Camping Sustainably

It’s finally Summer semester! The sun is shining and, whether you’re on a break from school or still taking a couple classes, camping is the perfect way to escape the city for a few days. We are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and what better way to explore British Columbia than to go camping? While you’re out in nature, it’s extremely important to be aware of your environmental impact. Here are six things you need to know to ensure your next camping trip is awesome, for both you and the environment!

Camping at Joffre Lakes, BC. Image from

1. Choosing a Place to Set Up Camp

The first step to all camping trips is deciding where to go. If you choose to camp on a provincial campsite, there are often utilities provided for you, such as running water, washrooms, garbage bins, bearboxes and firepits. If you decide not to camp at a provincial campsite, however, it is important to keep in mind that more caution must be taken when doing certain activities such as washing dishes in the stream, disposing of garbage, and building a campfire. Read up on what to expect at your campsite so you can be better prepared.

2. Bringing Reusable Items

While there is a tendency to want to use paper plates, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups, during your trip, taking the extra step to use reusable equipment makes an enormous difference in the long run. Taking a few extra minutes to do some dishes is definitely worth limiting your impact on the environment. Instead of buying a flat of water bottles, try taking a jug of water from home. Too many times there have been instances of campers leaving trash behind. Examples include following the Pemberton Music Festival, where trash left behind littered the Pemberton Valley, and an incident at Joffre Lakes, where 40 pounds of abandoned trash was discovered. Thinking about the weight of it all? Consider using these lightweight deep-dish plates or this water filter to avoid unwanted baggage. Taking small steps to reduce waste, especially plastic waste, makes a small but meaningful impact.

3. Using Natural Soaps and Other Hygiene Products

When washing dishes, showering, and using other hygiene products, do your best to use natural, biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and dish soap that will not be harmful to the environment. This is especially important if you are camping off the grid. There are no filtration systems when washing in a natural river or stream. As a result, chemicals from cleaning products go directly into the water.  Examples of natural soaps include organic pure castile liquid soap, wilderness wash, and campsuds. You can also make your own natural soaps for an easy alternative and so you can be completely sure of all the ingredients.

4. Building Safe Campfires

Campfire at Camp Jubilee, BC. By Landyn Imagawa.

Campfires are my favourite part about camping trips. Roasting marshmallows and keeping warm by the fire with friends. However, fires can be dangerous if not properly built and contained, so it is important to use a fire pit if provided with one. If you are not given one, you can build your own by piling rocks up in a circle. Always keep a close eye on the fire, don’t let it get too large, and never leave the campsite until it is fully out. Forest fires are devastating, and unfortunately, destroy many BC forests each summer.  From April to November 2017, more than 1300 fires destroyed over 1.2 million hectares, displacing thousands of people and costing BC more than 564 million dollars. Being cautious with fires and following fire bans stops the spread of wildfires through our forests and protects the homes of all the wildlife within them.

5. Being Careful to Properly Store and Dispose of Food Scraps

Cooking, storing, and disposing of food while camping is crucial to not attracting wildlife. Food can be left in cars, tied up and hung from a tree, stored in bear boxes, or bundled together far from the campsite. If food or scraps are left out, they can attract raccoons, rats, coyotes, birds, bears, and other wildlife. This can be dangerous for both the campers and the animals and it can make the animals more drawn to humans in the future with a promise of food. Be sure to take all food scraps with you when you leave to ensure the campsite is as good as new for the next campers!

6. Leave the place how you found it

It is extremely important to leave the campsite just as you found it. This means taking all belongings, including trash and recycling, with you. Camping in a sustainable way ensures British Columbia remains beautiful and campers can continue exploring BC for many years to come!


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