17 Things You Can Change to Reduce Your Impact on the Environment While Overlanding
When someone wants to go overlanding, they typically choose a large vehicle with a gas or diesel engine. These vehicles tend to have low mpg’s. The amount of carbon dioxide and fossil fuel remnants sent through the air causes a tremendous impact on the environment.
Although the use of hybrids or electric vehicles is still out of reach for the average overlander there are quite a few things members of the community can do to decrease their impact on the environment while preserving overlanding as an activity for future generations.
One of the first steps to take is being careful with campfires. The campfire is often an essential part of overlanding because it allows for socialization, improves moods, and reduces stress. However, campfires can be destructive to native flora and fauna and often release toxic gases like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
To avoid these negatives, overlanders need to focus on finding an appropriate spot away from natural ecosystems.
Another problem caused by overlanding is trash. Way too many overlanders leave their garbage behind, which chokes wildlife and breaks down into harmful chemicals – especially plastics.
Ultimately, the future of overlanding depends on overlanders who make small, but impactful decisions to reduce their carbon footprint and be eco-friendly while still having fun. Luckily, we’ve never met overlanders that were inconsiderate, but they still exist and cause big problems! So consider using a little less water, fuel, plastic, and other pollutants – you will still have a great vacation! In general, there are actually some great trends among overlanders, especially generations who believe it’s better to leave a campground cleaner than when it was found!
So, let’s see what we can do for the environment as campers, overlanders, nature enthusiasts, and eco-junkies. Here are seventeen habits you can gradually incorporate into your trips to make the world just a little bit better one step at a time.
No Plastic Bags Allowed
Plastic bags, like the one seen at supermarket checkout counters, are one of the worst pollutants to date because they take centuries to break down. When you buy or bring food with you, avoid plastic in general. Buy reusable mesh containers to carry fruits and vegetables and avoid foods packaged in plastic – such as chips. Focus on eating healthily and storing food in easier to recycle cardboard or more durable fabrics and meshes. This will stop tons of plastic from working its way into the ecosystem.
We know recycling bins in the wilderness might be hard to come by, but this doesn’t mean you should throw your paper and cardboard away. First, limit the amount of waste you bring with you while overlanding. Then keep a separate bin or container where you can store recyclables until you reach a town with proper recycling facilities. This can get heavy, so swap out items that will take up a ton of space for more viable alternatives. For example, bring beer in crushable aluminum cans rather than glass bottles or store juice in a flask rather than a plastic container.
Eliminate Single-Use Products When Possible
Single-use products are some of the worst things for the environment because they are disposed of so quickly. When you’re overlanding, resist the temptation to bring along non-rechargeable batteries, butane stove canisters, and those little floss toothpicks. Instead, invest your money in equipment that will last longer and get through multiple uses. You can also try to use products that don’t require single use options. Solar-powered equipment like phone chargers and cookers are great when on the road.
Slow Down and Maintain Your Tires
It’s crucial to find the best balance between speed and fuel consumption, especially since the amount of gas you use heavily affects your carbon footprint. Try to keep your tires fully inflated and in great condition, and make sure your car has no leaks or other problems that will affect fuel efficiency.
Avoid Water Waste
Fresh water is a limited resource and you don’t want to hurt the environment by using it for unnecessary things. While overlanding, remember to conserve your fresh water supplies in reusable or biodegradable containers. Limit the time you spend showering and brushing your teeth, and try not to use too much when cooking or using the bathroom. If you’re worried about running out of freshwater, keep a bucket or barrel around to catch rain and use a solar-powered purifier. When showering and waiting for the water to get warm, keep a bucket under the spigot or faucet so the unused cool water is collected for later.
Eat Fresh and Local
A lot of overlanders bring pre-packaged foods with them, but this generates a ton of waste from disposable plastic and aluminum. Instead of bringing all of this with you, bring organic, fresh fruits and vegetables rather than chips and chocolate bars. If you want those products, store them in reusable containers.
Or, instead of bringing your own food, consider buying local produce or meats and eat the food of the country/area where you are traveling. You can also save on fuel this way since you don’t have to worry as much about refrigeration or transporting large amounts of food.
Consider Eco-Friendly Alternatives
Biodegradable is your friend when you are overlanding because then you won’t have to worry about chemical runoff seeping into the land and local waterways. Some products you can replace with eco-friendly alternatives include soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, and even makeup. Also consider vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for cleaning so you don’t use harsh products like bleach. These get rid of germs and bacteria just as well as most commercial cleaners.
Make Small Changes to Your Routine
A big problem for many people is that they have several small bad habits that build up over time. Even if you’re at a campground with lots of amenities, there are still ways you can be more eco-friendly. Take shorter showers and turn off the sink when you’re brushing your teeth. Walk short distances between the campsite and bathrooms, administrative stations, or nearby convenience stores. Don’t leave a tap running. Don’t wash your car while you’re camping. It’s going to get dirty and that soap can seep into the ecosystem.
Just small changes can go a long way while camping or overlanding.
No Pesky Plastic Straws
As with a lot of suggestions with overlanding, this one involves leaving behind even more pesky plastic. Plastic straws do not degrade and are truly unnecessary. If you really want a straw, consider using bamboo alternatives that are biodegradable and will break down when they are thrown away.
Beware of Coffee Cups
A lot of people like to drink their coffee out of Styrofoam, plastic, and other disposable cups. Unfortunately, these containers wind up polluting the land and sea and take centuries to degrade.
The simple solution is to not stop at chains that offer coffee in these cups and to instead brew your own coffee on the road using a simple coffee maker and a mug. If this seems like too much work, consider whether coffee is truly worth it to you. Or, simply stop at a place where you can sit down and drink from an actual cup.
If you want to take some coffee on the road from a restaurant, just ask if they can fill up your travel mug!
Use Eco-Friendly Sunscreen
Modern humans are often surprised by how much of their stuff is full of chemicals and other unfriendly substances. Sunscreen is a popular example, since many popular brands contain toxic substances that wind up in waterways and poison the local flora and fauna. Plus, many sunscreens actually have ingredients that aren’t great for you either. They’re still better than sun damage, but consider investing in a sunscreen that uses responsible ingredients.
Avoid using products with oxybenzone or octinoxate, which have recently been banned from places like Hawaii due to their effects on coral reefs. Instead, look for sunscreens that have the friendlier zinc oxide.
Your skin and the environment will thank you for being responsible.
Splurge on Camping Gear
Not everyone has a ton of money, but it will cost you more in the long run if you don’t invest in your camping gear. Good gear will last a long time and is less likely to break and wind up in a landfill somewhere. See if you can find brands that are environmentally-motivated and use recycled materials. Also avoid cheap plastics.
No Wet Wipes
A lot of people like wet wipes because they take care of messes and are supposed to be biodegradable. However, most of them aren’t and will instead spend a century in the ocean. While there, they will release chemicals or be ingested by a poor critter looking for food. Either way, the impact isn’t worth it.
Use reusable supplies like washcloths or eco-friendly toilet paper to take care of your needs instead.
Beware of Vehicle Spills
A lot of overlanding pollutants come from vehicles that have leaks, especially from liquids like oil and coolant. Remember to thoroughly inspect your vehicle before going anywhere and to look for potential drips and leaks.
If you need to stop to service your car, bring plenty of supplies to ensure not a drop of oil gets on the ground. It’s highly toxic and can damage the ecosystem.
Reduce Your Trash
Humans create a lot of trash without even realizing the extent of their waste. Part of this has to do with the entirely disposable lifestyle humans now live. Remember to only dispose of your trash and recyclables in towns that have the proper facilities.
While travelling, keep waste at a manageable level and store the disposables in a separate bag. Remember that you might need to carry 3-4 weeks of garbage, so plan responsibly. Pack light and avoid food stored in metal containers because these are difficult to crush and transport.
We recommend using a product like the Trasharoo spare wheel trash bag.
Take Care of Human Waste
Everyone poops. This is a fact of life and one that is bound to come up when overlanding. When you have to go, dig a hole that is 8 in. deep and 200 ft. away from any water sources. Remember to bury your waste and cover it with natural debris. If you bring toilet paper, keep it in a separate bag to burn later or buy eco-friendly toilet paper that can be buried.
Human waste carries nasty bacteria and can have a damaging effect on the environment. Just remember that you wouldn’t want someone to poop in the sink at your home, so why would you do it near someone else’s?
Avoid Fuel Spills
Something many people don’t realize is that a lot of pumps around the world do not have an auto shut-off feature. Only fill your jerry cans and vehicle at genuine filling stations and always watch the amount in the container. Take steps to avoid spills and be prepared to shut off the system to stop the container from overflowing.
Overlanding is an awesome activity, and so is camping. You can see more of the world and experience nature, but remember you need to care for that nature as well. Do your absolute best to lower your environmental impact by investing in eco-friendly materials and cutting back on plastic and metal waste.
If you feel like you waste a ton of fuel and material while overlanding, consider hiking or camping as friendlier alternatives that are likely to have less of an impact on the surrounding flora and fauna.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great ways you can bring your overlanding into the next century by trying new green products, monitoring your waste carefully, and preserving the world for the next generation.
Read more here and happy #wildbumming!