Camping has become increasingly popular in South Africa, especially as people want to escape that locked-in feeling and frustrations the nationwide lockdown entails. The lockdown has not just limited travels beyond our borders at times; it has limited our everyday life. However, the increase in people camping and how often people go camping can have a severe irreversible impact on nature and its eco-systems. Lizaan Snyman looked at some tips to make our camping trips more eco-friendly.
While camping with family and friends is without a doubt a relaxing and fun-filled experience for both expert and novice, it is of vital importance to preserve the spectacular natural environment by making your camping practices as eco-friendly as possible. Luckily, it is relatively easy to give your camping activities a ‘green’ makeover by making a few basic but necessary changes to your usual endeavours. Here are some simple but important eco-friendly camping tips you can follow:
People often forget this tip as they just stay at the most affordable and well-known campsites that are not always as eco-friendly. However, you can seriously reduce your carbon footprint with some more planning while fully immersing yourself in nature without causing it too much harm. There are various off-the-grid campsites all over Africa that truly provide the unplugged eco-friendly experience. Depending on the campsite you visit, you can either be completely without power or have it supplied via a donkey boiler and solar power, while ablutions are also often few and far between. Some campsites get you completely at one with nature as they have little to no signal – a true getaway.
Also, try to minimize your driving time by camping closer to home as travelling a long way away will increase your transport carbon emissions. However, if you decide to travel far, consider doing something to offset your carbon emissions, such as giving to eco-friendly initiatives.
Sustainable camping equipment and products
Just because you have the money to buy sustainable camping equipment and other necessary products does not mean you should. Rather consider borrowing or renting equipment from friends and family or even businesses, especially if you are not an avid camper. You can always later go and buy the equipment you regularly use on your trips. For instance, investing in solar panels can drastically minimize your carbon footprint, but rather rent or borrow it if you are not camping often. Otherwise, you can just make an effort to reduce your energy usage and pollution.
While it will most likely be more expensive, rather buy chemical-free and biodegradable soap, bug repellent, and whatever else you need. The non-environmentally friendly products harm wildlife and contaminate lakes, ponds, streams, and underground water sources. Even if you are using eco-friendly products, refrain from letting them get into any water source.
Playing with fire
Campfire, or as we like to call it, bush television, is one of the best parts of camping. Although the most eco-friendly way to cook is over a wood fire, it is not always safe, responsible or allowed. Be aware of the rules and take the conditions you are camping in into consideration before lighting any fire. You can either purchase firewood of invasive species or collect fallen and dead wood near where you are camping. Be careful when collecting wood as there can be spiders, scorpions and other creatures in or on the wood. Also, make sure you collect the correct wood as burning the wrong wood can produce poisonous smoke that will pull into the meat and poison you.
When searching for a spot to build a fire, try to use an area that has already been used previously, that is also away from dry grass, bushes, and anything flammable, instead of clearing new space. Remember, before you go to sleep, make sure the fire is completely burned out and before going home or leaving for other campsites on your trip, pour sand or water over the fireplace to ensure that the fire is completely out.
Lastly, take your cigarette butts with you rubbish home as it can cause devastating fires and hang around forever polluting the eco-system. On that note, do not burn your rubbish, as this pollutes the atmosphere.
Leave it as you found it
It does not matter where you are camping you must always make sure that you leave nothing brought with you behind, including all your rubbish. If you are fortunate enough to be staying at a camping ground with composting facilities, make full use of them. When these facilities are not available, you can pack your rubbish and any other people’s rubbish that you picked up into two separate reusable bags for easy recycling when you get home. Some people assume it is fine to leave leftover food and liquids behind, but it is not the case as any foreign substance can harm the fragile ecosystems. So, plan ahead and bring enough re-usable bags and containers to be able to take all your refuse to be disposed of properly at home.
If the campsite has no ablution facilities, you will need to take a spade with you and dig a hole about 50m away from any water sources. The hole needs to be about 30cm deep and properly filled in and buried when you are done. Each person should dig their own holes as needed – as it is less gross factor and better for the environment.
Plan and tailor your eco-friendly ideas, so your trips remain safe and enjoyable – so start small! If you forgot or could not use some of the eco-friendly tips you planned on implementing, don’t let it spoil your trip – just learn from it and do better on each of your next trips. Now, with these tips and other tips you can find online at your disposal, you can embrace and enjoy everything nature has to offer responsibly!