04/03/2013
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Eco-friendly camping - reduce your carbon footprint

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We all know that the good old British camping holiday is set to reach all time record numbers this summer. And this is great news for the camping and outdoor industry, but what about the impact all this has on the environment and our beautiful countryside? Well, I have been trying to ‘eco-up’ my camping holidays and here are just a few of the things that I have found to help me camp softly in the countryside.
 
The Kit
Think eco-tent means dragging round a heavy, awkward and cumbersome cotton tent? Think again! Green Outdoor has come up with an innovative way to use up the trillions of plastic bottles that are discarded each year – by making tents out of them. Recycled polyester and natural fabrics, such as bamboo and hemp, are also used to manufacture its range of tents and shelters.

The company maintains that using recycled materials reduces demand on oil and energy, and produces less waste and contamination. There are currently a range of eight different tents and shelters, and Green Outdoor even offers an incentive to customers to send in old tents to be dismantled and recycled rather than sending them to the landfill sites.

The high street is never far behind, and has also caught on to the trend for greener camping. Millets One Earth Teepee is made with 65 per cent organic cotton and without the use of pesticides. This single compartment Teepee shaped tent is more suited to groups at festivals than family holidays, but is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, we wouldn’t want to encourage any waste, so if you’ve already got your tent and you’re more than happy with it, there are loads of smaller and cheaper bits of green kit you can invest in.

I like the good old-fashioned Kelly Kettle, a carbon neutral way to get the kettle on and the tea brewing (the heating element at the bottom of the kettle is self contained and can be fired using all sorts of waste materials). Then I found that Marmot has a range of sleeping bags made from recycled fabric and insulation. And I even stumbled across biodegradable tent pegs (Millets again). The makers assurbiodegradeable tent pegse me that they only begin to decompose after months in the ground, so no dangers of melting away at a crucial moment in the middle of a raging storm! They are made of potato starch, so if they do get inadvertently left behind, there will be no trace of them after a few months. This is a refreshing alternative to the ugly and unsightly rusty old pegs that can litter campsites and countryside at the end of a summer holiday. And it protects livestock that may unintentionally eat them.

Don’t forget about greener ways to produce energy. Solar panels are a great way to recharge batteries on phones, mp3 players and game consoles, and of course rechargeable batteries should be used wherever possible.

Channel 5’s The Gadget Show voted Gelert’s solar shower one of its top five best festival gadgets. This clever little device captures the sun’s heat to provide a warm shower wherever you are – perfect if you’re camping off the beaten track.

The Sun Jar is a really fun and funky way to provide natural, battery free lights in the evening. A solar cell captures energy from the sun and lets it out slowly when it goes dark. Five hours worth of light can be provided from one charge so they are a great idea to use as night lights for kids who might be afraid of the campsite monsters!
 
Clothes
If its eco-catwalk chic, rather than eco-gear chic that floats your boat then there’s something for you too! Eco-friendly clothing is big business at the moment, and there are hundreds of websites dedicated to just this.

Adili is perhaps the largest, and it claims to stock the world’s most eco-friendly t-shirt. This is the UK’s first clothing range to be carbon labelled, so you can be totally sure of the environmental benefits. The Ascension t-shirt produces 2.8kg of carbon per product, but Adili claim that’s 57% less than the average t-shirt.

Of course, many outdoor brands work to ethical principles and use organic materials to produce top kit for the great outdoors – just check out Patagonia and Howies.

Again, the high street are hot on the heels of the trend, and organic and fair-trade cotton ranges of t-shirts, trousers and kids clothing are now available at M&S (see its Greener Living Department).
               
Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace camping principles were designed to protect the environment and uninhabited areas from the effects of human camping and trekking. Although the principles were originally for wild areas such as national parks and forests, the same attitudes can be applied when camping at commercial campsites.

Foremost is leaving no trace of litter, even fruit and vegetable peelings can have an impact on the fragile ecosystems around the campsite. Make sure you use designated rubbish areas for waste, and just because you’re camping, don’t let usually good recycling habits be forgotten. There may not be recycling facilities at the campsite but all recyclable waste can be taken home.

Ensure sink areas are used for washing pots and pans; throwing a bowl of dirty washing up water into the undergrowth is definitely a no-no. Where possible use eco-friendly detergents – there are good choices available in the supermarket these days.

If you do use a toilet tent or portable toilet remember to use a biodegradable toilet fluid like One-Chem.

The Leave No Trace principles also apply to wildlife. Animals and their nests should never be disturbed, and souvenirs of your holiday should not be in the form of plants, flowers or trees. Although it may be tempting to leave scraps of food out for hungry midnight foragers, human food can be poisonous to wild animals, and it also doesn’t encourage them to hunt for their own food. Make sure any unused food is well stored and sealed.
 
Get Kids Involved
One of the best things about a camping holiday is that children can be involved in nearly every part of the adventure. Encourage them to think of their own ways to help the green camping mission. They will love the noisy wind up torches and radios, even if after five minutes of headache inducing wind-up din, you may be crying out for the battery powered alternative!

A walk in the country can be turned into a nature trail, to encourage budding conservationists and naturalists, although remember to stick to designated paths and don’t allow children to pull at plants or get too close to wild animals.

Kids will also be excited about the novelty of eating outdoors, so enlist their help in planning a barbeque full of healthy, seasonal and locally sourced foods. If you’re having a campfire, the children can be taught about building a fire and safe fire rules, and they will love toasting their marshmallows and chocolate filled bananas in the embers.

Don’t forget that charcoal for barbeques should be from a sustainable source and recommended by the FSC.
 
Pitching up
So the car’s packed, the family’s excited and you’re ready to go, but which campsites in Britain have put some thought into eco-holidays and green issues? Here are some of my favourites:
 
Deepdale Farm Norfolk PE31 8DDeco-friendly camping
Tel 01485 210256
Web deepdalefarm.co.uk
A Gold Award winner from the Green Tourism Business Scheme, Deepdale Farm prides itself on its eco friendly credentials. Solar panels are used to supply hot water to accommodation and toilet blocks, recycling bins are provided and there are currently schemes running for tree planting, woodland management and public transport, to persuade customers to leave cars at home.
 
Sharpham Barton Family Campsite Devon TQ9 7UT
Tel 01803 732324
Web sharphamfamilycamp.co.uk
Sharpham Barton is situated on a biodynamic farm, near the southern Devon coastline. The toilets here are super eco friendly compost toilets. Activities for families and children are provided and stressed out mums can even escape to the therapy room for a healing massage from the on-site masseur.
 
Keveral Farm Cornwall PL13 1PA
Tel 01503 251135
Web keveral.org
Keveral Farm is an organic farm, a stone’s throw from Looe in Cornwall. The campsite is open from April to October, and the smaller Orchard Campsite is a designated car free zone. There are discounts if you arrive by greener transport but if you do bring the car there are wheelbarrows to help you transport your gear from the car to the pitch. There is also a compost toilet and solar shower.
 
Huntstile Farm Somerset TA5 2DQ
Tel 01278 662358
Web huntstileorganicfarm.co.uk
This is another campsite on an organic farm and there are ready erected Eco-Tents available for hire. It has composting loos, solar powered showers and water comes directly from a nearby spring. Only eco-friendly soaps and shampoos are allowed here!
There is also a small field with space for five pitches with views of the farm and countryside.
 
Northlodge Pembrokeshire SA37 0JE
Tel 01239 841 401
Web eco-camping.co.uk
A small campsite with a view of the Preseli Mountains, Nortlodge’s eco-approach includes recycling and composting facilities on site and a scheme that aims to offset the carbon that campers use to get to the site. There’s a games room and wildlife orchard that kids will love.
Pets welcome.

Find more campsites with our campsite finder.

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