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How to Make Your Summer Camp More Sustainable

This is a guest post by Charlie Fletcher.

As the owner of a summer camp, you do a lot for the community and the children of the world. In addition to bringing happiness to kids every year, your camp also teaches kids essential skills and lessons that they can carry on throughout their lives, and one of the most important life lessons that you can pass on is the value of sustainability and how to go green today and as they grow into adulthood.  

Camp owners and counselors can make a big difference leading by example and by showing kids how the activities you do and the way you set up your camp is sustainable. Let’s talk about the importance of creating an eco-friendly program and the changes you can make today to lead the charge amongst the camping industry.

Importance of Sustainability

There are several reasons why you need to make an effort to make your camp more sustainable. Possibly the most significant is the positive attention that your program will gain and the potential growth you could experience just by announcing that you are eco-friendly and then practicing what you preach. This is especially true because studies show that 77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably, and they will likely want their children to do the same. This positive attention can drastically improve your reputation and could lead to increased enrollment and a potential profits boost.

You can also save money on utility costs by implementing more environmentally-conscious policies like turning off lights when they are not in use and using fewer electronics by skipping video presentations and instead encouraging outdoor activities. In addition to saving money, reducing energy usage and buying responsible products will also cut down on unnecessary waste, which is good for the environment and a great lesson for the campers.

If your camp has never tried this approach in the past, then you may be scratching your heads as to how to get started and what to do. The best approach is to put together as a team and create a sustainability committee. This group should consist of a representative from each area of the camp, including transportation, food services, maintenance, and counselors, and think about ways that each team can become more sustainable. Then start pooling together the resources to make it happen.

Sustainability Around Camp and in Your Cabins

There are many changes you can start making today to make your camp more sustainable, especially when it comes to lighting and electricity. Whether you have lamps indoors or string lights over the outdoor areas, make an effort to switch to LED bulbs, which will not only often shine brighter, but will also last longer and are less expensive to replace. Any devices that you don’t plan to use in the immediate future should be unplugged completely to avoid the excess electricity that devices can create even when they are not turned on.

You can also reduce waste outdoors by ensuring that all faucets and hoses are turned completely off when not in use and that all garbage is picked up throughout the day, so it does not pollute the land or nearby lakes and other water sources.

Don’t forget that there are plenty of positive changes that you can make to your cabins and facilities to reduce waste and help the environment. If you have indoor areas where campers typically eat lunch or practice arts and crafts, then you can practice sustainable interior design by placing tables near the windows so the kids can take advantage of the healthy natural light that helps to increase their vitamin D levels and you can avoid the need to turn on the lights as long as possible.

As far as furnishing those indoor spaces, you can take advantage of thrift stores and garage sales for necessary chairs, couches, and tables. Not only will these items be better for a rustic environment where they could get damaged, but you will also reduce the need for factories that create pollution as they produce new products.

Eco-Friendly Activities

For every sustainable change that you make, create training for your campers and tell them why you made these changes and how they help the environment. There are a lot of lessons that you can teach the kids that they will carry with them into adulthood. Tell them about the importance of recycling and how they can find and use recycled materials and products around their homes. You should also tell them how eliminating waste helps to keep nature beautiful and our skies clean. These lessons can really come through during a hike amongst the trees.

In addition to valuable lessons, counselors can also create fun, sustainable activities that can show the kids the value of self-reliance. To do so, you might grow a garden with fruits and vegetables that the kids can eat and take home with them. You can teach them how to grow and nurture those plants and how to make their own garden at home. Another idea is to start a compost heap where the kids recycle camp food and use grass to turn it back into rich soil.

Arts and crafts classes can be especially impactful in this regard when you use recycled materials to create new items. There is almost an endless list of upcycled crafts you can make, from wreaths made from leaves and strips of old t-shirts to flower art made out of cardboard and shredded magazine pages. These are great projects that will keep the kids occupied, teach them about sustainability, and give them something cool that they can take home to show their parents and treasure for years to come.

As you can see, with some planning and a desire to change the world, you can make your summer camp more sustainable. Consider the tips provided here, and you can save money while educating the kids of tomorrow.


Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer passionate about workplace equity, and whose published works cover sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.

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