When we are travelling into rural and remote areas, we can't assume that there will be waste removal services and recycling plants at our disposal. Nor can we assume that the local communities are flushed with resources to collect and dispose of our waste.
That's why reducing our camping waste altogether is more important than ever. There will be less waste for local communities to collect and dispose of on our behalf, less to go into landfill, and if we need to take it with us, less for that as well.
You will find our eco-friendly camping guide contains a lot of information about sustainable and green camping and keeping waste volumes down.
Here is a summary of our top 15 tips towards zero waste camping:
1: Make from scratch
Avoid buying food bought in plastic containers and tins by preparing the contents from scratch where possible. Eg: baked beans, chopped tomatoes, dried chickpeas, fresh corn, home made dips etc. etc.
2: Enjoy drinks from collapsible containers
Drinks and beverages can add a great deal of volume to our waste. While options to refill wine and milk bottles are available, they would be difficult to come by in rural and remote areas.
The next best thing is to give preference to drinks purchased in collapsible containers, such as beer in aluminium cans, wine in casks and milk and other drinks in cardboard cartons.
3: Avoid Takeaway / Takeout Food
Make your own meals and enjoy a picnic instead of takeaway or meal "kits" from the supermarket. Alternatively, take your own containers rather than buying takeaway in single use packaging.
4: Equip yourself with a water filter
The reluctance of people to drink local drinking water is understandable, but purchasing bottled water is the real enemy of zero waste camping and can add significant amounts to waste volumes.
A great alternative is to filter the local water if at all in doubt. An excellent water filter option is the Life Straw Personal Water Filter.
5: Equip everyone with reusables
For takeaway / takeout food, everyone should be equipped with reusable water bottles, coffee cups, bowls, cutlery, straws and containers.
6: Avoid disposable gas cannisters
Disposable gas cannisters not only add to our waste volumes, they should also be placed in approved waste bins and not in the general waste, which begs the question: Where are we going to find these types of waste services when we are camping in remote areas.
A much better option for zero waste camping is to go for a refillable LP gas fuelled stove.
7: Take a soda making machine
Take a soda making machine and some flavouring instead of buying carbonated drinks.
8: Compost food scraps
Instead of throwing food scraps in the general waste, ferment them with Bokashi composting maize until you can find a compost bin. All you need is a bucket with lid or waterproof bag, the maize and the food scraps.
Alternate a handful of maize with a layer of food scraps and seal. Continue until you can find a compost bin or a suitable place to bury the scraps.
9: Get others involved
It can be very deflating when you have been diligently minimising your waste only to find the bins full of plastic and glass containers and bottles because no-one else has committed to the cause, or even knows what to do.
Get your family members or camping companions engaged by sharing this article with them and getting their buy-in. Every little bit counts, but the waste battle is more difficult if no-one else is on board.
10: Buy well and buy once
Buy good quality camping gear, in particular bulky items like tents and chairs, so that they don't end up clogging up the waste bin.
11: Develop A Meal Plan
Developing a meal plan before you leave home and stocking up on the quantity of long life ingredients you need can help reduce packaging waste at the campsite. But, don't buy perishable foods too far in advance because plans do change.
12: Choose products with minimal or no packaging
Avoid over packaged food by choosing products with minimal or no packaging. Check out markets, butchers and green grocers etc that will often use bio-degradable bags and soft plastics and will also often allow you to bring your own containers.
13: Consider Camping Gift Ideas
Instead of giving gifts that your loved ones may not want or need, give the campers in your life good quality, practical and useful camping related gifts, or at least make a financial contribution towards a higher priced item. Gift ideas include a head torch, rechargeable tent light, sleeping bags or mats, or a good quality tent.
14: Avoid disposable battery powered devices
Choose rechargeable devices over those powered by disposable batteries where possible, such as lights. If it can't be avoided, choose devices that use the minimum number of batteries.
15: Turn your camping trash into treasure
We can't avoid producing waste altogether, so reusing it is the next best thing. Here are some ideas:
Icebags, bread bags and food wrappers (excluding those used for perishable foods):
- Storing vegetables
- Rubbish bag
- Recyclables bag
- Hold wet umbrella's
- Store dried foods and leftovers
- Reuse when buying food
- Pack sandwiches for a picnic instead of plastic wrap
- Carry used toilet paper on a hike
Solid food containers:
- Store food and leftovers
- To hold snacks
- To keep together small items
- Freeze to cool down fridge
- Extra water supply in your camp kitchen
- To hold warm water for a simple shower or wash
- DIY lantern - fill a water bottle with water, attach a headlamp with the light facing inwards
In conclusion, zero waste camping is probably an unrealistic expectation when we are camping but we can certainly go a long way to getting there with the tips on this page. If you have any suggestions, don't forget to let us know.