How Sustainable Was Your Camping Trip?

I was so excited! We were headed to the great outdoors; a four day camping trip in Yosemite National Forest with four adults and 4 kids ages 8, 5, 5 and 3! It would be an amazing adventure away from the noise of cell phones, computers, honking cars, and technology.

Now, I consider myself to be a mindful person. I compost and recycle, watch our water and electrical consumption, and eat a healthy diet. However, once we arrived at the campsite and I looked at our supplies . . . I realized that we all have a lot to learn and a long way to go if we are truly going to save our planet. I decided I would use this trip as a great teachable moment for our families and the kids.

My awareness began when I looked at our vehicles. We drove two SUV’s over 6 hours to the campsite jam packed with enough food to feed us and the bears, tents, blow up mattresses (so much for roughing it!), chairs, skewers for roasting marshmallows (I used to use sticks!), water in plastic bottles and more!

With all of the supplies we needed the two large SUVs. Everything we brought just created more trash and there was a constant flow of trips to the trash and recycling bins.

yosemite national park camping

Was it easy to recycle on site? Not really. There were a few recycle bins for plastics, used propane tanks, and other small items, and I wondered, “is everything really sorted or does it end up in the landfill anyway?"

So what are the teachable moments from our camping trip? And how many of these moments can be applied to our mindfulness at home?

recycle bins yosemite national park

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – use less – that seems easy right?

  • Drink out of a Camelbak or other reusable bottle. Refrain from bringing or using plastic water bottles. We actually did pretty well on this one and do well at home.

  • Bring washable cloths. Use wipes and napkins sparingly. I think we can improve on this one at home as well.

  • Bring reusable coffee cups and plates.

  • Use only 1 cup for the whole trip – we can wash it!

  • Use only 1 plate for the whole trip – we can wash it!

  • Bring pots and pans that can be used throughout the trip.

  • Where possible recycle plastic, paper, and cardboard.

  • Use paper and cardboard for fire starters.


  • Leave the wilderness for everyone to enjoy. Refrain from bringing the sticks, pinecones, and rocks home.

  • Return the area to how we found it.

  • Leave wildlife alone! Do not touch the wild animals, like deer, chipmunks and squirrels, even if they come close!


  • Be careful in the environment, do not pull branches and twigs off trees

  • Keep all wrappers and trash with us when hiking to dispose of later. Do not litter.

  • Be mindful of how much food, waste, and packaging we bring into the park and be sure to take it back home.

I was definitely impressed by:

  • All buses run on alternative fuel minimizing their carbon footprint.

  • Signs are posted about the California drought encouraging mindfulness about water usage. (Unfortunately there are leaky sinks in the bathrooms.)

  • The nature center provides a lot of information on climate change, our impact on the environment, and how to be better stewards of the land . . . geared towards the kids but invaluable for adults as well.

  • The kids and adults were able to experience nature up close and personal.

  • The water was high with the rain we had this year. In some spots that used to barely have a stream there was rushing water - so we all must be aware of our surroundings and how they can easily change with the environment.


The nature center has tons of information for the kids on climate change, our impact on the environment, and how to be better stewards of the land


The kids were able to experience nature up close and personal

having fun at yosemite national park

Relan Wrap Up

We will do much better on our next camping trip. We will bring less, use less and throw away less. We are out to enjoy nature! Maybe we don’t need all the luxuries of home . . . even for me!!

What do you love about camping? How sustainable are your camping trips? I would love to love to hear your feedback and what else we need to think about for next time!

Kari Brizius is president of Relan and is a West Point Graduate, certified personal trainer, a US Army Veteran, and a wholehearted entrepreneur. Kari’s passion for the environment, the planet, and healthy living fuels her entrepreneurial spirit. Her mission is to provide thought leadership on sustainability initiatives surrounding healthy living, the environment, and sustainability messaging. Learn more about Kari here.

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