Today’s post comes from Sheila Wiebe, Marketing and Development Specialist at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
I promise to be more ecological.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m already pretty green. However, after leading an Earth Day park cleanup, I decided I needed to take it a step further and redouble my efforts to further reduce my impact on the environment.
A motto to follow
I grew up in the Girl Guide program and took Girl Guide law very seriously, particularly these challenges:
“The duty of a guide is to be useful and help others. A guide is a friend of animals. “A guide is cheap.” (circa 1980s)
If you haven’t heard, the Guides’ mantra is to “always leave this world better than when you found it.” —Robert Baden-Powell
As I said, this epiphany occurred to me during a recent park cleanup.
This year, we kept track of the items we collected. When you tell something, you have an idea of what’s out there.
I was surprised by the amount of baby wipes, food wrappers, pieces of plastic and bags found. In four hours, the group collected 72 kg of garbage in the park. For our imperial users, that’s 156 pounds. If you need an image that has the same weight as 103 iPads.
We can do better
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ways to be “green.”
At home, it’s easy: I recycle, compost, shop secondhand, reduce single-use plastics, and try to remember my reusable bags when I go shopping.
But what happens if I’m not at home? What happens when I’m traveling or camping? Products that come in individual packages seem very convenient.
These are just a few ideas I plan to follow when exploring the outdoors:
1. Say NO to single-use products
Pack reusable utensils, plates and cups. Just like I say “no thanks” to plastic straws at restaurants, I’ll say “no” to single-use plastics at my picnic table!
2. Freeze your meat
You can pack the cooler and use frozen meat as ice packs! This saves the amount of ice needed and the number of plastic bags that come with it.
3. Pack what you pack
This is something we tell mountain campers all the time, but why can’t we adopt this method when we go car camping or hiking as well?
Anything I take to a park, I will bag up for disposal in my municipal waste program. Plus, I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much less “stuff” you pack if you know you have to pack it too.
4. Don’t pick weeds or wildflowers
Take pictures instead! It may seem like parks are full of “weeds” like asters and goldenrod, but to parks and wildlife, these are wildflowers. Not only do they look pretty; They are food and home for bugs like butterflies, bees and birds.
Green comma butterfly on aster
You don’t need a centerpiece or pick a flower to show your mom. I encourage you to take a photo and even log your sightings on iNaturalist! If you don’t know what type of flower it is, the application will help you identify the species.
5. Rake the garden, not the campsite
Pinecones, rocks, acorns, and sticks can be uncomfortable to sleep on or step on. I totally get it!
However, you should only clear the area where your tent goes or the main area where you will be walking. Clearing your entire campground of wood debris harms nature’s ability to return nutrients to the soil.
6. Refrain from using “just one”
We’ve all done it.
We’re just going to use this one piece of birch bark to help light the fire, or this one Stick with roasted marshmallows.
As you know, our parks welcome a lot of people every year – more than 10 million of them! If we continue to use the “just one” concept, our parks will be affected.
For example, Bronte Creek Provincial Park hosted 42,000 nights of camping and 255,000 day visitors in 2018. If each of the 300,000 visitors took “just one” thing…
…well, do the math.
7. Avoid taking shortcuts
I call these paths “unauthorized spontaneous routes.” Taking a shortcut off a trail can dissect the habitat and natural processes of the forest, field or beach.
I promise to use established trails to access bathrooms, sites and beaches.
Another reason for doing this is that I don’t want to come into contact with poison ivy, giant hogweed, or nettles, all of which cause itching!
8. Listen to Ranger Smith and Yogi Bear: Don’t Feed the Bears
By cleaning up food, trash, and spills at your campsite, you will reduce the chance of attracting unwanted attention.
Ants, mice, chipmunks, raccoons, coyotes and bears are just a few of the animals that LOVE helping themselves to a free meal.
When humans intentionally feed wildlife, it can be problematic for the creatures. It may even make them dependent on you to feed them. That’s not good.
9. Camping responsibly with pets
I camp with my dog, Echo, who is one of those goofy, overly friendly, loud-barking, intimidating black labs. He helps me secure my commitment to the number eight, as he certainly never lets food fall on the floor!
Pet owners must ensure that pet food bowls (even empty ones) are put away while we are not on site. My dog never leaves a kibble, but I know there are all-day feeders. Dog poop can also attract wildlife such as beetles, rabbits, rats, and coyotes.
Did you know that in large quantities dog feces can even contaminate groundwater? Making sure to pick up poop is also VERY important, even if we are out in nature. Be sure to keep your pet on a leash too!
10. Take the park challenge once!
Once you arrive at your campsite, park and leave it.
Use other means of transportation to get around. You can walk, jog or ride a bike through the park. This gives you a chance to stop and smell the flowers, help a turtle cross the street, or notice how blue the sky is!