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6 Tips to Green Your Camping Trip
Parks and day hikes are well and good, but if you really want to reconnect with Mother Nature this summer, you’ve got to go camping.
For some, camping is a refreshing change: A chance to reset the mind and soul by roughin’ it for a few days. For others, the idea of living outside the realm of wifi and indoor plumbing is a terrifying prospect. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you identify with, it’s important to realize that wandering around in the wilderness can be dangerous … for the wilderness, that is.
Just like when planning a low-impact summer BBQ, it’s important to realize that most “camping stuff” you see in Big Box Stores is just low-quality junk designed to make camping feel like another day at home. This both defeats the purpose (it’s supposed to feel like nature, not home) and threatens the vitality of wilderness areas.
Whether you’re planning a weekend stay in a national park or setting out on a week-long backpacking trip, keep these tips for greener camping in mind:
1. Reusables Rule
Pitching a tent is no reason to throw all your eco-friendly habits out the window. Just because you’re going camping doesn’t mean you should spend a small fortune on disposable plates, cups, cutlery or napkins/towels. Pack unbreakable-but-washable versions of each, and bring along a) a small basin/bucket, sponge and biodegradable soap; and b) a breathable bag in which to toss cloth napkins and towels that are too dirty to reuse.
2. Non-Toxic Sunscreen and Bug Spray
Camping is awesome, but throw in a sunburn and a swarm of biting insects and it quickly becomes a nightmare. Venturing far from home might make you want to reach for the strong chemicals—but don’t! They’re toxic to the air, water and animals you’ll be visiting, as well as your own health. Instead try safer alternatives like Goddess Garden Sunscreen or make your own natural sunscreen and bring along one of these eight natural mosquito repellents.
3. Solar Lantern and Chargers
One of the first things novice campers usually notice is how much darker rural areas are at night. You could stock up on AA and D batteries to power your headlamps, flashlights and lanterns, or you could invest a little more in a lighting option that runs off solar power—like the LuminAID light. This solar powered, inflatable lamp packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern. You might also want to bring along a solar charger to keep your emergency phone and/or GPS powered up (i.e., your essentials, not a DVD player and mini-fridge).
4. Bulk Water and Refillable Water Bottles
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people unload a case (or two!) of bottled water at their camp site. This is not only silly and wasteful, it also creates more work since most parks require campers to pack out their trash. Instead, fill a large container (like those used for water coolers) or buy a couple of gallons from which you can refill your water bottle during the trip.
5. Know How to Go
What happens when nature calls on a camping trip? It’s important to know where and how to dispose of human waste on the trail. If you’re in an established campground, there’s likely an outhouse or composting toilet nearby. Use that. If you’re deeper into the wilderness, it’s not quite so easy. First, you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper. Second, you’ll need to find a secluded spot that’s at least 200 feet away from any other campsites or water sources. Third, you’ll need to dig a hole that’s at least 6 inches deep. After you’re done doing the deed, cover it back up. Lastly, bring along a paper bag in which to deposit the soiled toilet paper until you can find a proper receptacle. Do NOT leave it in the woods.
6. Leave Only Footprints, Take Only Pictures
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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