4 Easy Steps to Low Waste Camping
Low Waste, even while camping!
At the end of August, I went camping with my husband, Ricardo, up past Leadville, Colorado near Twin Lakes. It was exactly what we needed to press the reset button, unwind, relax, and spend quality time together. Life tends to get so full, and the intensity of this summer really got to both of us. We were even able to maintain our zero/low waste lifestyle, even in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains!
We found a secluded campsite nestled at the end of a valley near tree line at around 11,500 ft., ringed by 14,000 ft. peaks. It was breath taking and magnificent.
We pitched our tent near a bubbling mountain stream for three nights. The moon was full, and to be out there, underneath the vast sky, surrounded by peaks on all sides with the bright face of the moon beaming down on us is an experience I will never forget. It was simultaneously terrifying and also extremely humbling. It made me realize how tiny I am in the vastness of the wilderness, how fragile my life is, and yet how invaluable and precious.
There is a certain quiet that comes only from disconnecting from society and immersing oneself in nature, a certain understanding of the truth that for there to be life, there must also be death, and that this is a holy, sacred cycle, one that in our modern isolated existence, we have forgotten.
Here at 11,500 ft, the weather moves in extremes. In the full sunlight, it was so warm I could be in a T-shirt. If a cloud scudded across the sky, a cool breeze immediately ruffled the air and I needed a jacket. One moment it was pouring rain, the next the sun came back out.
Our last morning we awoke to the first frost of fall! Surviving in this environment is a challenge for animals and plants alike. It made me realize how fragile our human bodies are, and yet how hardy. To survive, we only need a bare minimum – a warm, dry place to get out of the elements, warm clothing, food, water and fire. That’s it.
Remembering our place in the world
Our modern comfort and excess has made us forget our place in the world. We are not separate from, but integral to the body of the earth. We are her children. She is our mother. The animals are our brothers and sisters. Awakening to this reality has been the single most healing and difficult journey of my life. For in order to awaken to this truth, I had to also see how our society has forgotten it, and how in forgetting we are destroying our home.
Striving to be low waste out in nature helped me to connect even more deeply with the reason why I’m so committed to this path. Driving up over Vail pass and through Dillon, we saw the devastation of the beetle kill that is decimating the forests. In a few years, there will be no forests left on these slopes, a true tragedy.
What’s more, this is caused by human civilization. Before the high country became so populated, forest fires ran rampant every year, burning away undergrowth, and ensuring that the trees didn’t grow too close to one another. The established trees wouldn’t die because the fires weren’t as huge as they are today. But now that we control the fires, the undergrowth doesn’t burn away, which doesn’t allow the soil to replenish. The trees grow too close to one another causing the beetles to spread easily from tree to tree, infesting the whole forest. Due to global warming, the winters aren’t as cold, so the beetles are able to survive the winter and spread further.
This highlighted to me how far reaching our impact truly is, and it is up to us to make a change. To be surrounded on all sides by the looming shapes of the mountains, to have my breath stolen away by the stunning 360 degree view, it made me more aware than ever of how precious nature is. This is why zero waste/low waste living is so important to me.
4 Easy Steps to Low Waste Camping
So here is my simple guide on how to stay low waste while camping. It’s a lot easier than you might think!
1). Meal prep!
We did a lot of cooking before hand, and I was able to source the ingredients, locally as much as possible, organically and in bulk to reduce waste.
I made zucchini bread with zucchinis from my mom’s garden, I made a veggie and sausage frittata, I roasted two chicken breasts which we sliced for sandwiches, I brought oat/coconut milk that I made, and Ricardo’s homemade kombucha. I cooked chicken shawarma and fried falafel ahead of time so all we had to do was make rice and heat everything up.
Breakfast: We had organic cornflakes with local peaches and banana, zucchini bread and frittata – and coffee of course, which we made in my french press and composted the grounds!
Lunch: We made sandwiches on local GF oat bread with goat cheese, sliced chicken breast, lettuce tomato, veganaise and avocado. Yum!
Dinner: One night we had hot dogs, and the other night we had chicken shawarma with falafel and rice. I forget what we had the third night lol 😉
Snacks: We brought trail mix, which I got in bulk, we ate apples, and plantain chips – also bulk.
Note: all the meat products were pasture raised and humanely slaughtered. I buy Mary’s Chicken from Natural Grocers to ensure the animal was able to live a full life before it gave its life to nourish our bodies.
2). Avoid single use
We brought containers, beeswax wraps, and camping dishes/cutlery to avoid any single use products!
3). Compost your food scraps!
4). Recycle everything you can
I think we had a couple of beer bottles, a couple tuna cans, and a few plastic wrappers from our grass fed local hot dogs, goat cheese and corn flakes – all recyclable. The only trash we created was from a year old packet of hot cocoa I’d been wanting to use up for a long time. Seriously, that was it!
With just a little planning and forethought we were able to divert 99% of our camping waste from landfills! It’s really that simple. That’s the thing about the zero/low wast mindset – once it becomes habit, it’s actually very simple.
Leave No Trace
The most important thing to remember when out in the wilderness is Leave No Trace. It’s the principle that you leave the wilderness as pristine as how you found it. For us this was a no brainer, however the neighboring campsite’s guests didn’t see it that way. We heard some noise coming from their campsite, so after we left we went to check it out. I’m so glad that we did because they left the place strewn with garbage! They left a huge 13 gallon trash bag filled with beer cans and other waste, trash and plastic bags were strewn all over the ground, and half burned beer cans filled the fire pit. There was also a fire ban in effect because of the fire danger in Colorado currently!
We were shocked, and saddened at this. Who did they expect to pick it up? This campsite was located in the middle of the wilderness! To me it showed just how far we’ve gone away from understanding, respecting and caring for nature. We channeled our anger into cleaning up the campsite and carting all of their trash out of there.
Moral of the story: don’t be those people! Practice Leave No Trace! Respect nature as an extension of your body.
Getting away from civilization does so much in helping us to come back to our roots and remember what it means to truly be a part of this world. Making better choices that reflect the understanding of our interconnectedness can become a habit as we continue down the zero/low waste path.
Reducing your waste even when camping doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact the most difficult part is the willingness to change your mindset and to place emphasis on being organized and disposing of your waste properly.
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