Updated: Nov 3, 2020
We first decided to jump on the camping band-wagon a couple of years ago, when we were fed up of paying an arm and a leg for a foreign holiday that, albeit lovely, would be over in the blink of an eye. Oh and to reduce our carbon footprint, obvs... The plan was to spend the summer in good ol' Blighty, in the form of several short camping breaks. With images of camp-fires, rosy-cheeked children playing with sticks, and a rekindled relationship with nature, I embarked on mission (it really was) to source all the bits and pieces we would need to start our camping adventure....
OK, so admittedly we could have gone on holiday for the money we spent gearing up, but we chose to overlook that. It was an investment into our future... Still filled with optimism, I started putting together all the things we would need for the following day. Mistake 1. You cannot prepare for camping the day before. Try the week before... But it was ok. I had a list. Not just any list, but the mother of all lists. (I think it was 3 pages long!). 24 hours later, all items on the list are checked off and it is time to start loading the car. I think this step requires a day in itself. And a marriage councillor on stand-by.
We're on the road. Breathe. We are all sitting like contortionists to accommodate all the stuff, the masses and masses of stuff, but we are on the road. The car feels heavy and before long we have to re-fuel... hmmmm, had not considered this aspect of camping. Minus 1 to being green. A little later we arrive at our destination. Our friends are already there. They show us where to park, and tell us that the field is just through the hole in that bush and along to the left. Ok... so we can't drive up to the camp site, not a problem... (breathe). It turns out this was what they call "rustic" camping (+1 green point!)... As I inspect the tetris-inspired interior of the car, I almost don't want to unpack. And I certainly don't want to repeat the nightmare of packing in 2 days' time. Never mind, no time to be negative, it will be fine, after all, the sun is shining and it is a lovely hot day... F**k it's hot! After an hour and a half of lugging crap from the car in 35 degrees heat, and all 3 kids having been stung by stinging nettles (no I don't know what a f**king dock leaf looks like), I am keeping it together purely out of politeness for our friends (who ironically were all feeling pretty much the same). Lugging done, we get ready for step 2: The assembling of the tent. In order to spare you from more profanities, I will leave this bit to your imagination. Yes it was that bad.
By 6 o'clock tents are erected, men are making fire, children are playing and the ladies are sipping (gulping) Pimms. Yes, this is what I'm talking about! This nights were cold, the beds uncomfortable, and the compost toilet 500m away a tad impractical, but other than that we had a lovely couple of days. The weather was glorious, the kids all behaved and had a great time, and my faith in camping was restored. Until it was time to go home. The circus of clearing the camp, (does the tent EVER fit back into it's bag??) lugging it all to the car and re-packing (how did we have more stuff than when we came???) made me wonder whether we'd be doing this as soon again as I'd though...
As it turns out, we went again later in the summer, and it actually seemed a bit easier this time round... And by the time we went again this summer, we felt like pros... The prep and packing is still a nightmare. The sleeping is not great, and the toilet situation is not ideal. But the kids love it, and we get to spend time in the country / on the beach for a fraction of the cost of a holiday. We'll see whether we still feel the same next year when we have to do it all again!
Ok, so camping experience shared, we now need to look at the Green credentials of camping:
If you go camping in the UK, even if you travel by car, your carbon footprint will be a lot lower than if you go abroad. As an example, a trip to Malaga, including flights and a hotel room using air conditioning, will emit 2.13 tonnes of CO2, which is roughly equivalent to one-quarter of the carbon emitted by the average British family in an entire year – an amount to make you think twice. Going camping can lower that drastically, to an average of 0.17 tonnes – that’s a huge difference.
So camping gets a thumbs up. There are, however, several things to consider to ensure it is as green as it can be. Here are some tips for green camping:
1. Making your camping greener
Most of the steps to making your camping trip as green as possible are just things you should be doing automatically doing, anyway. For example, you should never leave litter, not even a cigarette butt, when you pack up your camp site. Put it all in a bag and dispose of it properly. It should go without saying that when you’re walking, don’t drop any litter – put it in your pocket and back to the camp site with you.
2. Recycle Your Camping Litter
Many campgrounds will have recycling bins for cardboard, glass and paper. Use them properly and be as environmentally friendly as possible. It only takes a few seconds, just as it does at home – being on holiday is no reason to stop that.
3. No Campfires! Use a Camping Stove Instead (oops)
Campfires are lovely, and traditionally part of the camping experience. But they’re not environmentally friendly. Better to use a camping gas stove, or even solid fuel, for cooking. If you’re going to make a fire, make sure it’s in a well-contained fire pit, and keep it as small as possible. As tempting as it is, don’t use fallen branches from the woods – they’re part of the local ecosystem; instead, bring your own firewood. Don’t burn plastic, or anything that contains chemicals – that’s simply pollution.
4. Camping Dishes and Dishwashing
Don’t use paper plates. You should have good camping plates, bowls, and cutlery. When you’re done, you can wash them (using eco-friendly detergent), but make sure you dispose of the water nowhere near rivers or streams – some campgrounds will have specific areas for this. For both dish-washing and showering, be sparing in your water usage.
5. If possible, don’t use your car to go camping. Obviously, that’s not always possible. But other methods of transport offer a lower carbon footprint, with hiking being the lowest of all, of course. Even if you can’t manage that, the camping experience is still the most carbon-friendly holiday experience you can enjoy.
6. Choose the right camp site
When choosing where to camp, look into the site owner's ethical stance. Do they offer home grown fruit and veg? Do they have renewable energy? Do they employ local workers? Is the site built from sustainable resources?
It may be impossible to find a suitable site which ticks all the above boxes, but if you bear them in mind while choosing a site, this will help you make a more ethical choice!
To help you with your choice why not check out www.greentraveller.co.uk/campsites. They have a range of campsites from back to nature, 2-man muddy pitches to fully equipped glamping sites.
Enjoy! And please do share your stories!