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Environmentally Friendly Camping

written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 8/28/2011

Whether camping at a campground or in the middle of the wilderness, it is important to remember that you are recreating in a place that is home to wildlife. Preserve the environment for future generations by following a few simple camping guidelines.

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    Eco-Friendly Products for Camping

    Use soaps that are 100 percent biodegradable. Non environmentally friendly soaps harm wildlife and contaminate lakes, ponds, streams, and underground water sources. There are soaps designed for camping that do not contaminate water sources. Burt's Bees sells a product for camping called "Outdoor All-In-One Wash" that is available in many retail stores.

    Steer away from using chemical bug repellents and use a natural herbal product instead. Avoid using fly and wasp traps by using citronella candles, covering food, and using netted outdoor tents. It is better to deter insects while camping than to kill them. Each species of insect has an important function in the wild and contributes to a natural environmental balance.

    Image Environmentally Friendly Camping 

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    Keep trash in a secure container to prevent wildlife from getting into it. Dispose of all trash in appropriate trash receptacles or bring it with you when you leave the campsite. Use extreme care with trash that can harm wildlife. Animals can choke on plastics or become entangled in plastics, string, or rope.

    Image Enviromentally Friendly Camping 1 

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    Deer Resist the urge to feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife accustoms wild animals to human contact and weakens their natural caution of humans, which could put them in danger when around unfriendly humans. In addition, wild animals who are frequently fed by humans can become reliant on obtaining easy food and discontinue hunting or gathering. Wildlife whose diets consist of a significant portion of human food, often are not getting the proper nutrients they need to maintain optimum health.

    Don't allow pets to harass wildlife. Keep an eye on your pets at all times during your camping trip. Don't allow them to chase wildlife or dig in wildlife burrows. Harassment by pets can cause wildlife to relocate out of fear.

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    Off-Road Parking

    Whenever possible, avoid parking off-road. The heavy weight of automobiles can compact dirt making it hard for new plant life to grow and the weight can smash existing fragile tree roots.

    If you must park off-road, evaluate the ground area before parking, to make sure that you will not be parking on top of plants or an animal's home.

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    Don't drive stakes into trees or hang hammocks from trees. Stakes driven into trees can injure or kill the trees. Hammocks tied around trees may not seem like they are doing damage, but they often are. The weight from a person lying in the hammock can cause the rope used to tie the hammock onto the tree, to dig into the tree and injure it. Hammocks using a self-supporting stand are a tree friendlier option.

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    Downed Wood

    Avoid gathering downed wood, twigs and leaves for campfires. Downed wood, twigs, and leaves biodegrade and nourish the soil. Wildlife also uses downed wood, twigs, and leaves as homes or as materials to build homes.

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    Image Credits

    Image: Camping Pomer by lavoro personale under CC BY SA 3.0

    Image: Freeway Park Seattle by Joe Mable under CC BY SA 3.0

    Image: White-tailed deer by Raul654 under CC BY SA 3.0


  • California State Park Volunteer: D.M. Gaynes: 2008