25 Ways to Reduce Waste in the Wild All Summer Long

Living a sustainable lifestyle at home may be second nature by now, but what about when you venture out into a new environment for family fun this summer? With a little extra planning you can still have a terrific time while leaving nature exactly just as you found it when hiking, camping, or exploring.

It's always a great idea to follow the mantra “pack it in, pack it out” every time you leave home for a family adventure. And better yet, reduce the amount of waste before you leave! Here are some ideas.

Reduce waste while hiking

  1. Bring a compostable bag to put your waster in! It may seem alright to leave biodegradables, like orange peels, on the ground, it can habituate animals and is not very appealing to other hikers. 
  2. Reusable containers for drinks are always a great idea. Nothing worse than seeing plastic bottles and hydration packs on the trail. Stay hydrated!
  3. Take a sealable bag to collect your used wrappers or use a larger snack bag that you empty while out - such as a chip bag. Remember a chip clip to seal it up. Tissues and such need to be collected too if there are no restrooms around. 
  4. Only bring what you really need. Keep your load light and fresh. Some foods melt or spoil easily. Good selections include trail mix, jerky, nuts, granola, fresh fruit, veggies and bagels. 

Reduce waste while camping

  1. Create a box of reusable plates and cutlery.
  2. Freeze your own blocks of ice. They last longer than chips of ice. 
  3. Use rags instead of paper towels and Sani-wipes. Cut up old towels and keep them in your camping gear. 
  4. Use leftover bags, like chip bags, to collect waste instead of buying other bags. 
  5. Invest in a large water jug instead of buying several smaller ones.  Pumps are available for the 15 – 25L jugs that make things easier. Jugs can be refilled with clean water at local grocery stores.
  6. Prepare food at home and bring in waterproof containers so it is not affected by melting ice. Another reason blocks are better.
  7. Use plant based detergents, soaps, etc. 
  8. Avoid buying firewood wrapped in plastic or other packaging. Many locals sell firewood along your journey. 
  9. Travel in fewer vehicles if going in a group.
  10. It’s good practice to gather waste that may have been left behind by other campers. Leave the site better than you found it. 
  11. Keep fires small. Be sure to extinguish all fires completely. 
  12. Solar charged lights eliminates the need for batteries. If you need battery powered lights, consider using LED bulbs which consume much less energy. 

Reduce waste while exploring or vacationing

  1. Bring along reusable hot and cold drink bottles. Refuse the single use cups at cafe’s. 
  2. Stash a reusable shopping bag when going out for the day. You never know when you might need one.
  3. If flying is part of your plans, use the airline’s app instead of paper boarding passes. 
  4. Rent bikes if feasible to explore town.
  5. Opt-out of daily housekeeping when staying in hotels.
  6. Try not to use travel size toiletries.  Put your products in reusable containers instead.
  7. Don’t order more food than you can eat. Leftovers will only go to waste while you are out exploring. 
  8. Find local farmers markets, when possible, to buy snacks and gifts. Products are normally made locally which eliminates transportation. 
  9. Pay with cash and refuse the receipt.

Include this list to your family activity planning sessions and create a to-go kit such as picnic baskets or travel bags.  Let your imagination go wild and see how little impact you can have out there. Happy trails!

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