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5 Products for a Zero-Waste Camping

5 Products for a Zero-Waste Camping

Guest Post: Erin (she/her) of Authentic Asheville shares 5 of her favorite products to help you reduce your waste on your next camping trip. But when she's not doing that, she can be found putting together killer guides about places to eat, play, and rest in Asheville, NC and beyond!

Caroline and I have a rule that nothing comes with us on our camping adventures unless it serves two purposes. This simple rule has led to a more streamlined and practical packing list. Over time, we’ve learned to leave everything but the essentials at home. In the process, we’ve also made a handful of lifestyle changes that focus on a “zero-waste” approach. And while we certainly have areas in which we can still improve to be more sustainably-minded campers, these five products were the ones that started us on our journey.

1. Stasher Sandwich Bags

One of the first products we purchased that helped us reduce waste at camp were Stasher bags. After one too many cheese blocks in plastic bags fell victim to the water sloshing around the bottom of our cooler, we decided to give a Stasher bag a try because they claimed to be leak-free. As advertised, they proved invaluable. No more ruined cheddar. We ended up doing away with plastic bags altogether in favor of the Stasher Bag which comes in various sizes and cute colors. On a purely emotional level, it felt good to do away with plastic bags once and for all.

2. Stainless Steel and Bamboo Boxes

My stainless steel and bamboo box has become a sidekick. It’s made it on every camp trip since we bought it at Ware but I also use it daily for my lunch. After more than a year’s worth of daily use (read: being thrown in my backpack, dropped in parking lots, tossed in the sand, and once even dropped in the creek) it’s still going strong. It too, replaced plastic bags, foil, and the occasional paper towel. Also, though we probably wouldn't recommend this, we haven’t oiled the bamboo lid once and it still looks as good as new. 

3. Composting Pail

When we cook at camp we do our best to keep the menu simple but tasty enough that we don’t end up wishing we could call for takeout. Because despite the old saying that things taste better at camp, that’s only partly true. It actually has to taste pretty good and then the camp ambiance will do the rest. So we bring a lot of fresh whole foods which means we typically end up with a compost pile. Luckily, our composting pail, which typically sits on our kitchen counter, travels easy and sits just as pretty on camp picnic table as it does at home. It helps us stay true to Leave No Trace and goes right into our backyard compost pile when we get home. Just remember to secure it inside your vehicle at night to keep the raccoons and bears out of your camp.

4. Swedish Dish Cloths

Our first Swedish Dish Cloth actually came our way via a gift. Caroline’s sister in law sent us one with a cute little camper on it and truth be told we actually thought it was a hot pad. Little did we know it was a zero-waste substitute for paper towels until it one day accidentally soaked up spilled coffee. From then on, it became a camp MVP. It’s a great option for reducing waste at camp and it takes up a lot less room in the van than a roll of paper towels. 

5. Reusable Coffee Filters

I’ve been a self-described coffee snob for over a decade and my passion is largely centered around two things: the rich, nuanced flavor of a well brewed cup and the pleasure derived from the ritual itself. I started my coffee adventures with a French Press, had a very short term relationship with a Chemex, and ultimately arrived at my current setup: a pour over system that uses reusable filters and drips into an insulated reusable thermos. Though the pour over system takes a bit of commitment, it’ll yield one of the most consistently delicious cups of coffee every single time, whether you’re at home or in the woods with a view.

Living and traveling in a van for several weeks and months at a time taught us a lot about our waste because the trash we created was right there in our faces, daily. And rather than having weekly curbside garbage pickup, it was on us to dispose of it. When faced with the mounting heap in our van, it didn’t take long before we both decided we could (and should) do a better job. We hope these tips and products for reducing waste at camp will help you, too. The goal for us isn’t about perfection (more about that here). What’s made more sense to us is to consistently audit our lifestyle, notice the gaps between our values and our lifestyle, make changes by swapping out products and habits to close those gaps, and then never look back.

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