10 easy ways to have a more sustainable camping holiday

Camping is naturally one of the most sustainable ways to holiday – but there’s no denying that it still has an impact on the environment. In order to be truly cool campers, we should all be seeking to minimise that impact and to protect the landscapes that camping aims to celebrate. There are lots of ways to have a more eco-friendly camping holiday and many of them can actually increase your immediate enjoyment as well as protecting it for the future. Here are 10 easy ways to make sure your holiday is as green as it can be…

Cycle more

Ditch the car and get on your bike! Cycling is the most sustainable way to get around; it’s greener than the car and more environmentally friendly than public transport. While serious cyclists might manage to have a whole holiday on their bike, with all their gear packed into panniers, the rest of us can still make a difference by driving just a little less and cycling just a little more. You may need a car to get your family-sized tent to site but once there, how about leaving the car parked up for a day while you head out on your bike? You may find that the journey becomes as exciting as the destination… and maybe even that you won’t need a destination at all. Exploring a new area on your bike is a day out in itself and you can pootle about, safe in the knowledge that your carbon emissions are zero.

Shower less

Do your bit for water conservation and give the shower a miss. Showering less is one way of reducing your water use – and when you’re on a camping holiday it comes naturally. After all, if you’re cooking breakfast on the campfire, there’s little point in showering first. Then, whether you’ve got a day of den building, wild swimming, game playing or simply relaxing on site, life in the great outdoors reminds you that showering every day is not strictly necessary. In fact, saying no to H2O for a day or two can be thoroughly relaxing – especially if you’re mum or dad to a little soap-dodger or two. They will, no doubt, be thrilled at the chance to avoid a wash and you can relax and forget the daily battle – all in the name of doing your bit for the environment.


Shop local

Another win-win sustainability tip for camping holidays: shop local. Reduce food miles by buying food that’s grown or produced as close to your campsite as possible and you’ll get a real taste of the local area. Many farm-based campsites actually sell homegrown or home-reared produce from site and you can’t get better than that. If there’s nothing available on site, look out for farm shops and ask for tips from your hosts (or check out the details on their Cool Camping listing) and you might get some insider info on where to buy the best locally-brewed ales, the freshest fish for the barbecue and the ripest, seasonal fruit and veg. And why wouldn’t you want that for your campfire dinner?

Go off grid

Going camping is partly about getting away from it all – and that includes the trappings of modern life. With that in mind, why not forget about the electric hook-up that means you can power all mod cons and go for a smaller more-natural site? Forget about your iPad and watch the stars come out instead. Watch the fire not the TV and talk to the people you’re with rather than the people on your phone. By reducing the power you need, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint and you might just have a better time too.

Don’t forget your backpack

These days it goes without saying that a bag is for life not just for a shopping trip but some of the things you usually do are easily forgotten when you’re on holiday. Pack a backpack or day pack with your camping kit so that when you go out you have got somewhere to stash any new purchases. It’s the easiest way to avoid ending up with single-use plastic bags or having to buy yet another bag “for life”.


Take reusable mugs and flasks

Your camping kit probably includes reusable mugs or cups and flasks. If you’re heading out for the day, don’t leave them behind; take them with you. Most coffee shops will fill your mug instead of a single-use takeaway one and there’s just no need for single-use plastic water bottles anymore. Fill yours up at the campsite and you’re helping to save the world one bottle at a time.

Take a bag for recycling

Just because you are on holiday, doesn’t mean your rubbish and recycling habits need to be. Most of us take a black bag for rubbish – but what about recycling? It’s worth taking a couple of sacks to separate recyclables from the general waste at your pitch. If your campsite has rubbish and recycling bins – that’s fab. But do take care to read what can and can’t be recycled where you’re camping – it may be different from the waste collections where you live. If there’s no available recycling bin, don’t let that stop you. Take your waste away and recycle as much as possible wherever possible – if that means taking it home, then do so.

Be responsible with the campfire

For many of us, it isn’t really camping unless there’s a campfire and we love campsites where campfires are allowed. But with the great pleasure campfires provide comes great responsibility. Minimise the damage caused to the local environment by your fire by keeping it contained – either in a designated dug fire pit in the ground, in an area that’s been used by other campers before or by using an off-ground fire pit. Very often a campsite will ask you to buy wood from them rather than collecting it from around site, even on woodland campsites. This is not necessarily just a way of making money but a way of looking after the natural resource that’s in our hedgerows and woodlands. Rotting wood provides a home and vital nutrients for insects, animals and plants and is a valuable part of any ecosystem where it occurs. If every camper collected dead wood from a site over a season, there would be none left to replenish the environment it’s been taken from. Buying wood from a responsibly-sourced supplier is the only sensible and sustainable option when you’re on a site that host campers regularly or in large numbers.


Pack well and take everything you need

The scouts have got it right you know; be prepared! Plan your holiday well and try to think of everything you need. By taking everything your holiday requires, you will avoid having to buy single-use, disposable or cheap items to fill a gap in your kit list. Take a camping stove, rather than using a single-use disposable BBQ. Take tableware and cutlery rather than buying paper plates, cups and plastic knives and forks. Write a kit list so you don’t arrive on site and realise you’ve left something vital at home… like the tent peg, poles or airbeds.

Question what you need to buy

There is so much cool stuff out there for camping that it’s all too easy to get bogged down in gear envy. Don’t! Question what you actually need and only buy the kit that you can’t camp without. If you’re not a regular camper, or are going for the first time, consider borrowing kit from friends or buying second-hand while you test the waters. There are cheap festival tents and bargain-basement airbeds and chairs out there but, very often, these things will not last the trip. It’s a better investment to buy something quality, preferably from a sustainable brand, that will last. If you end up not using it, it should have a resale value and can end up in someone else’s hands being used for years to come – instead of in the bin.