Live Green and Earn Points


A Green Guide to Hiking and Camping

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Enjoy hiking or camping while respecting the environment with these tips.

Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe, for whom the city of Seattle was later named, said, “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”

Chief Seattle spoke these words hundreds of years ago, and they are still words to live by today whenever you head out to the wilderness to hike or camp. As outdoor activities ramp up for summer, do all you can to heed Chief Seattle’s words and enjoy nature with as little impact on the environment as possible. Here are our favorite tips on how to enjoy your favorite state or national parks without leaving a footprint:

1. Pack snacks and meals with as little disposable packaging as possible. When you’re packing provisions for a hike or a campout, pack everything in lightweight, reusable containers, such as BPA-free plastic. The containers and lids can even double as plates or bowls. The best hiking and camping fare is food that you can eat in its entirety, and preferably by hand so there’s no need for utensils: Choose boneless meat, and peel fruit with inedible rinds beforehand. In this way, you have fewer food scraps to discard. If you do have food waste to discard, take it with you — leaving food scraps behind can attract animals to trail or camping areas, and it can also be unhealthy for wildlife to consume and makes them reliant on human-provided food, which can endanger their survival. Bring a plastic bag for any food scraps or other litter and carry the trash out with you to dispose of in a proper trash can. And of course, tote water in reusable bottles.

2. Buy firewood on-site. If you plan to build a campfire, wait until you reach the park to buy your firewood, rather than bringing it from your home woodpile. Transporting wood from one area to another is not a good idea, since it can spread insects that can infest and damage a forest1. And, the weight of the wood also cuts down on your car’s fuel economy.

3. Stick to the trails and established campsites. It’s never a good idea to stray from the trail. You could get lost or stumble into a bed of poison ivy! Staying on the trail also helps protect the environment by minimizing impact on the vegetation.

4. Don’t disturb the flora and fauna. Be respectful of the environment, and leave it in the condition in which you found it. This means not picking wildflowers or other foliage, leaving rocks and other natural objects where you found them, and steering clear of wild animals.

5. Leave nothing behind. When you’re packing up from a picnic or a camping trip, scout your area for every last scrap of food or trash, and pack it up in your backpack to bring back to “civilization.” If you need to wash dishes, be sure to use a biodegradable detergent, and do it at least 200 feet away from any lakes, streams or other water sources, to avoid soap runoff.

So find a hiking trail nearby, and enjoy the wilderness in the most respectful way possible! For even more ways to camp or hike without leaving an imprint, check out Leave No Trace. By following these tips, you’ll leave natural habitats to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Don’t Move Firewood

What are your best eco-friendly tips for hiking and camping? Share them in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Alicia W. 1 year ago
    I not only collect trash from hiking but I recently had my first case of poison ivy! Climate change is making those things grow like weeds and so much larger too.
  • Elizabeth O. 4 years ago
    All good advice, will keep all these things in mind.
  • Margaret O. 4 years ago
    I Pledge
  • Karen A. 4 years ago
    cant wait to go camping and try these tips
  • David R. 4 years ago
    We always leave our campsite better looking than when we arrive. We pick up debris left by others and ourselves. It is a good feeling it looks nice for the next camper.
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