How To, Travel Lists

How To: be more eco-friendly while camping

In today’s edition of my ongoing How To series, I’m going to talk about something that has begun to bother me greatly over the last few years: the amount of waste that people generate while camping.

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m older and more observant now, but when I was a kid in Montana I don’t remember people being quite so wasteful when camping. Maybe it’s a regional difference; people in Montana do seem to be more backwoodsy and rugged when camping than people out here in Connecticut. But I think it’s also just a sign of the changing times. People don’t like to leave behind the comforts of home so they bring everything with them.

In portable, disposable units.

From a young age, I was taught to recycle, to not be wasteful, and to consider the environmental consequences of my actions. And this wasn’t confined to my house. It also extended to our camping trips. We never pack paper plates and plastic silverware. We don’t bring individually-packaged snacks in disposable containers. Instead, we bring real plastic dishes, reusable containers, and dish washing supplies. Any recyclables get collapsed down and stashed in the corner of the trunk until we come across a recycling bin. Empty bread bags become garbage bags or lunch bags. We throw away as little as possible.

Case in point. This is quite possibly the worst example of a campsite I’ve ever seen.

Now you might be thinking that washing dishes while camping is a giant pain, but it’s really not so bad. It just takes a little bit of planning ahead and a few extra minutes. It’s much more compact to pack a few reusable dishes than entire packs of disposable ones. And it greatly reduces the amount of waste. Throw in a couple empty containers with lids and you won’t have to throw away any leftovers either!

How to wash dishes at a campsite:

Step 1: Heat some (potable) water in a pot on your camp stove. We usually heat it to boiling and then add cold water – this increases the volume and makes it cool enough to stick our hands into. If you’re worried about using a lot of fuel, fill the pot early in the day and leave it sitting in the sun. By the time you need it, the water will already be partially warmed up.

Step 2: Pour half the water into a second pot – now you have one for washing and one for rinsing. Or buy one of these awesome camping sinks. This was a gift from my mom and I absolutely love it! It’s made of a durable plastic so it’s easy to clean, light weight enough to hang from a clothes line to dry, and it folds down into a little, flat square (figuring out how to re-fold it is the most complicated part).

Step 3: Wash, rinse, and dry your dishes. We pack a small bottle of dish soap (in a bag in case it leaks), a wash rag or sponge (also in a bag), and a couple dish towels that can be easily hung out over a clothes line

Step 4: Take the leftover water to the camper’s sink, dishwashing sink, or whatever is provided for disposal of waste water. Bring your sponge so you can rinse it out as well.

Well, there you have it. A simple way to make your camping trips more eco-friendly.

I hope this information has been useful in some way. I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions, and also any eco-friendly travel hacks that you use while camping!

For previous posts in my “How To” series, click here.

5 thoughts on “How To: be more eco-friendly while camping”

  1. I think this ‘packing the kitchen sink’ mentality is definitely more prevalent amongst campers with cars – when you have to carry all your supplies in a rucksack on your back, packing more than a plastic bowl, mug and set of cutlery isn’t so appealing! Campsites in the UK all have washing up facilities (though some are better than others) so there’s no excuse not to be a little more eco-friendly 🙂


    1. Yes, definitely when they have the space to transport things, people tend to take advantage of that. I don’t backpack much so I can’t say anything about that, But I’d assume people are much more minimalist and eco friendly when they’re in the back country. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The last time I went camping was in Australia with Castle fandom friends (!) and they were super good at this kind of stuff. We brought 4 of everything, because there was 4 of us, and took it in turns to wash up. I don’t see why people would do it any other way.

    Liked by 1 person

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