Going Green While Saving Green

By Jessica Lippe

Would you like to make your camp more environmentally friendly, but the budget is too tight right now? Let’s face it--while it would be great to run on solar power, it’s just not practical or reasonable to make lavish “green” upgrades in today’s economy. In fact, by using the facilities you have in a new, innovative way, you can go green while still having a little green to spare!

1. Make Any Toilet Low-Flow--Do you ever wish you could replace old water-wasting toilets with a new low-flow model, but you know that the camp can’t possibly afford that kind of investment? You can still keep the current toilets, but try this simple trick to save hundreds of gallons of water every year. Take some empty soda or water bottles (the larger, the better), fill them with rocks and set them inside the toilet tanks. With each flush, you’ll be saving both water and money!

2. Throw In The Towels--Exchange the clothes dryer for the best source of heat--the sun! With acres of camp ground, you can take advantage of the greenest source of energy available. Do you have loads of laundry from bed linens or dish towels? Instead of using a dryer year-round, hang a few clotheslines across a sunny field. It does take a few days for laundry to sun-dry completely, so it’s best to hang it up at the end of a retreat or session. That way, you can take the linens down, and put them to use again just in time for the next campers!

3. Host “Green” Activities--A great game for kids’ camps is building solar ovens. Provide materials such as black garbage bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil and cardboard boxes. Hold a challenge to see which teams can create solar ovens that are able to cook s’mores. This will teach kids how to conserve at a young age, plus they’ll be able to enjoy the greenest way to make the treats! For a girls’ camp or women’s retreat, teach campers how to make natural beauty products. There are many beauty-product recipes on the Internet and in books that use all-natural, typical household ingredients. These activities are two-fold: the camp helps save the environment, and campers are encouraged to continue doing “green” activities when they return home!

4. Lower The Mosquito Population Without Bug Zappers Or Pesticides--Bug sprays and pesticides pollute the air and foliage, and bug zappers can suck up a large amount of energy. Bats will happily eat the unwanted mosquitoes, but they need a place to sleep during the day. You and your staff can quickly and easily build some bat houses from spare wood. If there’s a lake or pond at the camp, consider buying mosquito fish or guppies. Also, since mosquitoes are attracted to stagnant water, try to fill any potholes in the parking lot and trails so they don’t turn into puddles when it rains.

5. Don’t Let Table Scraps Go To The Dump--Create a compost pile; it makes great soil for camp flower beds, and you’ll fill fewer garbage cans! Set up a large bucket next to the garbage can in the dining hall. During the first meal of each retreat, announce to the campers that the bucket is for compost, and explain what can and cannot go into the compost bucket. (Most food scraps can go into compost, as well as paper napkins, but bones and Styrofoam cannot decompose well, so throw those things away.) Don’t forget to add grass clippings from the lawn mower!

6. Switch Light Bulbs--True, this exchange does take an investment, but switching from incandescent bulbs to energy-saving fluorescent bulbs will save the camp money. Not only do fluorescent light bulbs use less electricity and give off more light, but they don’t need to be replaced nearly as often as their incandescent counterparts. Even if you cannot afford to switch all of the light fixtures at the time, exchanging what you can will still save money and the environment.

7. Allow Your Office Work To Save Trees--At a camp, you most definitely have many mailings--registrations, itineraries, bills, etc. With each mailing, you have to print hundreds of pages, and use dozens of stamps. Guess what? There’s a way to go about this in a cheaper, faster, easier and greener way. Most people have e-mail, and they are just as happy to receive paperwork via e-mail instead of traditional mail. Of course, you probably have some paperwork that must be sent by snail mail. For these instances, you may want to consider purchasing and using recycled paper, and don’t forget to recycle ink cartridges when they’re empty.

8. Turn Kitchen Trash Into Kids’ Crafts--Have you ever thought those green baskets that strawberries come in could be rinsed off and transformed into decorated baskets at craft time using pipe cleaners, pompons and glitter? Did you ever think to tie-dye the fabric bags from potatoes and flour during the next craft project? Could those empty tin cans get some decoupage and pass as pencil containers? We all know that when it comes to food, there is a lot of packaging. Before you toss something out, take a moment to see if it can be used in an upcoming craft project. What about all those cardboard boxes from the fruit and frozen food? Those are perfect for filling with crafts to tote home!

9. Enjoy Many Green Benefits For $10--That’s how much it costs to become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation. With membership, you have the option to receive ten free trees. Planting trees near cabins eventually will provide shade, which will make them cooler without fans or air-conditioning. Trees clean the air, provide a home for wildlife, and also give shade to tired campers. To make a tree extra-special, plant one in honor of an exceptional staff member, or dedicate a tree to the winner of a camp game.

10. Get Free Publicity For Going Green--Once a few “greener” adjustments are made to the camp, contact the local media to tell them about the new eco-friendly improvements. (Remember to call or e-mail instead of sending a letter, as it saves paper and ink!) Be sure to mention that these adjustments will not raise camper registration prices. Since environmental awareness and economic sense are two of the hottest media topics these days, you’re bound to find a few reporters who would be honored to let others know about what your camp is doing. It is great publicity for your camp, and you won’t have to spend a cent on advertising!

Jessica Lippe is a freelance writer from Southern Oregon. She can be reached at JesFrogLlama@hotmail.com.