You’d think travelling through the wilderness would be one of the most eco-friendly activities you could participate in. But there are ways to make this kind of travel even more environmentally friendly.
Actually getting to the start of a wilderness trip is probably the most environmentally unfriendly part of the trip. Driving and flying all use up a lot of fossil fuel. If you can get there by public transportation, you’ll reduce the effect. But most trail-heads and put-ins in Canada are hard to get to without private vehicles.
After you arrive in the great outdoors, it’s easy to travel in a low-impact style. The old adage about leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photos is a good guide.
Here are a few reminders on how to have an eco-friendly wilderness trip.
Cooking fuel: There is some debate about wood vs. fossil fuels. The anti-wood argument is that you shouldn’t pick up all the fallen tree branches because they provide mulch for the trees and plants. And burning them for fuel adds pollution to the air. The anti-fossil-fuel argument is that it’s bad to use up more of these fuels. Probably the best policy is a mix of the two. Bring a stove as a backup in case there isn’t much fallen wood around or there’s too much rain to start a fire.
Cutting trees: Don’t do it unless you’re in an emergency situation. If you need firewood, look for fallen tree branches. You’re a temporary visitor in the forest, so you shouldn’t be cutting down trees or ripping off branches for a bonfire.
Soap: Bring only the biodegradable kind of soap available in camping supply stores. Never put any soap into the rivers or lakes. Wash away from the water, and dump the wastewater into the bushes so it runs into the ground. This goes for washing dishes and washing yourself (if you choose to do so!).
Cans and bottles: These items do not occur in nature, so they shouldn’t be left out there. If you feel you can carry them full into the wilderness, you need to carry them out empty.
Garbage: Burn your garbage, and what you can’t burn—anything plastic, for instance—carry out with you. Be discreet with organic materials. The next person who comes across the spot where you ate lunch may not like to see a pile of orange peel.
Fishing: Don’t catch more fish than you can eat. Be kind and kill the fish as soon as you’ve landed them; don’t let them suffer.
Trails: Stick to the trail, especially in areas with really sensitive vegetation, such as in the Arctic or on Alpine slopes.
Buying food: If you can, buy food locally to pump money into the local communities.
Over-zealous bug spraying: If you can’t handle bugs, don’t go out in the woods until September. Bugs are part of a wilderness trip. Don’t spray your campsite with toxins; keep them to a minimum. Wear long sleeves and pants, and you won’t need to apply bug spray to your body as much.
Broken glass: If you find any broken glass, do a good deed for humanity and bury it in the ground so no people or animals will injure themselves on it.
Equipment: Reduce your carbon footprint by buying some of your equipment second-hand and attending swap meets. Think twice about how many fleece sweaters you really need; one can last you for a couple of decades. If you buy new, buy from a store that has great environmental policies.