Do you dream about sleeping under the stars and deep breaths of fresh air? Spending a night outdoors shouldn’t be a lofty goal, but a priority. No phones, no social media, no light pollution, and less air pollution. We’ve all heard of Slow Food, but we should also start embracing more Slow Living (nb: I’m convincing myself as I write this).
Whether in the wilderness, a campground, in your own backyard or napping on the edge of a dock, disconnecting from your city routine and enjoying what’s actually in front of you, over what’s virtually in front of you is a gift. The “eco-fication” of your outdoor vacation doesn’t need to be complicated. And it doesn’t need to be expensive.
Here are some fire starters to ensure you’ll be a happy camper:
1. Blow up + Slow Down. Since there’s a good chance that you’ll be using a car to get out of the city, make sure your tires are inflated, slow down and take the country roads if you need to avoid heavy traffic (or want to enjoy a more scenic route) — you’ll get better mileage overall, cut down on emissions and even save some money. If you are renting a car, avoid falling for that “free” upgrade; a bigger car will cost more in gas, and take a toll on our air too.
2. Be a turn-off (to mosquitoes). Mosquitoes are (unfortunately for us) well-equipped to track you down. Don’t help them out more by wearing anything with synthetic “fragrance” (read: toxic) – that includes ALL personal care items. They are drawn to contrast, so avoid dark clothing as best you can. Eat lots of garlic too – it really does help! Although the little buzzers are labeled as dangerous by many, insect repellents are sadly not given the same courtesy. There are many natural, DEET, and chemical-insecticide-free solutions.
3. Cover Up and Clean Up. Wear a hat, and when wearing sunscreen, say no-no to all things Nano. It’s tragic for us as consumers, that nothing stops companies from manufacturing and selling dangerous personal care products. Educate yourself on Nano-materials, sunscreen safety, and soaps and shampoos so that you can avoid toxic stuff being rubbed into your skin and going into our water. If it’s on you, it’s IN you, and then in all of us. Here is a great place to start.
4. Get a Dose of Sunshine Vitamins. Soaking up the sun in moderation helps your body manufacture Vitamin D, which we know is essential to our well-being. Tanning (not burning) is a healthy response, and some studies show that those who allow themselves safe sun exposure in moderation, actually lower their risk of skin cancer.
5. Re-fuse and Re-use. Foam plates and cups, paper towel and napkins, plastic cutlery and straws are single-use earth-wreckers. Refuse all and invest in safe reusables – they will reduce the trash you produce and save you lots of money over time. And, always be sure to have your reusable water bottle with you. Fill. Drink. Repeat often.
6. Feel the power. Powering up all those gadgets with conventional batteries then dumping them in landfills creates a toxic mess. Instead, try rechargeables, or better yet, take a look at wind powered, solar powered or hand crank eco-gadgets coming on the market with great force. Choose LED flashlight/lanterns, as they offer a much more energy-efficient alternative.
7. Get lots of Free Gear. PVC-free, Phthalate-Free, BPA-Free, Lead-Free are just a few of the FREE things to look for when shopping for goods like tents, sleeping bags, water bottles and clothing. Remember to ask salespeople for “responsible” items at the store – you may get a confused look in return, but where there is demand, there will be supply. Mountain Equipment Co-op is one of the better bets in Toronto, from informed staff to a wider selection of safer products.
8. Get fired up. Build your campfire to the size you need, as unnecessarily big, roaring fires burn more resources (and increase hazards). Use only fallen twigs and branches for firewood, the live trees are working hard for us, please don’t disrupt them. Your fire also offers a more eco-friendly option for cooking over a gas or coal grill. And, please, never burn your trash – you certainly don’t want to inhale burning plastic, metal or wood (many of which are treated with chemicals), do you?
9. Come with it, leave with it. You recycle at home, so bring that eco-conscious practice with you when away also, regardless if there are recycling bins on your site or not. And, be sure to use polyethylene-free compostable and biodegradable garbage bags. Leave with everything you came with to ensure all is clean and ready for the next lucky city escap-ees.
Spending time outdoors offers you health benefits for the body and the mind: fresher air, unplugged time with those you adore, inspiring vistas and calm quietude. Enjoy every moment, bring home lots of memories, and do your best to make sure the only marks you leave behind are your (light) footprints.