Alaska’s raw natural beauty is the reason many people are drawn to this state. Its pristine tundra, forests, rivers and glaciers are a source of awe and pride for those of us who live here, and we’re trying to do our part to keep it that way.
We take our commitment to environmental responsibility seriously. This year we were certified by the Adventure Green Alaska program, a voluntary program that is dedicated to promoting and sustaining environmentally and socially responsible travel and tourism. We have also been supporters and partners in the Tour Green program, run by the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, since we opened, dedicating your donations and our match to supporting clean energy advocacy and education in Alaska. Below are a few ways you can help us in that mission while you’re out on your camping trip.
Be Responsible with Waste
Being responsible with your waste means properly disposing of trash and food scraps in a bear-proof receptacle, or packing them out with you until you find the right facilities—and that includes things that are biodegradable. It also means dumping your gray water in a designated location. Not only does this make for a more pleasant experience for yourself and your fellow campers, it also has the added benefit of not attracting wildlife, like bears, to your camp. When bears discover human food, they could become dependent on it, and that’s bad news for both people and bears. Learn more about camping safely around bears. Check the handbook in your van for a list of places to empty your gray water in Anchorage.
Be a good steward while you’re out on a hike, and pick up the trash you see along the trail. You didn’t leave it there, but you can leave the area better than you found it.
Recycle. Here in Alaska, we can recycle glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, and type 1 and 2 plastic bottles. If there are no facilities where you are, bring it back to the office when you drop off your van and we’ll add it to our recycling bin.
Avoid creating garbage in the first place. Don’t buy drinks in single-use plastic bottles; bring a reusable water bottle and refill it. If you buy extra drinking water, buy large jugs so you’re not discarding a bottle each time you take a drink. The water in your van’s water tank is also safe to drink, so you’ve always got a 9-gallon water source available. You’ve also got a kitchen full of dishes, including plates, bowls, cups and utensils, so buying the single-use versions is needlessly wasteful, and it’s also spending money you don’t need to spend!
Pay it forward. In our office, you’ll find a “free shelf” with items that previous renters didn’t use or couldn’t take home. When you pick up your van, do a little shopping on the shelf for things like cooking oils, spices, canned and packaged foods, foil, and bug spray, and avoid having to buy a brand new package. Then when you return, you can leave behind the things you didn’t use for the next renters. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Rent your gear instead of buying it. We offer camp chairs, kettles, french presses, blankets, and lots more. For backpacking or technical gear, try Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental or REI. Rent, use and return, and then someone else can use it, too. You’ve saved the emissions and waste of manufacturing, packaging and shipping, plus reducing waste that’ll end up in a landfill. If you can’t find it for rent, see if it’s available secondhand, and then when you’ve finished with it, re-donate it, and create a chain of environmentally and socially friendly consumption. (Also, check the free shelf—sometimes gear ends up there too!)
Buy local. Anchorage has an abundance of Farmer’s Markets in the summertime, and so do plenty of other towns in Alaska, especially those in the farm belt of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. You can even find locally grown and processed meats at local butchers like Mat Valley Meats, and sustainably harvested seafoods at many of the farmer’s markets. At supermarkets, look for the Alaska Grown tag for veggies grown in-state.
When you’re looking for that keepsake to remember your trip, look for the Silver Hand or the Made in Alaska symbols. The Silver Hand denotes original art made in Alaska by an Alaska Native artist. The Made in Alaska bear symbol is attached to products made or handcrafted in the state. Help keep our local artists and businesses thriving!
Donate! When you make your van reservation, you can choose to add a donation to the Tour Green program. Just $2 a reservation adds up over the course of a summer, and we match it at the end of the year (and you can always choose to donate more!). There are also many worthy outdoor and social organizations that would love you to be a part of their mission, including the National Park and National Forest Foundations (it is National Park Week, after all!), plus more local organizations.
Minimize Your Footprint
Camp in a campground. Despite what the #vanlife Instagrammers would have you believe, you can’t really pull over and camp just anywhere. You need to consider things like how close to a water source you are, whether you’re on public or private land, and what kind of an impact you’ll be making on the ecosystem. Camping in a campground has the least impact, because you’re staying somewhere that’s designed to handle vehicles and human traffic. If you’re boondocking, staying in a site that’s been used before is better than blazing your own trail. You won’t be impacting fragile plant life or animal corridors unwittingly. More on finding boondocking sites here.
Be a responsible wildlife viewer. Keep a safe distance from wildlife, and patronize businesses that advocate ethical wildlife viewing. Use a zoom lens instead of trying to get close to animals, and give nesting and denning areas a wide berth, to avoid disturbing eggs or young and risk their isolation. Don’t attempt to “save” animals that appear orphaned or sick; instead, call an expert who can assess the situation and be sure the animal is actually in distress, like Alaska Fish and Game, or the Alaska Sea Life Center’s stranding network.
Do it for the ‘gram. Responsibly, of course. Don’t post pictures of irresponsible behavior on social media, but instead post pictures of the ways you’re taking care of nature, with wildlife at a safe distance, trash properly disposed, and locally grown vegetables on your table.
Become a Junior Ranger. These programs involve kids in learning about the ecosystems in and around our various national parks and forests. Kids can find activity books at most visitors centers and online, and can collect stamps and badges. Visitors centers often host guided nature walks and activity sessions for junior rangers of all ages. Look up what’s happening at the parks and forests you plan to visit, and get your kids involved in the outdoors.
Most importantly, get outside! Being outdoors is good for you, and despite the ways we can be destructive, humans who appreciate nature are a force for good! Try volunteering—join us for the Anchorage Citywide Cleanup in May, or do some trail work with Alaska Trails. But most of all, go camping and be a good steward while you’re out there.
Learn more about our commitment to sustainability and being good stewards of this place we call home. These are just a few small things we can do, but if we all make an effort to do them whenever we’re outdoors, we’ll make a positive impact.
Ready to make your positive impact? Book now!