This post was written by David LeGros, a park naturalist with Ontario Parks.
One of the great attractions of camping is the opportunity to get back to nature and experience the beauty it has to offer.
The sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, towering pine trees and songbirds really connect us to the place – we can see how nature behaves naturally. Our part of the agreement should have the least possible impact on that outlook.
There are some common camping habits that are not good for the local landscape or the planet as a whole.
Here are six tips from park rangers for greener camping.
1. Avoid propane cylinders in camp stoves.
Whether you’re new to camping or a seasoned pro, a small, portable camp stove is a must-have. There are many varieties. If you’re looking for a new one, avoid the one that runs on single-use propane cylinders.
Single-use cylinders cannot be disposed of in regular trash or recycled.
Every year, tens of thousands are dumped in hazardous waste landfills. Whenever possible, use your campfire for cooking or get a stove that has a chamber for refilling with white gas.
2. Bring reusable plates and cutlery
You don’t use disposable plates and cutlery at home, so why take them camping? This type of trash makes up a large portion of the waste in parks and is largely unnecessary.
Remember that everything you throw away ends up somewhere. Bring plates and cutlery and wash them in a small tub. Throw dishwater into a vault toilet (latrine) and never wash dishes in the lake!
3. Don’t drive to the comfort station.
Some campers like to drive to the comfort station first thing in the morning and close to bedtime.
Our parks are home to many slow-moving animals (some are at-risk species) and are vulnerable to being killed by vehicles, especially at this time of day.
Furthermore, driving, as we know, contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. So whenever possible and within your personal mobility level, just walk.
Take that time to say hello to your neighbors, listen to the sounds of nature, or look for flora you may not have seen before.
4. Never put nails in trees
In case of rain, many people put up a tarp to take shelter. You can tie the tarp to the tree, but some people bring a hammer and nails and hammer them into the trees to hold things down.
This creates a wound in the tree and can weaken it, introduce disease, and cause it to become dangerous and need to be removed. Furthermore, a tree full of nails is dangerous for the park ranger in charge of cutting it down.
Trees create shade, protection from the weather, privacy, and contribute to the “woodsy” feel of your campsite, so keep them healthy!
5. Sort your trash
There are very few municipalities in Ontario where it is not necessary to sort waste into recyclable fibers, containers and organic matter, thus leaving only a little bit of trash.
Most parks also have a recycling program. Organize your trash into waste, organics and recyclables at your site. Then, deposit everything in the appropriate place at the campsite’s waste station. Recycling and composting: you do it at home, do it in the park! Bonus: try to produce less trash first.
6. When nature calls, only the three P’s in the toilet
Admittedly, the toilet probably isn’t anyone’s favorite part of a camping trip, but it’s important. Vault toilets (those that don’t flush) hold everything in a storage tank, which is pumped out and flushed periodically.
The tank, collection truck and disposal sites are designed for the 3 P’s (pee, poop and paper) only! It’s very frustrating and expensive (not to mention it sucks) to remove anything that isn’t one of the Ps.
Please do not throw trash down the toilet or toilet!
Our parks are special places
Whether you’re new to camping or have been visiting for generations, we owe these places respect and reverence; After all, these aren’t disposable, single-use landscapes.
While you strive to be a good camper, Ontario Parks is also working to be better stewards of the land. We want to keep these places fun, safe and beautiful in perpetuity, but we need your help! See you this summer!