Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Practicing leave no trace with grey water

Whenever I'm outdoors, I strive to abide by Leave No Trace practices.

It's so, so, so important to take care of our big backyard and keep our public lands clean. To me, walking into a campsite where there's evidence someone has clearly stayed there before you is a cringe-worthy feeling. Taking actions, both big and small, in minimizing your impact on a camping trip will tremendously help preserve these incredible places in nature we are so lucky to explore. 

A few of the LNT practices I already strive to follow (and hope you do to) include skipping the campfire and relying on a isobutane stove for meals, using reusable containers for food preparation rather than one-time plastics, take trash with me and deposit it off-site rather than at the campground's dumpsters, compost all food scraps, and pick up any trash I find from the occupants before me. Then there's what I think, are even "digital" forms of LNT like not blasting music at a campsite and pin-point geotagging on social media, i.e. tagging a picture as "Never Summer Wilderness" instead of "Parika Lake," a specific location inside the protected wilderness area in order to lessen foot traffic. Eventually I'm hoping to on my Instagram feed to take it a step deeper and not tag places at all, or do so in an even broader sense: "Colorado."

A new approach to LNT that I'm learning to make routine at the campsite is proper grey water disposal. What's grey water? Grey water is water dirtied by brushing your teeth, doing the dishes after a meal, washing your hands, scrubbing your clothing, and of course bathing. Even leftover liquids like coffee, drops tea, or half a cereal's bowl of milk, should fall under the grey water category. 

Eliminating grey water is super easy. Add a bucket, plastic jug, or portable kitchen sink like this one from Sea to Summit, to catch and catch all gross grey water when doing your dishes or brushing your teeth. The tiny chunks of food and mysterious chemicals found in dishwashing soap, even if its biodegradable, can seep into the ground and harm watersheds, streams, and wildlife. The same goes for toothpaste and bath soap or shampoo. Not to mention, the plants won't like it and it looks disgusting all thrown out on the ground just feet from your tent.

When your container is full of grey water and you're ready to dump it, check the campground map and see if there's a special sink, designated grey water drainage spot, or find a pit toilet. If you're in the backcountry or can't find the appropriate place to dispose of grey water, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends spreading it wide at least 200 feet away from your campsite or any water source.

Last month I picked up mine own Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink and have started making this new-to-me LNT practice a part of my mealtime regimen. It's an easy way to show gratitude to nature and ghost our footprint even more.