For most people, going camping is largely about getting back to nature. So, it only makes sense to want to adopt as many eco-friendly camping tips as possible in order to honour the natural environment.
Sustainable camping does not always come easily, especially in today’s society of convenience and ‘throw-away’ everything. However, with a little planning and a few conscious habits, eco camping can be a cinch!
For additional camping packing tips, check out these essential road trip items.
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The Importance of Eco-friendly Camping
We’ll start with one of the biggest topics of concern on the planet today. Rubbish. I think we can all agree that it’s a MASSIVE problem and one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Why Do We Generate So Much Rubbish?
Never before has this planet seen such a state of disposableness. It’s a disgrace really. But, there are so many factors at play around rubbish in our culture, so let’s have a look at the tangled web.
If you think about it, the cost of living is ever increasing, meaning that it’s pretty standard to need two incomes per household now, just to survive. Because of this, we’re living in a world that is very time-poor and people are looking for ways to ease the load.
Not to disregard the point above, but seriously, we are a pretty freaking lazy bunch of homo sapiens sometimes! Enough said.
Everyone is on the same quest really, the pursuit of happiness. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and programming from every direction, telling us that ‘stuff’ will make us happy. It’s the biggest lie on the planet!
The truth is, many of us don’t even know how to live without just throwing stuff away and buying more. The knowledge of “use it up and wear it out,” is long forgotten. But it’s coming back baby!
Poor Business Models & Regulations
Sometimes our only options are not the best ones, so we feel like there’s no choice. The real change needs to come from the manufacturing level. Many government regulations also increase the level of waste due to health, safety and expected standards.
The Problem With Plastic
The real problem with plastic goes beyond plastic bottles floating all over the world’s oceans. It’s really a multi-layered global issue.
- Extraction – made from fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal), which contribute to declining resources, plus additional problems associated with each industry
- Production – conversion of fossil fuels into plastic involves large chemical processing plants
- Leeching – chemical additives from plastics leech into our food, water and inadvertently our bodies, causing health issues
- Disposal – the lifespan of plastic is hundreds of years, even ‘recyclable’ plastic can really only be downcycled about 6 times.
Natural materials (such as wood, metal, cotton and hemp) are much better resources to look for when choosing sustainable camping items. These materials are able to be broken down, reused and/ or repurposed.
▶️ VIDEO: The Story of Stuff
|👇 Watch the vid below for an honest look at where all of our ‘stuff’ comes from. |
It’ll make you think twice before ever shopping unconsciously again!
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – RUBBISH
Coming from a capital city, I was kinda shocked to find that small towns often don’t recycle. They just don’t have the resources to do so, meaning that I have had to be a bit crafty with how I disposed of my own rubbish. Here are some sustainable camping tips for dealing with rubbish.
Burn Paper & Cardboard
Make the most of your campfires and burn all of your paper and cardboard waste. It’s helpful to try and purchase items that come in cardboard packaging, rather than plastic for this reason.
Camping Rubbish Bins
For all of your waste that you cannot use up, burn or cash in, you’re going to need a good camping rubbish bin to store it in. The style of bin you choose will depend on your set-up.
I recommend having two bins…
1 – recycling
1 – landfill
My system was to put recycling straight into the Dirty Gear Bag (which lived on the spare wheel), then have a separate bin for the regular rubbish. As each bag was full, it would get tied up, then also stored in the Dirty Gear Bag. Further sorting would happen when we got to public rubbish bins.
Another option is to have to two Spare Wheel Rubbish Bins (if you’ve got the space) – one for recycling and the other for rubbish.
Camping rubbish bin options:
- Bench top
- Spare wheel
Check out the article below for 15 camping bin ideas to help you find the right solution.
Reuse Empty Packets
Instead of buying bin liners, use empty food packaging to stash your trash (bread bags are perfect).
If you’re portioning out meals for the freezer, you can use cleaned out food packets, then seal them closed with a 12v food sealer. More on food sealers below.
Waste not, want not!
If you’ve got leftovers, turn them into a new meal the following day or freeze them for another night. Not having to dispose of so much food wastage will help reduce the amount of rubbish you need to cart around.
DO NOT Feed the Wildlife
While it’s easy to assume that feeding your leftovers to the local wildlife is a generous, helpful thing to do – it’s not.
Campsites are filled with campers during peak season. When those campers leave scraps laying around and intentionally feed the wildlife, it creates a seasonal ‘fast food joint’ for the animals. Not only do the animals become reliant on being fed, they can become outright aggressive in demanding food.
Feeding wildlife creates an unnatural ‘fast food restaurant,’ creating despondency, laziness & aggression in some species.
And then what happens when that peak period comes to an end and the campsites empty out? The animals who have become complacent have to go back to the harsh realities of the forest. Some may not even survive – particularly the younger ones who are less able to fend for themselves.
Native fauna are supposed to be hunting and foraging for their food, in fact, it’s imperative to the smooth running of the entire ecosystem. When one species becomes lazy due to human intervention, it can throw many other aspects of the cycle out of whack.
Take the famous dingos on Fraser Island for example…
After decades of being fed by tourists, the dingos have become increasingly aggressive over the years, which has resulted in actual attacks on people for food. This is how they’ve evolved and learnt to gather their food, which is not at all a safe or ideal scenario. As a result, dingos have to be periodically culled to now try to manage the current situation.
So please, do not feed the wildlife.
Cash for Containers
Most towns around Australia now offer either drop-off stations or vending machines where you can earn 10c per plastic bottle or can.
Click the relevant link in the table below to find your nearest depot, or google “can & bottle recycling near me.”
|CASH FOR CONTAINERS||QLD||NSW||ACT||VIC||TAS||SA||WA||NT|
|Containers for Change →||✔️||✔️|
|EPA South Australia →||✔️|
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – WATER
With water being our #1 most important resource for human survival, it’s imperative that you carry in as much water as you can when going camping. However, buying a few slabs of bottled water just isn’t going to cut the mustard.
Camping water bladders are great for being able to carry a large amount of water on the back floor of the car or on the tray. We had a 100L water bladder, which could fit on the back floor of the 4WD underneath the kids feet when we needed to top up our supplies.
Besides that, carrying multiple 20L jerry cans (blue for water) are a handy way to store water for a sustainable camping trip.
Water Saving Tips
The longer you can make your water supply last, the longer you’re able to keep camping before having to either head home or at least head to the nearest town to restock. Here are some water saving tips to keep you eco camping longer.
Water saving ideas:
- Collect rain water or clean running creek water for washing and cleaning
- Use a wet face cloth for washing bodies in between showers to stretch the water further
- Turn the shower/ tap off between rinses
- Utilise hair ties and hats to stretch out hair-washing days
- Hand-wash clothing in a bucket of water, rather than needing to fill a machine
- Rinse dirty dishes outside over the grass to avoid having to waste more water rinsing out the sink
- Only use a small amount of water for washing dishes – no need to overfill the sink
- Rather than running the tap to wet a cloth, put a bit of water in a bowl (or plugged sink) and soak up the water with the cloth
When it comes to disposing of your dirty waste water (from showers, cooking, cleaning and washing) tip it around a dry tree away from the campsite.
If you’ve got a grey water waste hose, direct it up to the bush in the opposite direction of any waterways. The trees will be thankful for the drink!
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – POWER
The most sustainable way to cook while camping is over the humble campfire. From boiling a billy to cooking a meal in the camp oven, it doesn’t get more authentic than doing it over a fire.
It’s also important to have a back-up cooking source, just in case the weather is awful or you find yourself in an area with a fire ban in place. I recommend always carrying a camping gas stove, so that no matter what the weather or conditions are like, you can still boil the kettle and heat up food in a pinch.
The most eco-friendly camping tip for powering a campsite is to utilise solar power as much as possible. With portable solar panels and batteries, solar chargers and solar generators, the sustainable camping world is now our oyster.
Of course, reliance on solar is dependent on the amount of good sunlight hours you’re able to make use of each day. It’s always important to have a secondary source of power for cooking, charging and lighting, just in case the clouds decide to take over.
Below are some handy camping solar devices to make your life easier.
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – CAMP KITCHEN
The camping kitchen often represents the biggest area of waste around the campsite. Here are some eco-friendly camping tips to help reduce kitchen wastage while travelling.
Having a good meal plan sorted out before you do the camping grocery shopping saves on wasted food and wasted money.
Your meal plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a general list of 7 days worth of meals, whether that be ‘leftovers,’ or a fresh meal. From there you can create a specific camping food checklist to make sure that you’re not overpacking or underpacking for your trip.
Camping Food Checklist + Menu Planner
- 4 pages
- 12 food item categories
- Checklists pre-filled with 100+ items
- Menus pre-filled with 21 meals, 14 snacks & 3 desserts
- PRINTABLE & DIGITAL
- Download once, use over-and-over again
Pre-cook & Pre-prepare Meals
If you’re able to pre-cook and pre-prepare as much food at home as you can, you will reduce the amount of waste you’re producing while camping.
Preparing things at home means that you can use ingredients that you’ve already got on hand, without having to purchase more items for the trip. This eliminates the need for single-use packets of food, resulting in less rubbish.
Pre-make your snacks at home so that you don’t need to buy the fun-sized packets, which create an enormous amount of waste.
Pre-cooking also means that you won’t need to go through so much water on your sustainable camping trip, freeing up more of your water supply for drinking and washing.
Rather than using disposable dish cloths for cleaning your dishes, opt for a cotton dish cloth that can be hung out to dry and reused.
Alternatively, you can cut old T-shirts and sheets into squares and use them for dish cloths instead of buying new ones.
DIY upcycled dish cloths are also a great paper towel replacement (aka ‘Unpaper Towel’). Use the cut up fabric squares to wipe tables and spills, rinse them, then put into the wash with the rest of your laundry.
Sustainable camping tips for doing the dishes:
- Reusable dish cloths
- Upcycled unpaper towels
- Biodegradable plant-based dishwashing detergent
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – FOOD
Choose Paper or Reusable over Plastic
If you really need to use disposable plates, choose paper over plastic. That way, you can burn them in the campfire after use, which is a much more sustainable camping disposal method than adding more plastic into landfill.
Even better, bring along reusable plates, bowls, cutlery and cooking utensils.
- PLASTIC – goes into landfill
- PAPER – can be thrown into the campfire (don’t ever burn plastic)
- REUSABLE – can be washed and used over-and-over again
Compartment Lunch Boxes
Compartment-style lunch boxes are great for putting together lunch and snacks for busy travel days as well as pre-preparing camping meals. The best thing is that they eliminate the need to buy packets of individually packaged snacks.
Have you heard of Beeswax Wraps? Basically they’re pieces of fabric, coated in beeswax that you use as a plastic wrap alternative. Beeswax wraps are easily mouldable, making then perfect for covering up food leftovers, plates, bowls and even wrap things up for lunch.
Another alternative are the Onya Sandwich Wraps, which are made from recycled PET bottles, complete with food-safe PEVA lining.
Reusable food wraps can be used time and time again, saving on money and waste. Simply give them a gentle wash in warm, soapy water between uses.
Another food wrap alternative is with the use of fabric bags. The two main items that I use fabric bags for are cheese and gluten free bread once they’re opened.
Benefits include saving money on disposables and being able to easily shake out and reuse the bags many times between washes.
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – DRINKS
Reusable Bottles & Mugs
As tempting as it is to just buy a case of bottled water for camping trips, its completely unnecessary. Insulated stainless steel reusable bottles are far superior and have the added benefit of keeping drinks cool.
Once you’ve got a good supply of water sorted, you can keep refilling your bottles from the larger vessel.
The same goes for tea and coffee. A nice, insulated travel mug can serve so many purposes, from housing your morning coffee to hosting hot soup for lunch.
Many cafes are BYO-mug-friendly these days, so you can even get your latte to-go without the need for disposable cups.
I know, I know, unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re all over the reusable straw thing by now. This is just a gentle reminder of how refreshing it is to drink from a cold, stainless steel straw on a hot day while camping!
Some reusable straws come in a handy little pouch for use while out and about. However, if you do head out for lunch or dinner and forget your straws, just say “no thanks” to the plastic one and drink your bevvy old-school.
Did you know that most tea bags actually contain plastic? This means that they aren’t biodegradable at all. Replace the tea bags with a stainless steel Tea Ball or Tea Strainer and use loose-leaf tea instead.
Tea infusers make for a much more authentic tea-drinking experience, plus you’re not contributing to the billions of tea bags that hit the landfill piles each year.
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – BATHROOM
Here are some eco-friendly camping tips for all of your bathroom needs. Not only do these help to make your camping more sustainable, but they can be used just as easily at home.
For more eco tips, check out these zero waste bathroom swaps.
Always use the campsite toilets or your own toilet above toileting in the bush.
The exception is for guys to pee behind a tree, but make sure you’re walking a really good distance away from the campground. Otherwise you’re just adding to the (natural) waste and aroma in a concentrated area.
If you really must do your business in the bush, again, go as far away from camp as you can and dig a hole decent enough that you can fill it in without it being dug up (or walked into).
Never, ever leave toilet paper waste behind. Burying the paper isn’t good enough as it may end up resurfacing and creating more pollution. Bag toilet paper up and take it out of the camp with you when you leave.
|How deep should Human Waste & Toilet Paper be buried?|
Well away from campsites, tracks and water
12 – 20cm deep
100m from water (minimum)
To avoid plastic soap dispensers, opt for bar soap stored in a nice soap tin. For those who prefer the pump soap, find a bulk food store near you where you can refill your old pump bottles (such as The Source).
Keep in mind that many detergents around campsites can end up in or near the local waterways. It’s always best to go for a natural option so that you’re not adding to the water pollution.
Never use soaps or detergents in natural water ways!
The Camp Eco Body Suds below come in recycled bottles, are camp-friendly and grey tank safe.
Instead of using disposable razors, make the switch to a quality stainless steel Safety Razor. The only thing that will ever need to be replaced are the stainless razor blades, with the used ones being fully recyclable.
It’s a no-brainer that disposable menstrual products are non-biodegradable and most of the time they contain plastic (either in the product or in the packaging). Thankfully, there are a range of eco-friendly alternatives available to us these days, which can help to make your sustainable camping trip even more eco-friendly.
- Menstrual Cup – Tampon alternative. Flexible silicone cup that can be rinsed and reused.
- Reusable Pads & Liners – Made from cotton, hemp or bamboo. Rinse after use, soak if need be then put them through the washing machine.
- Period Underwear – Leak-proof underwear with multiple absorbency levels. Rinse after use, then throw into the washing machine.
Pack a stash of reusable face washers or body cloths for your sustainable camping trip. They easily replace baby wipes, make-up wipes, cotton pads and more. Just a bit of water and a reusable cloth will do the job.
I recommend the Norwex Body Cloths as they have silver woven into them, making them antibacterial.
Handmade Body Products
It’s pretty common knowledge these days that most body products on the shelves are filled with synthetic chemicals and fillers to maximise profits and reduce costs.
There are 80,000+ new chemicals on the market now that didn’t even exist before the mid 1900’s. In fact, never before in human history have we had such high rates of cancer.
Making your own body products is a great way to incorporate sustainable camping with an eco-friendly lifestyle. If you’re not into DIY, there are plenty of beautiful handmade body products to be found online and at local markets.
Stainless Steel Ear Cleaners
These little stainless steel ear picks are a cotton tip replacement. I’ve been using them for a few years now and love them.
Stainless ear picks are a bit of a different experience to the cotton tips that we’ve all grown used to, but I love how they can just be washed in soapy water and used time and time again.
Some of the bug repellents on the market can be a bit sketchy and are often filled with greasy chemicals.
The Good Riddance company offer a range of insect repellent products to suit everyone. From tropical strength to sensitive, you can find something to suit your needs. All of their products are DEET-free and plant-based.
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – CLEANING
Did you know that over 72,000 synthetic chemicals have been created since World War II? What about the fact that the average home has somewhere around 62 toxic chemicals just laying around? It’s no surprise that the rate of cancer is on the rise, not to mention that we are detrimentally affecting the planet – our own home.
Here are some simple eco-friendly camping tips for getting the cleaning done.
Natural Cleaning Products
Always choose plant-based, biodegradable cleaning products so as not to pollute the natural campsites.
Alternatively, white vinegar, bicarb soda and lemon juice can fulfil most (if not all) cleaning needs. People have been cleaning with these three, simple items for a long, long time – well before synthetic chemicals were introduced into our daily lives.
For loads of tips and info, check out Clean Your Whole House With Vinegar, Baking Soda & Lemon.
Stainless Steel Pegs
Let’s talk pegs. Plastic ones disintegrate and break. Wooden ones go mouldy and eventually break.
What’s the alternative? Stainless steel of course.
Pincinox Pegs are probably the most expensive pegs I’ve ever bought! But to be fair, that was about 5 years ago and they are still as good today as the day I first bought them.
Being made from one piece of stainless steel, Pincinox Pegs will never break or rust. I could literally leave these pegs to the future grandkids! See the full Pincinox Pegs review.
For a cheaper stainless steel peg, you can go for a more simple style (pictured below right). They don’t have the same grip, but will still do a good job.
Norwex Antibacterial Cloths
When it comes to cleaning, I do all of our cleaning with microfibre Norwex cloths.
All of their antibacterial cloths have silver woven into them, which is a natural anti-bacterial agent. It basically means that you can clean with just water and the cloths, without the need for chemicals – perfect for eco-friendly camping.
I’ve literally been using the same cleaning cloths for over five years now! Just throw them into the wash to freshen up and keep on using them.
They have saved me so much money and space on my travels by not having to purchase and store disposable stuff. Not to mention the rubbish that disposables generate.
DIY Cleaning Cloths
You don’t need fancy or expensive cleaning cloths, any piece of fabric will do the job. Cut up old clothing, bed sheets etc. into squares and use them as dish cloths and cleaning cloths. Just throw them in with your other laundry when they need a clean and keep reusing.
With this sustainable camping tip you get to give new life to old items, reduce landfill and save money on buying new products.
If you’re a sewer, you could stitch around the edges to tidy the cloths up – optional, but not essential.
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – CAMPFIRES
Campfires are an integral part of the camping experience and often provide the warmth and heat needed for comfort and cooking.
While fire is one of the most natural elements in the world, there are a few campfire rules to keep the experience as in line with the local environment as possible.
Eco campfire rules:
- Don’t collect wood from around the campsite if it’s forbidden – they’re probably allowing the natural habitat to regenerate
- Always bring in your own wood if possible
- Keep kindling collection to a minimum
- Always keep campfires within the designated fire pits
- Start fires well away from low-hanging trees and campsites
- Don’t over-stoked the fire – keep it manageable
- Don’t start fires when a fire ban is in place
- Always put the fire out with water when you’re finished with it – covering with sand or dirt will keep the coals hot, increasing the risk of people unknowingly standing in it and getting burnt
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – CAMPGROUND ETIQUETTE
Here are few general sustainable camping rules that we can all respect for the positive future of camping.
- Stick to designated areas – don’t be tempted to head off the track or make your own campsite
- Take nothing but what you came in with – leave the natural habitat as it is
- Pay the camping fees – it all contributes to the maintenance and enjoyment of the campsite
- Travel in shoulder and off-peak seasons – reduces the number of people swamping the area at once
Eco-friendly Camping Tips – CAMPING GEAR
When it comes to the gear, here are some eco-friendly camping tips to help make the entire experience as sustainable as possible.
If there are some camping items that you don’t have, see what your friends and family have that you could borrow. This will save you money, plus save on more resources being used to create more material items.
Sometimes, you can’t always borrow what you need, but you can hire it! There are many camping hire businesses around these days, who can help you out with filling in those blanks.
If you really do want to have your own solid camping set-up, without the hassle of having to borrow or hire, check out the second hand market for quality used items. This helps to reduce the amount of things that get thrown into landfill and also extends the life of items that would otherwise be collecting dust in someone’s garage.
Lastly, when you are in the market for new camping gear, opt for good quality items made from reputable brands.
As they say, the poor man pays twice.
You save on money and resources in the long run by going for quality over quantity in the first place.
Once you’ve packed up camp to move on, be sure to do a full sweep of the area and collect any stray items or rubbish that may have been left behind.
Sustainable camping is really just an extension of an eco-friendly lifestyle. Making the transition is a process of taking one step at a time. Now it’s over to you!
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” – Chief Seattle