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Going camping? Go green!

By Shelby Capacio, Staff writer
Published On: Apr 11 2012 02:51:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 07 2013 10:05:58 AM CDT
Alaska camping, tent

National Park Service

As the ground starts to thaw and spring break approaches, many people will think about taking a camping trip to enjoy the great outdoors.

Many outdoor adventurers marvel at the beauty of nature, and there are some green camping practices that help keep Mother Earth pristine.

Take back your trash

Anything you bring in should come back out with you. Some areas have strict rules about what can be brought in, but it's always a good practice to leave everything the way you found it and leave nothing behind.

Although it is OK to burn some trash -- like crumpled paper bags used to carry in snacks -- avoid burning any plastics, metals, or anything that has been treated with chemicals. Instead, bring those items home and recycle what you can.

Most campsite waste comes from consumables -- namely, food and drink. There are plenty of pack-friendly foods that don’t require packaging or plates -- such as oranges and hard-boiled eggs -- but for those foods that do need packaging, consider using paper bags instead of plastics and unbreakable, reusable dishes and bottles instead of disposable paper, water bottles or Styrofoam cups.

Ban batteries

Flashlights and other camping electronics can burn through batteries, which require careful disposal. Alkaline batteries can pollute soil, lakes and streams. Batteries also contain heavy metals like lead or mercury -- which can leech into the ground and water -- as well as strong, corrosive acids.

There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. Rechargeable batteries are a good way to keep using your current supplies while minimizing waste. There are many Lithium ion batteries that last longer and can be used over and over.

There are also many crank devices that eliminate the need for batteries altogether. Crank flashlights, for example, use LED lights and can be charged by hand before each use.

Ditch the disposables

In a world bursting with single-serving snack packs and disposable cameras that all cater to convenience, it can be hard to realize that with just a little more planning you can minimize trash and nix unnecessary waste in your pack and in landfills.

Think of it this way: Why buy what you already have? If you have a razor at home, why spend the extra dollar on a plastic, tossable one? It's unlikely a disposable option will save much space.

Similarly, try to eliminate recurring costs by investing in reusable tools. For example, instead of continually buying one-time-use disposable cameras, invest in a digital camera. A great way to get your hands on some equipment without breaking the bank is by buying second-hand equipment. Thrift stores often have cost-friendly options available, and buying second-hand supplies eliminates the need for new manufacturing and saves on materials.

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