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April 08, 2022

Your Guide To Zero Waste Camping

We can all agree that Calgarians love to camp, right? There is something so refreshing about getting out of Calgary, even if just for a weekend, to take in the beautiful scenery that Alberta has to offer. You certainly don’t have to go far to find a serene spot to set up camp - Alberta parks are some of the most beautiful in Canada! We are so fortunate to have stunning lakes and majestic mountain ranges right in our backyard, but in order to ensure that they stay picture-perfect for years to come, we all have to do our part to protect them. That’s why we are giving you some helpful tips and tricks for planning zero waste camping trips so that you can enjoy Alberta’s landscape respectfully. Before our intro gets too in-tents, let’s dive in!

Do Your Research

Knowing the details of your campsite ahead of time will better help you prepare for a zero waste camping trip. 

Many campgrounds in Alberta are fully serviced, meaning that they have amenities such as showers, flushing toilets, garbage stations, etc. Some of these sites may even have small stores or camping centers, where you can purchase essentials if you are running low. 

For those who prefer a more “off-grid” experience, Alberta permits backcountry camping in designated areas. Backcountry campsites are typically unserviced, meaning that there are no amenities and no crews to clean up after campers. Therefore, this style of camping requires a lot more planning and thoughtfulness.  

Regardless of where you are camping, practicing proper camping etiquette and having a zero waste mindset will ensure that you leave your little slice of forest paradise as pristine as you found it.

Want to learn more about camping in Alberta? Visit Alberta Parks for additional information. 

Click Here

Gather Your Supplies

When it comes to supplies for zero waste camping, going reusable wherever possible is key. Single-use items might feel more convenient, but they are going to hinder your zero waste efforts. 

In addition, you’ll want to make sure that any toiletries or cleaning agents you bring are all-natural and friendly for the environment. Biodegradable Soap

The soap that you use on your body as well as the soap that you use to clean your dishes should be biodegradable (and preferably unscented) when camping. One of our favourite natural soaps to bring camping is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap. And get this, you can use it on your body AND your dishes! 

Happy Camper Tip: Always use your soap away from bodies of water to keep waterways clean. 

Reusable Dishes & Utensils 

Say goodbye to paper plates and plastic cutlery, and hello to reusable dish sets. High-quality reusable dish sets are designed to conveniently “nest” together, which minimizes storage requirements and eliminates the need to pack a million small items. 

For a simple dish set, we love the UCO Mess Kit 6 Piece. If you require cookware in addition to dishes, the MSR Flex 4 System Cookset is a great option. 

Dish Towels

Paper towels only create waste, so opt for dish towels instead. Dish towels are the perfect alternative to paper towels - they can be brought home and washed after a camping trip, and be ready to go for your next outdoor adventure!

Refillable Gas Canisters  

Cooking over a campfire is so easy (and delicious), but if you are unable to do so, make sure that your camping stove uses gas canisters that are refillable. Liquid fuel camping stoves, such as the MSR WhisperLite, are easy to refill and ensure that you never have to throw out a gas canister again. 

Happy Camper Tip: Campfire safety is no joke. Make sure you understand the do’s and don’ts of campfires by visiting Wildfire Alberta.

Reusable Water Bottle & Water Jug

Single-use plastic water bottles are an absolute no-no if you want to practice zero waste camping. You probably already have a reusable water bottle at home, so that takes care of that! Easy. 

You still need a way to fill up said water bottle. You’ll also need access to water for cleaning dishes, brushing teeth, etc. The Coleman 5 Gallon Water Carrier is our go-to water storage solution.

Happy Camper Tip: If you are backcountry camping, you may want to invest in a water purifier in the event that you find yourself in an emergency situation without drinking water. Check out the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Prep Your Meals

You don’t need a commercial kitchen to whip up a 5-star meal - the woods will do just fine! Creating a menu and organizing your ingredients in advance means that you will reduce your food waste without sacrificing flavour. 

Pre-pack Ingredients 

Did you know that there are endless food hacks for camping?! Here are some of our favourites:

  • Put your spices in a pill case
  • Precut and freeze your meats
  • Put your pancake mix in a reusable bottle - just add water and pour for breakfast!
  • Pre-beat your eggs and put them in a reusable bottle - they’ll be all ready to scramble in the morning! 

We love these hacks because they create zero waste and free up so much cooler space!

Reusable Food Storage

Skip the Ziploc bags and stick to Tupperware for packing food and storing leftovers. Glass containers are easy to clean and come in a variety of sizes, so they are the perfect option for transporting precut vegetables, trail mix, etc. 

Beeswax Wraps are a great alternative to plastic wrap, as they are biodegradable and can be washed and reused multiple times. 

Freeze Meals

Soups, stews, and pasta sauces can all be made ahead of time and frozen before a camping trip. They even act as ice blocks in your cooler - bonus! 

Happy Camper Tip: Just because food is considered “biodegradable”, it doesn’t give you the right to leave it at your campsite. Food waste is still litter, so bring your compost bin or a separate bag and dispose of your food waste appropriately. 

Disposing of food waste responsibly will also keep you safe from curious animals who may or may not be hungry! 

Leave No Trace

Given that you’ve essentially been living at your campsite for however long, leaving absolutely no trace is next to impossible. That said, zero waste camping, coupled with being conscious about your footprint, will allow you to leave as little trace as possible. 

What You Brought In Must Come Out

This is pretty self-explanatory but is definitely still worth mentioning. Absolutely everything and anything that you brought to the campsite must be packed up and removed.

Bring Bags For Recycling & Garbage

The rules of waste don’t change in the woods. Make sure that you’ve brought separate bags for garbage and recycling so you can dispose of waste properly. The good news is that zero waste camping should result in minimal waste anyways! 

Need a refresher on where things go? Read our What Goes Where page.

Leave The Campsite Cleaner Than When You Found It

Once you’ve cleaned up your campsite, do a once-over for trash and debris left by other campers. If you find any additional waste, take it with you. That’s guaranteed good karma!  

To learn more about how you can reduce your impact, visit Leave No Trace Canada

Access to Alberta’s natural beauty is a privilege, not a right. It can be taken away from us at any time should enough people choose to abuse that privilege by being negligent or acting irresponsibly. 

Let’s all do our part to ensure that our natural resources stay natural and waste-free! 

Happy (zero waste) camping! 

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