You’re a self-proclaimed leave-no-trace guru. You pack your trash out, you always have a Wag Bag in your pack, you stay on trails, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints...right?
Chances are, you may be leaving more than you think when you’re camping in the backcountry!
There are all sorts of products that we use when we recreate outside that can get into the environment and impact it. Soaps, sunscreens, bug sprays, even toothpastes leave a trace when you use them outside.
When you dump your dirty dishwater, take a dip in a lake while wearing sunscreen or bug spray, or rinse and spit after brushing your teeth, you’re introducing small amounts of foreign chemicals into the wilderness. These chemicals can harm plants, taint waters and make wildlife sick. Phosphates, surfactants, triclosan and anti-bacterial ingredients are some of the most harmful things to the wilderness in products. They can increase algae growth, and triclosan is very toxic to aquatic life. If you are curious about the best eco-friendly soaps, click here.
While there are plenty of blogs out there that will praise washing your pots with sand and not brushing your teeth for days at a time, we’re lucky to live in a time when biodegradable is becoming a more and more popular word on product labels.
Biodegradable means that the substance is capable of being broken down by bacteria or living organisms over time.
Your average toothpaste, dish soap and sunscreen contain too many un-natural ingredients to be broken down by the bacteria in soil and water, but biodegradeable products contain only natural ingredients - allowing them to be broken down fairly quickly.
It’s important to note that biodegradable products are still foreign substances and can contaminate fresh water. If you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t be putting it in lakes, rivers and streams.
Bury your dish water and toothpaste spit after using biodegradable products to ensure that they are given time to break down in soil.