Photo: Green camping essentials

Solar panels for off-the-grid green camping. (Courtesy of Christopher Herwig,

Like so many of you, my family's on a never-ending mission to reduce our overall carbon footprint and live as harmoniously as possible with the earth. Enter camping!

Fuelled by nostalgic childhood memories of cooking over an open fire, playing from sunrise to sunset and swimming in glacier-fed lakes, we purchased a second-hand tent trailer — swore off jet-setting vacations — and set out to create our own family memories.

Spending night and day in nature is intrinsically green! But with a little planning and forethought, it's simple to make your camping trip super-green.

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Natural bug protection

Traditional bug spray has between 10 and 40 per cent DEET, a pesticide that inhibits the activity of the central nervous system. Health Canada recommends children under the age of 12 use only repellents containing less than 10 per cent DEET and that it never be used on infants. Opt instead for natural alternatives.

Wear or burn essential oils like cedar, citronella, lemongrass and rosemary, which help ward off bugs. Make your own spray by misting diluted oils in water onto skin and clothes, purchase a prefab natural bug spray, or burn essential oils in a diffuser around the campsite.

For truly desperate situations, get stinky! Apply fresh garlic to exposed skin. This repels bugs and people alike.

Protect from the sun safely

Opt for long-sleeve light clothes, a hat and the shade. By covering up you can enjoy the many benefits of the sun — like vitamin D — while protecting your skin from damage.

When sunscreen is a must, choose a safe option by referencing the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide to avoid ingredients that damage the environment or your health.

Borrow a friend's camping gear

When it comes to creating a sustainable future, less is more. So for the occasional camper, consider borrowing instead of buying. Sharing sites like help connect people with needs to people with stuff.

Green power for camping

Use solar power to harness the energy of the sun and keep your off-the-beaten-track experience off the grid too! Small appliances and trailer heaters can easily be solar-powered. Consider also going battery-free with a crank-flashlight!

Eco-friendly camp food

Minimize packaging waste by choosing homemade whole foods and avoiding individually packaged items. For easy, wholesome outdoor meals, freeze a selection of stews or casseroles beforehand and bring a refillable water container.

As important as what you eat is what you eat on! Avoid disposables or plastic and hit your local thrift or outdoor-gear store to find a set of durable enamel dinnerware.

And always, leave only footprints and take only memories. Share your tip for green camping success and be entered to win an all natural, broad spectrum, vanilla-coconut sunscreen lotion courtesy of True Naural.

Happy Trails!

Tovah Paglaro, Queen of Green

May 21, 2013

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Aug 14, 2013
11:23 AM

Congratulations, Jennifer Webster! You are the winner of an all natural, broad spectrum, vanilla-coconut sunscreen lotion courtesy of True Natural. This contest is now closed.

Jul 06, 2013
2:25 PM

Can I suggest a post about tips for boat living? We have a sailboat and are on the water almost every weekend in the summer months. I notice a lot of trash leaving the dock everyday. Also foods that don’t require refrigeration and perhaps some cleaning solutions that don’t harm the aquatic environment.

Jun 01, 2013
3:09 PM

I love all these tips, we pack some dry food and pre-made meals then try to hit the local farmers markets or actual farms in the area we are camping to pick up our fruits, veggies and meat for our trips. We also try to use boiling water and a more eco-friendly dish soap when cleaning up dishes after a meal. Sorry that is two tips, but our family really loves camping!

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