Green Ideas

What do you do to “green” up your facility?


• Camp directors save all kitchen food-prep scraps and feed them to their chickens.
• Craft paper is supplied from a local print shop's scraps.

Drift Creek Camp
Lincoln City, Ore.

“Litter-less” Lunches
Used more at day camps than overnight camps, parents and campers should be encouraged to bring lunches that do not contain garbage. For instance:

• Choose to reuse--pack a cloth napkin instead of paper, stainless-steel utensils instead of disposable plastics and a reusable drink container instead of disposables.

• Pack food in reusable containers. Avoid plastic wraps, plastic bags, wax-paper bags and aluminum foil.

• Avoid pre-packaged items and reduce food waste by using reusable containers that can be resealed to take leftovers back home.

• Pack lunches in a durable lunch box or backpack instead of relying on paper or plastic bags.

One year at camp one of counselors introduced the idea by having the kids make collages with the garbage from their lunches and then offered prizes for those who brought lunches without garbage over the next couple of days.

Lisa Smith
Camp Conestogo
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

A “Green” Top 10
1. Sign up for the Children and Nature Network ( It’s free, and has links to lots of great information! The network is an outgrowth from the book, “Last Child in the Woods, Saving Children from Nature Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louve, and was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. It provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children's health and well-being.

2. Check your land and make a plan. Walk around the camp and note where cleanup, erosion control, trail trimming and/or landscaping are needed. Look for safety issues. Guests appreciate attention to the land! Even if you simply post a sign that says “Repairs in progress,” it shows you care.

3. Meet the experts. Many people can help care for land, develop a program, and “green” a facility. Contact local professors, farmers, community leaders, soil and water-conservation offices, research, dendrologists, etc.

4. Create a Green Team. Get the whole staff on board. You may find hidden expertise, and certainly want people to work together. Have them generate ideas, share opinions, and make a “To-do List.”

5. Recycle. Have the bins available, and make instructions as clear as possible. Staff members may recycle better than campers and guests.

6. Teach the facility. Through signage and the things your staff members tell campers and guests, a facility can teach a lot! Where did the rock and lumber come from on the buildings? How are you saving energy, or not saving energy?

7. Have a special place. Find a place with a great view, some nice trees for shade, and quiet. How about a bench and a sign with a thoughtful quote?

8. Get nature resources. Have some nature activity books and field guides available. Make a “Cool Stuff We Find” table of rocks, leaves, bones, fungi, etc. Hang a marker board to post nature sightings. Have links on your Web site about the camp’s nature.

9. Train staff members--their attitudes matter! Share a couple of simple activities to teach them about local trees, plants and wildlife. Go stargazing. Use your example and stop for passing birds.

10. Enjoy! Camp is perhaps the best way to show others you love the outdoors, and appreciate the chance to share it with others! Watch a sunset, breathe fresh air, hold a frog, and get muddy!

Jim Parry
Outdoor Education Director
YMCA Collin County Adventure Camp
Anna, Texas

More Ideas
1. Install rain barrels to catch rainwater and recycle it. Our camp uses the recycled water in the summer for weekly craft shop activities such as tie-dye and making digeridoos. The water is also put to good use to water the kitchen herb garden and sustain flowers during hot summer days.

2. Purchase vermicomposters or compost tumblers to decrease the volume of camp waste. At Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp, there are 3,000 red wriggler worms living in three worm factories. The worms turn food waste and shredded paper into beautiful compost (gardeners "black gold") and provide worm castings as wonderful fertilizer. An added bonus—the camp did not need to purchase fishing bait for the summer!

3. Purchase recyclable napkins and compostable cups for use in composters/tumblers or simply to reduce the time the waste will require to decompose in a landfill.

4. Recycle used coffee grounds by adding them to composters or tumblers.

5. Need a planting mat to combat weeds? Use cardboard or newspaper rather than plastic! Also, “lake weed” raked from the lake makes a wonderful mulch and weed deterrent.

Lisa Riether
Deer Valley YMCA Camp
Fort Hill, Penn.