this could simply be a few fruit pieces and a handful of nuts carried in a reusable container, or putting some chickpeas in the oven to grill with a bit of oil and some spices while you pack your bags for the weekend.
1) Reduce your propane usage
Small gas cartridges are very practical, but cannot be reused and are very hard to recycle. If you are trying to pack light, try an alcohol stove or a liquid fuel stove that doesn’t require gas cartridges, such as the ones offered by BioLite. For those camping with a vehicle nearby, opt for solar-powered or electric equipment or, if you must, bigger refillable gas tanks. In any case, you can reduce your fuel consumption by eating a cold meal from time to time.
2) Save and reuse water
At home, a meal usually requires a good quantity of water for both cooking and washing up afterwards. While camping, this resource is often less accessible and wastewater can have a big impact on nature. It is always in your best interest to save water and reuse it several times. Think of it as a closed circuit game: whatever doesn’t end up being used as drinking water can be used for cooking, then eventually to wash the dishes. Depending on your camp kitchen set up, a small portable tub, a sink plug or a pan will be great tools for rinsing vegetables and dishware while reusing the same precious water.
3) Save campfires for special occasions
Campfires have a big impact on local plants and wildlife, as well as produce C02 and increase the risk of forest fires. Try not to light a fire every evening and save them for special occasions to enjoy marshmallows or grilled fish. Also, try to buy firewood locally (so you don’t end up bringing foreign parasites with you, and to ensure you leave behind wood that has been sourced locally for wildlife to use as refuge or as a food store), keep watch over your campfire and don’t forget to douse it with water if the firewood hasn’t been entirely reduced to ashes.
You recycle at home, but once in nature, good habits go up in smoke (speaking of campfires!). If your camping site is equipped with recycling bins, use those to sort your trash accordingly. Otherwise, make sure you bring bags or containers so you can sort your trash properly once you get back home. Keep organic waste in a composting bag in your icebox so it remains cool, and to avoid unpleasant smells or mishaps. Reminder: batteries, camping stove fuel cartridges, BBQ ashes, etc., must be disposed of safely in the containers provided. If you light a fire, resist the temptation to burn waste as these releases toxic substances into the air, substances nature (and yourself) could do without.
When it comes to wastewater, aside from reusing water as much as possible to reduce the amount of waste generated, ensure you use small quantities of biodegradable dishwashing soap. If you are camping in the backcountry, rinse dishware using clear water and spread your wastewater over a dry area around 60 meters (or 70 adult steps) from water sources (or your camp site, especially if there are bears nearby) to avoid damaging the local ecosystem.