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10 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Campfire

10 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Campfire

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, the beginning of summer and the start of camping season. And when you think of camping, what image comes to mind? Undoubtedly a campfire is somewhere in the mix. What a cozy, earthy and primal experience it is, smelling and being warmed by burning wood while outdoors. The simple pleasure of a campfire, however, can become a hazardous one for you and cause long-lasting damage to your campsite if some green camping sense isn’t applied.

Here are some campfire tips to keep you safe and minimize your impact on the Earth:

1. Follow the rules. Every state and national park or forest has fire restrictions. Be sure to contact the park ranger’s office to learn about any fire restrictions in place at the time you are camping. Many camps require that you get a campfire permit (often at no charge) to ensure you understand the restrictions and to help them track fires in the park.

2. Location, location, location! Choose a level, open location away from dry grass, bushes or overhanging branches. If one is not already there, build a fire ring out of stones to contain your fire. Pile soil around the edge of your circle. Also avoid starting campfires at the base of steep hills; fire travels uphill quickly. There should be a 10-foot circle around your fire area clear of anything that might easily ignite (your tent and supplies, pine needles, dry grass, etc.).

3. Respect the habitat. Take your time (a 15-minute walk) when gathering wood so as to spread your impact over a larger area. Use only dead and fallen branches that you can break manually (even for those marshmallow roasting sticks). Store all wood well away from the fire and upwind to avoid accidental ignition.

4. Build a campfire to the size you need. Unnecessarily big, roaring fires invite more hazards. Pack enough clothing for cool evenings in order to help stay warm without a giant fire.

5. Don’t burn plastic, metals or woods that have been treated with chemicals in order to avoid air pollution.

6. Never leave fire unattended, not even for a few minutes.

7. Do not leave children or pets near fire alone.

8. Keep a water- or sand-filled bucket nearby in case of emergency.

9. At least half an hour before leaving your campsite, make sure your fire is completely out. After the fire has died down, pour water over the ashes and then smother the ashes with dirt. Mix the ashes, water and dirt until all of the embers have died. Be sure to soak the ring of stones as well to make sure you get hidden embers.

10. Redistribute any unused wood to leave the area closer to how you found it.

Read more: Nature, Outdoor Activities

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Terri Hall

Terri Hall lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. In addition to writing, Terri works with public television and radio stations/networks in the area of new media, and leads workshops on authentic and empowered living.


+ add your own
1:32PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

figure out how to avoid having a fire for a couple of meals - makes life much easier!

7:50PM PDT on May 22, 2012


9:23AM PDT on May 21, 2012

Great tips Terri, thanks and I hope everyone who is planning to have campfire follows them.

10:08AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Purchase fuel locally and leave behind any unused wood so you don't transport unwanted insects, like the emerald ash borer.

The firewood I've seen for sale at state parks appears to be a byproduct of the lumber industry, so using it for campfires keeps it out of landfills.

8:00AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Not very eco-friendly!

3:50AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

With the big fires raging in Arizona and New Mexico, these tips are lifesavers. Please observe fire bans when in effect.

11:40AM PDT on Jun 9, 2010

Thanks for the tips.

7:47PM PDT on May 29, 2010

Thanks for the tips, Terri.

3:06PM PDT on May 29, 2010

Lots of great ideas!

10:29AM PDT on Jun 19, 2009

mega kabin

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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