Eco-friendly is more than just a buzzword now; it’s a necessity. Almost any age group will be concerned with how their actions impact the environment and will be invested in helping your efforts towards sustainability.

Here are five ways you can make your camp more eco-friendly while at the same time helping instill the importance of sustainability into your camp activities.

1. Teach nature journaling

Provide each camper with a journal (consider finding one made of recycled paper and materials) and give a primer on nature journaling. They might express themselves through sketching, observational writing, poetry, or whatever else strikes them. Set aside time for anyone who wants to share some of their favorite things they observed that day.

2. Take a nature walk

Next time you plan a hike, learn how to identify the native plants in the area and how they support your local ecosystem. Discuss how different pieces of nature contribute to the system, especially worms, and bees! Explain how to spot animal tracks, spider webs, pollinators, and animal shelters. Then, send everyone off in small groups to explore, then come back with their observations. Or, have everyone find a spot away from others and sit for a few minutes in silence to observe the sights, smells, and sounds around them.

3. Provide vegetarian options at meal times

Consider making some lunches and dinners meat-free, or with meat-free options. This doesn’t mean you have to get anyone on board with tofu; pasta dishes like mac & cheese or fettuccine alfredo have plenty of protein and work well with a veggie on the side. Veggie-packed stir fry dishes, sweet potato tacos, and pulled “pork” made with jackfruit are often crowd pleasers!

4. Give context to the impact of small changes

It can be overwhelming to think about how much needs to change for a better future, and how small our changes feel. Try to quantify some of the changes you and your campers make during your time together. For instance, if you required your campers to use reusable water bottles for their stay, do the math of # campers x 3 meals x # days = the total number of cups, lids, and straws that you didn’t use and throw away. If you multiply this by how many camps you do in a year and/or how many years you’ve required bottles, then the impact should be pretty impressive! 

You can even take note of what your campers did well (like how much they recycled or composted or how much power your high-efficiency bulbs saved) and put together a quick sustainability report to make campers proud of joining your camp!  

5. Create a sustainability plan

The best way to encourage sustainability is to take action yourself. Switch out any remaining physical paperwork with online registration and document uploads, using a camp management system like CampSite. Use the parent dashboard to remind parents to pack reusable containers and not single-use zip lock bags. Make recycling bins readily available and encourage campers to use your group transportation or arrange carpooling to cut down on the number of individual vehicles in use. 

If you surveyed your campers and team members, there’s a pretty high chance that almost all of them would want to support efforts to be more eco-friendly while at camp. And it’s likely that in the future, offering sustainability initiatives will be a necessity, not a choice. The only way to make it a reality is to consciously put it into place. 

While efforts like composting, starting a garden, or setting up a recycling program may seem big at first, once they’re in place they keep running with the help of your campers. Best of all, the benefits will only grow!

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