Treading Lightly in the Outdoors
(Image: Keep campfires small and in existing pits.)
An appreciation of nature goes hand-in-hand with the camping lifestyle, so how can we ensure we ‘leave no trace’ as we tour around the country?
By nature, campers are, well, nature lovers. So doing our bit to look after the environment and protect the Aussie bush for future visitors is something that’s already top of mind. An awareness of how your actions impact our environment and how you can minimise some of these impacts is a good place to start and there are plenty of simple things you can do to live more sustainably. When it comes to living more sustainably, small changes can make a big difference in the long term.
(Image: Stick to the tracks to minimise your impact on nature.)
ENCOURAGE BEST PRACTICE
Environmental sustainability starts well before you drive out of the dealership. The manufacturing process has far reaching environmental impacts and supporting organisations that are doing their bit for the environment can encourage other businesses to follow suit.
Put your money where your mouth is and ask manufacturers and dealers what practices they’ve put in place in regards to sustainability, and use this to help inform your purchasing decision. It might be the use of more eco-friendly materials, a conscious reduction of waste in the manufacturing process, the fitting of more sustainable fixtures, or even minimising energy use in the factory.
(Image: Set yourself up with enough solar to power your rig.)
BE ENERGY SMART
Speaking of energy, consider the ongoing requirements to run your rig and appliances. Minimising power draw means your battery will last longer, so you can limit your reliance on the external power grid and reduce your carbon footprint, as well as extend your time out bush.
Check the energy ratings on fridges and stoves, and reconsider the need for heavy-draw appliances. Most aftermarket lighting uses energy-efficient LEDs, but if you’re purchasing secondhand or have an older model, it’s time to upgrade any halogen lighting.
When choosing a campsite, seek shade in the heat and park in the sun or where you’re best protected from the wind in colder climates. Awnings are not only great for providing a shady spot to sit, they also keeps things cooler inside. In hot weather fridges and freezers use more energy to stay cool, so shading your rig helps take the pressure off batteries.
Set yourself up with adequate solar to power your batteries rather than carrying a generator. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of clean power, you won’t have to carry extra fuel (more space and weight for other things), plus your neighbours will thank you for the peace and quiet.
(Image: Regular servicing and maintenance of your tow tug can improve fuel efficiency.)
MAXIMISE YOUR FUEL EFFICIENCY
Until we’re all driving around in electric vehicles, we’re reliant on combustion engines to get us from A to B, wherever that may be. Fuel-efficient vehicles achieve better fuel economy, which means less fuel is used, resulting in less damaging carbon emissions escaping into our atmosphere.
To improve the fuel efficiency of your tow tug, stay on top of regular servicing and maintenance – keep the engine tuned, use the correct engine oil and run tyres at the pressures recommended by the manufacturer.
Your rig’s aerodynamics can also affect fuel efficiency – height and shape, as well as any external fittings, such as awnings and roof racks.
(Image: Carry a reusable drink bottle rather than single use bottles.)
GET WATER WISE
Only a very small percentage of the earth’s water is fresh, so clean water is a limited resource that must be preserved. Most campers are pretty water savvy – there’s nothing like having limited water storage capacity and knowing there’s not a tap for hundreds of kays to keep water conservation top of mind.
It’s amazing how little water you actually need to rinse your vegies (use a bowl rather than running water), shower (turn off the water while soaping up), brush your teeth (don’t leave water running), or clean your dishes (only half fill the sink).
(Image: Increased visitation increases environmental impacts in our national parks.)
REDUCE YOUR WASTE
Anyone who saw ABC’s War on Waste will know what we’re talking about here. Dealing with the huge amount of waste we produce is a massive environmental issue, so minimising your waste is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make.
While it’s difficult to avoid food packaging completely, try to cut down wherever you can: keep fruit and vegies loose rather than using separate plastic bags, avoid pre-packaged fresh produce, carry reusable shopping bags, purchase a reusable coffee cup, and use beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap.
Invest in a good reusable drink bottle rather than buying single use plastic bottles of water. Alongside the waste produced from throwing out empty bottles, consider the fossil fuels that are burned to refrigerate and transport them, and the water systems placed under pressure to fill them. If you’re concerned about water quality, invest in a water filter and carry a separate water tank especially for drinking water.
Minimise wastage by not overbuying food, especially perishable items that’ll end up a mouldy mess in the bottom of your camp fridge. A Department of the Environment and Energy report estimates that Australians generate a massive 361kg of food waste per person each year.
Approximately 6.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were released the same year as a result of sending organic waste to landfill. Now there’s some food for thought…
Inconsistencies in waste disposal across Australia, particularly a lack of recycling facilities in remote areas, can make it difficult for campers. Make sure you have somewhere to store your waste, preferably outside your rig, so you don’t have to worry when there isn’t a disposal facility for miles. Wheel bags are great – buy them purpose-made or recycle an old backpack – just ensure it’s a tough fabric that animals can’t get into.
(Image: Avoid contaminating waterways with chemicals like sunscreen.)
CLEAN YOUR GREY WATER
Food scraps, detergents and chemicals in grey water can be damaging to wildlife and sensitive ecosystems.
To protect waterways and vegetation, limit the use of soaps and detergents and always use biodegradable and eco-friendly products for cleaning. Capture grey water in a bucket rather than letting it run straight onto the ground, and remove food scraps using a fine mesh sieve before disposing of it well away from waterways. Scatter water rather than letting it pool in one spot, so it better filters through the soil.
(Image: Preserve nature for future generations.)
TAKE IT WITH YOU
Always leave a place as you find it, or in even better shape! Take all rubbish and camping gear when you leave and if you find other rubbish there, do the bush a favour and take it with you as well.
Think twice before throwing food scraps into the bush, as it can be harmful to native animals. Even natural materials, like fruit skins, don’t always decompose quickly and can become unattractive litter.
Don’t bury or burn rubbish – burying it disturbs the natural balance of the soil, and animals will just dig it up anyway.
(Image: Stick to the tracks to minimise your impact on nature.)
STICK TO ESTABLISHED SITES
Prevent damage to the roads and surfaces of campsites by staying on formed tracks and camping in established sites. If you’re unsure of the track’s condition, do a surface check first to prevent damage from spinning wheels or getting bogged, which impacts future visitors.
Always set up in an existing campsite rather than creating a new camping space or driving into an uncleared area, and choose a well-drained site or raised area instead of digging trenches for water run-off.
(Image: Roofracks and other external fittings can affect aerodynamics and therefore fuel efficiency.)
CHECK YOUR VEHICLE
Before visiting parks and reserves, check your vehicle doesn’t have any oil or chemical leaks, which can leave permanent and unsightly stains as well as damage the soil at camping sites. A well-serviced vehicle will also emit less pollution, both on the road and around campsites – an all-round winner for the environment.