Skills & Techniques

10 Ways to Create Less Trash at Camp

Brice - June 15, 2018

Cape Hatteras, NC – Ever seen a ton of trash piled next to trash cans at your campsite? What about litter scattered around the campground? Maybe you pack things out, but are you doing these 10 things to create less trash in the first place?

Why Does it Matter?
We all produce a lot of trash while camping. From cooking, to cleaning, to hydrating, much of what we do creates waste and adds to our footprint. Camp trash can cause a lot of impacts too. If we do not Dispose of Waste Properly it can attract wildlife and lead to unintentionally feeding them. Our food and trash can harm their digestive systems, diminish their immune systems, and change their habits. 
Even when it is disposed of properly though, camp trash can take its toll on parks and protected areas. Often times, these areas are not equipped to handle the large amount of trash created by so many visitors. Camp trash can put pressure on staff and resources in our favorite outdoor areas. Taking trash bags home with you can help alleviate this problem, but so can creating less trash to begin with.
Luckily, there are 10 simple ways we can reduce the amount of camp trash we create. By Planning Ahead and Preparing, we can make adjustments to what we bring on our camping trips and into the outdoors to ensure less waste is created and that the waste we do create is easier to manage or pack out.  
10 Ways to Leave Less Trash at Camp
  1. Swap a case of plastic water bottles or a plastic jug of water for a refillable water container and reusable bottle
  2. Switch from plastic straws to reusable straws
  3. Instead of paper plates and plastic utensils, use a cool set of camp dishes
  4. Ditch plastic table cloths, paper towels, and paper napkins for reusable and washable versions
  5. Reuse containers for trash bins – Ice bags and snack containers make great trash cans when emptied
  6. Repackage food into reusable containers before you head out
  7. Avoid buying and bringing food with unnecessary packaging 
  8. Use a smaller trash receptacle – By using a smaller trash bag, or better yet a reusable Deuter Dirtbag, we can be more aware of the amount of trash we create
  9. Rather than discardable single use propane tanks, use a larger refillable tank for stove fuel
  10. Keep a separate bag for recyclables and pack it out if not available where camping 
Take the Challenge
Summer is just getting started, and with many of us in the midst of planning our next big outdoor adventure, now is as good a time as any to take the Camp Trash Challenge. The next time you go camping, or on any outdoor adventure, take your trash into consideration. Test out these 10 tips to see how much you can reduce your waste compared to a previous outing.
Want to take it even further? Track the trash you create on your next campout. Before tossing anything in the garbage, write down what it is. At the end of the trip, take a look at your list and try to find ways you can minimize it. Feel free to repeat the exercise to whittle down your camp waste.
Make sure to share photos of your camp trash challenge as well as any tips and tricks you discover with the hashtag #leavenotrace.
Leave No Trace's Erin Collier and Brice Esplin are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Taxa and Klean Kanteen.

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