Clean Nests Tips

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Hiking and camping activities are already low-impact, aren't they?

Stay On Track

When you're trekking through parks and reserves, stay on the footpaths. This doesn't just ensure your safety and convenience, but it also minimizes the impact of your footprint (literally) on the surrounding environment. When there is no trail, take durability into account. Sandy or pebbly patches are durable. Tough stubby grasses and plants are more resistant than longer varieties. Keep durability in mind when you choose a spot for your tent as well.

What kind of harm can my toiletries do to the environment?

Lather Up With Soft Suds

Don't add potentially harmful chemicals to someone else's water supply.

  • Phtalates, banned from certain products in Europe, are omnipresent in North American grooming products. According to the World Wildlife Fund, prolonged exposure to these chemicals can disrupt hormones in both humans and animals.
  • In addition, many dishwashing detergents contain phosphates. If you're camping, don't spill soap into lakes and streams. Phosphates cause algae bloom, which can choke off the oxygen required by other living organisms.
  • Stick with plant-based biodegradable cleansers or at least switch to dye and fragrance-free, which cause less harm.

An RV is an economical way for our family to travel, but is it environmentally responsible?

Be Good Neighbors To The Wildlife

If they are careful, RVers actually consume less water and electricity than the average household. They have limited space, so they tend to buy only what they need and reuse as much as possible. They also tend to cook with propane, which is one of the cleaner fuels. To be a responsible RVer, treat your natural surroundings the way you would a sensitive neighbor:

  • Start with a fuel efficient vehicle. You can get tips from the first chapter of this book;
  • Don't burn plastic or metal, and keep a pail of water handy in case you need to douse a fire;
  • If you travel with a dog, use biodegradable scoop bags, and don't let your dog run through the woods unsupervised. Supervising your dog ensures his safety and prevents him from digging up another animal's habitat. Don't tie your dog to a tree either because the rope can damage bark;
  • Dump your chemical toilet waste only in designated areas. If you use chemical treatments for the tank, wait until it is full to dump, otherwise you're pouring higher concentrations of chemicals out. Scout out products that use enzymes. They are more eco-friendly waste digesters.

Can staying at a spa be an eco-friendly indulgence?

Pamper The Earth

You would expect anyone who makes a living promoting beauty and well-being to be environmentally conscious. Many spas, however, produce some very unattractive waste in the form of bleached paper, plastic packaging and petroleum-based mineral oil products.

Select spas that follow at least some of these guidelines:

  • Use products containing certified organic ingredients and serve organic meals;
  • Use phosphate-free, biodegradable cleaning products;
  • Protect local people and culture by incorporating indigenous healing traditions (ex. native herbal treatments);
  • Use florescent lights or solar panels rather than incandescent bulbs;
  • Recycle and conserve resources like water;
  • Spa finder online provides a worldwide directory of eco-friendly spas.

I love winter sports in the mountains, but I've heard that ski resorts take a high toll on the environment. Is there anything I can do to minimize the impact of my stay at a ski resort?

Maintain The Mountain

Trying to find an environmentally friendly ski resort is a bit like saying there is such a thing as a safe tan. In both cases, the damage has already been done and must now be minimized. Don't forget that before being pruned and primped, a ski hill was a wild mountain with its own ecosystems that were razored so we could swish down the slopes. Logging, erosion and fuel emissions are all slopeside casualties of this growing industry. In various parts of the U.S. ski acreage has more than doubled since 1985.

  • Your impact would be much lower if you just rented a chalet and went snowshoeing or cross-country skiing;
  • Nevertheless, a chalet can be lonely and you may want lessons, rental equipment and the chance to meet new people who like the outdoors. The good news is that ski hills have a vested interest in preventing climate change, so many are trying to do something about it;
  • The National Resources Defense Council and The National Ski Areas Association have teamed up in a promotional campaign called "Keep Winter Cool." Their goal is to raise awareness about eco-friendly practices. Examples of practices to ask about include:
  1. Renewable energy sources: Several hills in the U.S., such as Aspen, have switched to wind power for operating lifts. Apsen also buys carbon offsets;
  2. Incentives for eco-friendly customers: Sundance (Utah) gives discounts to customers who carpooled in to the resort;
  3. Protection of surrounding habitat: In Canada, the Whistler Blackcomb Resort garnered the"Best in a Mountain Environment" First Choice Responsible Tourism Award for its funding of local habitat and watershed restoration projects.

Is it possible to live without air conditioning in summer?

Take To The Trees

If you're not sweltering in a heat wave, opt for a small family hotel that doesn't use air conditioning. Even the new CFC-free coolants in modern AC models are a source of greenhouse gases.

  • Look for establishments shaded by trees, especially on the east side of the land. According to Canopy, an urban forest advocacy group, the evaporation from one tree can produce the cooling effect of ten room size air conditioners;
  • Stone buildings, easy to find in some parts of the world, stay relatively cool if the shades or (even better) shutters are drawn.

If I'm traveling in winter, how can I help save on heating costs?

Cool It

Lower the thermostat in your room a few degrees before you go out. According to Natural Resources Canada, for every 2 degrees (Fahrenheit) you lower the thermostat, you save 2% on the heating bill. It's the hotel's heating bill, but it's everybody's energy supply.

I've heard about a water crisis, but isn't water a renewable resource?

Don't Let Resources Go Down The Drain

Water is one of Earth's finest elements, and preserving water is essential to healthy living. Don't leave the tap running while you shave or brush your teeth. Water is scarce not only in countries with hot climates, but also in semi-arid States and during hot seasons in general. According to the Ecological Society of America, urbanization, global warming and population growth will put such a strain on resources during the next half century that there will be less fresh water available per person.

I like to stay up at night and read. Am I really doing harm by having one light on?

Do Not Disturb

If you like to read in bed, use a battery-operated light that can be attached to your book instead of leaving the room light turned on. If you're out in the country, having lights on at night can disrupt ecosystems:

  1. Nocturnal animals, such as salamanders, may remain concealed up to an hour longer, leaving them less time to hunt;
  2. Birds that use the moon and stars to navigate are disoriented by the lights;
  3. Turtle hatchlings that should remain hidden are lured out by the light and wander into the open view of predators.
Turning off the lights at night not only saves energy but also helps save species.

Is it true that appliances continue to drain energy even while turned off?

Pull The Plug

Turn off the lights and unplug small appliances, like microwaves,coffee machines, and audio equipment in your hotel room or vacation rental before going out for an extended period of time. Just because they are turned off doesn't mean these appliances are not still draining power! The average American household loses about 50 watts of electricity through this "standby" power drain.

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Linda Handiak
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