Are You a Green Paddler?

Are You a Green Paddler

This is a topic I care deeply about.

Tell me the truth now:

  • Have you ever seen a piece of garbage on a beach or just floating near your kayak?
  • What do you do with your own trash?
  • Do you know how to practice low-impact camping?
  • Do you enjoy Outdoors without altering its natural state?

I remember one day in a Provincial Park here in Quebec. After 2 hours of canoeing on Wapizagonke Lake, we stopped for lunch and then hike on a trail. Quite crowded that day. Quite hot also.

And it happened. Right in front of us a nice medium-size bag full of garbage. On the trail where it should have never been.
And the smell…
Fortunately no bears around…

OK now we all know that’s a problem. So what do we do about it?

First we need to be conscious about it

That’s a start.

Being eco-friendly means to be conscious about our environment wherever we are!

It also means to be aware of our impact on that particular environment.

Coastal ecosystems offer ocean kayakers and canoeists limitless opportunities for discovery.
There is a need to know what kind of impact our activities will have. Before going out in the wilderness start reading guidelines in the Parks you visit and follow all advices.

Yes kids (and sometimes grown ups) are tempted to feed the little squirrels! Not a good idea.

Actually the best advice is to be eco-friendly here at home first, practice and then it becomes like a natural habit to take the same attitude in the wilderness.

Basic strategies to enjoy kayak/canoe touring without stress

Pre-trip planning:

  • Keep your group size small as many areas have maximum group size regulations
  • Check camping regulations or permit requirements
  • Bring whatever is necessary to take care of your garbage
  • Check if the Park has established campsites and if they are available
  • Always try to use existing campsites, trails and portages when possible
  • Be prepared with a back up plan. Never know what can happen-)

While touring (lakes or oceans):

  • Try to select your launching site (or landing site) carefully to avoid damaging intertidal life (especially during low tide). Of course on lakes this is much easier.
  • Usually in Provincial or National Parks bird sanctuaries or mammal habitats are well indicated and must be avoided. If you think you’ve stumbled on one such area but there is no warnings, just paddle away!
  • Bring your binoculars to study wildlife (kids love that!)
  • Take your camera and telephoto lenses (up to 300 mm zoom lenses are best) to photography wildlife
  • DO NOT feed wild animals (otherwise they become dependent on humans for food) and be aware of potential danger with ALL wildlife animals.

Waste disposal:

  • Be prepared to keep all your waste in a garbage bag and carry them until you find a designated area for waste disposal (which are also bear-proofed)
  • The best Strategy is to use products and resources that will generate the minimum amount of waste space. For instance if I want to make pancakes or spaghetti I make my measurements needed and put that in a zip lock bag. No waste, just what is necessary.
  • On one day trip or canoe camping use solid plates and plastic (washable) utensils.
  • For more than 24h trips I use a dry bag to put all our trash, so that it’s strong and easy to tie up. The bag and the food pack then can be hanged in the air at night to avoid bear visits.

Human waste:

  • Yeap… something to talk about
  • The best approach is to time your activities and travel so that you’re able to relieve yourself in proper facilities. Of course in practice it’s much more difficult-)
  • In case of absolute emergency, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep –at least 15 m to any campsite or water source and then make sure to cover it completely once you’re finished
  • Minimize toilet paper use
  • Tampons and sanitary pads must be placed in a plastic bag to take back home or burned in the campfire.

Low-impact camping:

  • To have a minimum impact on the environment it’s always best to use established campsite: they are especially designed with flat terrain and durable surface like sand or gravel to protect fragile areas. Your stay will not cause additional damage.
  • These sites are safe and away from animals trails. Do not cut trees for the sake of making tent poles or shelters
  • Refrain from clearing a new space for a campfire and instead use established fire pits or fire rings where they exist and the wood brought for campers or use dead wood (be aware that repeated searches over small areas destroys the vegetation)
  • If no fire pit then dig to the minimal level of the soil and restrict fire to cooking size (or bring a portable stove)
  • DO NOT lit a fire if forbidden (summer time more specifically)
  • Allow the fire to burn to white ash and douse the fire thoroughly
  • If using coal make sure to burn them completely as their embers are also additional waste or you can dispose of traces of ash by scattering in the ocean or packing it with you. Don’t forget to remove non-combustible items.

So now you know: Low-impact camping = Leave NO trace behind!

Oh… one last thing.

If you show the example, your kids will apply them-) And your neighbors… and your friends…

Posted by
Arthur G. Moore

Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.

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