Recycling Tips for Camping Trips
On a warm night with the kids, camping is pretty close to my idea of heaven, what with a starry sky above our heads and nature noises all around us. For my girls, camping is a real treat as it takes them out of their urban environment into wild untamed nature. They love everything about camping – setting up the tent, going to sleep with a headlamp to read, cooking in the open – and recycling is part of the experience just as much as the rest.
Why? Because recycling
- is something that kids can do easily
- is free
- serves a real purpose
- helps keep nature clean of unwanted trash
Here is a selection of recycling tips that kids and families can use for their future camping trips.
Recycling Tip #1: Reduce Packaging at Home
My pet peeve – packaging. Have you seen how much space cereals take up in a cardboard cereal box? I’ve seen boxes only filled to half their size, yet they look great and big on supermarket shelves. Smart recycling starts with less recycling and less recycling goes through much less packaging. Since you never know how or when you’ll be able to dispose of your recyclables when camping, prevention is key. Whenever possible:
- Buy in bulk. You don’t need single-serve cookie packages. Buy a regular-size package that you can ask the kids to divvy up at the camp. Same goes for chips, trail mix and fruit (for more ideas, check these healthy alternatives to kids junk food for the outdoors).
- Do some food prep at home. The more you prep in terms of food, the less you’ll need to pop to a grocery store for emergency snacks and drinks, thereby reducing unnecessary packaging. With a good cooler, you’ll save lots of money on impulse purchases and spend more time playing with the kids outdoors. Items that your family can prep ahead include freezable meals, sliced veggies (for scout-style veggies-in-foil dinners) or homemade granola.
- Buy concentrated or dry products. The main ingredient of beauty products is water. That’s right. For your body care when camping, you can find great soap and shampoo bars that do the same job as liquid ones in plastic bottles and use much less packaging (and usually no plastic). Concentrated products also contain less water and can reduce packaging by over 50%, not to mention plastic waste. Orange juice, liquid detergent and handwash are all examples of concentrated or refillable products.
Recycling Tip #2: Separate Recyclables from Non-Recyclable and Burnable Waste
Kids pretty much know to recycle paper, plastic bottles and metal cans at school, thanks to fantastic programs on the environment. However it can be tricky to apply these habits to new or unusual environments such as camping. As a general rule, expect to bring back your recyclables home, burn the burnables (if allowed/possible) and dispose of the non-recyclable/burnable waste at the campsite.
First things first: how do kids know what can be recycled? I found this flyer, by the city of Woodland in California, to be quite easy to understand and straight-forward for items that can be recycled.
Some camping items may look recyclable or binnable at first glance, but you need to check with the camp host first. Such items include
- empty camping gas/fuel canisters
- batteries (including rechargeable batteries)
- nylon cords/climbing ropes
- tent metal/plastic pegs
- shoes and clothing
Burnables are a bigger question mark as air pollution and smell need to be taken into consideration. Also, many campsites place restrictions on burning waste. If burning is an option, consider burning:
- match sticks
- dead wood
All the rest -non-recyclable or burnable waste-needs to be disposed of properly, either at the campsite or back at home.
Recycling Tip #3: Make Cool Upcycled Stuff for Camping
Now, this is recycling nirvana! These fun crafts can definitely turn the trip into a great hands-on experience. Your kids will love to try the following.
- Make citronella candles to keep bugs at bay
- Use drier lint, old candles and egg cartons to make DIY firestarters
- Make milk carton lighthouses to use a camping lanterns
- Use glow sticks to make a glow-in-the-dark camping lantern
- Use a tin can to make a mini tin can grill for your sausages
- Recycle toilet paper rolls and string into DIY binoculars
Other Resources on Recycling
How To Make An Everest and Skye Paw Patrol Pinata from Crafty Mama in ME
Recycled Toy Robot Project from Brain Power Boy
How Paper is Recycled from Schooling a Monkey
Children’s Books About Recycling from The Jenny Evolution
Cutting Tray and Recycling Sorting from Parenting Chaos
Free Recycling Printables and Montessori-Inspired Recycling Activities from Living Montessori Now
Colorful Spring Windsock Made with Recycled Materials from Play Dough & Popsicles
How To Make A Flower Craft From Recycled Materials from Raising Little Superheroes
Tin Can Pencil Holder from Tales of Education at Home
Ways to Use Recycled Materials Around the House from Natural Beach Living
Getting kids excited about recycling from Something 2 Offer
Simple & Fun Recycled Magazine Crafts for the Family From The Natural Homeschool
Sort Your Recycling Worksheets from Living Life and Learning