Choosing an ecologically sound site in the UK has been a veritable minefield, but significant measures have been introduced in recent years. Local authorities aim to protect the environment through local planning regulations, ensuring that caravan sites don't visually blight the environment.
The small CL-type campsites were initially a good bet, being little more than a small field, a tap, and a lot of open air. For camping at its simplest, this was, and usually still is, a good option when looking for a campsite with a 'green' heart. But as some campsites have become bigger and boast ever more impressive facilities (think water parks, spas and restaurants), these credentials can become harder to maintain, with greater consumption of natural resources, increased risk of pollution, and more challenging commercial decisions to be taken.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club undertakes an ambitious rolling programme of biodiversity audits, followed by positive action, and runs various 'green' activities. Some of its sites are even located on SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest).
The Camping and Caravanning Club also promotes 'green' caravanning. Many of its sites have introduced eco-friendly materials, increased energy efficiency, recycling, and honeycomb grid hardstanding that allows the grass to grow and rain to disperse.
The David Bellamy Conservation Awards
These have achieved widespread recognition in the UK and the brainchild of prominent environmentalist David Bellamy. The accreditation process involves evaluation by Conservation Foundation assessors and local environmental experts.
The scheme covers energy efficiency, energy generation, 'green' energy purchase, light pollution, reduction of waste and water conservation, use of local contractors and materials (e.g. low toxicity paints, unbleached paper for brochures and long-life light bulbs) and eco-friendly purchasing policies.
Participating parks are actively involved in various schemes of environmental significance. These have included glowworm surveys, a national ladybird audit, a breeding scheme for harvest mice, brown trout breeding, and schemes to encourage butterflies – to name but a few.
10 Quick Tips to be a Greener Camper
- Retain heat by adding sheet polystyrene under seats and using polystyrene wall-lining in cupboards and wardrobes.
- Turn off electrical equipment and lights when not needed, and fit low-energy bulbs where possible.
- Use the hot water from boiling your egg to do the washing-up.
- Remember that it takes less water to wash dishes in the van than it does in the deeper on-site sinks.
- Invest in a wind-up or solar-powered radio.
- Choose formaldehyde-free toilet fluids, such as Thetford's Aqua Kem Green, or even invest in a compost toilet (take a look at Kildwick Loos)
- Recycle your plastic bags and opt for biodegradable cleaning products. Egg cartons, Jeyes cloths, newspapers and card food containers can be added to the compost heap back home.
- Use charcoal recommended by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) for barbecues because it comes from renewable sources.
- Keep separate waste bags for metal, glass and paper. Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, and if all aluminium cans in the UK were recycled, there would be 12 million fewer full dustbins every year.
- Leave the car behind, and get more out of your holiday by walking, cycling, or using public transport for short journeys.
'Green' camping on the continent
Similarly, the Clef Verte scheme in France is France's principal campsite environmental scheme and encourages site owners to adopt an environmentally sound approach to running their campsite.
It takes account of key elements:
- Landscape and overall quality of life (traffic management, availability of open spaces, control of noise pollution etc.)
- Environmental management (environmentally friendly management methods, e.g. wash block maintenance).
- Waste management (general waste reduction, waste collection for recycling).
- Water management (water treatment, irrigation methods, reduction in water usage)
- Energy management (reduction in energy usage, energy-saving devices etc.)
- Environmental education (information about the Green Key scheme, staff training, and awareness about local fauna and flora).
Some environmentally aware campsite owners have introduced various eco-initiatives: solar panels, house-waste sorting, water-saving and more. Camping International du Lac (FR70020) has for more than 20 years produced hot water thanks to solar panels, as has Camping 't Veerse Meer (NL6920) and Feddet Strand Camping (DK2255).
Environmental awareness is no different from the traditional way of living. Many campsites now cultivate their kitchen garden or use local produce in their restaurants. Others aim to preserve and educate: Camping La Serre in the Pyrenees offers guided tours of the grounds, discovering local fauna and flora of the neighbouring nature reserve. La Fôret (FR85360) is committed to caring for its environment, particularly the on-site vegetation (at least 50 different species of plants).
Some campsites manage to combine both technical eco-initiatives with more intangible environmental measures. Campsites are found in forest settings, such as Huttopia Rambouillet (FR78040) or Huttopia Rillé (FR37140), near the chateaux of the Loire Valley. Huttopia is one of the most active campsite groups in France, blending in with nature and offering a range of rental accommodation from Canadian-style cabins to fully equipped frontier tents. Amenities are excellent, but the natural unspoilt ambience is rigorously protected. The swimming pools are 100% ecological, with a natural ecosystem as a filter and no chemical products.
Over the past 30 years, a new type of tourism has grown enormously throughout Italy, Agritourism or Agriturismo as it is known in Italy.
These holidays are orientated around having a rural experience you share with the family who owns the farm or Agritourism on which you are staying. Generally, these properties are based around vineyards or orchards, and you can enjoy the fruits of the farm. In many cases, your meals are prepared in traditional settings and dishes by the family itself.
Agritourism is an excellent alternative to the traditional types of accommodation. It allows you to stay on campsites or in working farmhouses, often buying the farm produce on your doorstep. Facilities are not necessarily 'basic' and may well include swimming pools.
From an environmental perspective, the accommodation is 'low impact', the food miles are low, and it is thoroughly sustainable tourism in terms of supporting local communities.
Agricamp Picobello (IT65260)
Camping Agriturismo Costiolou (IT69670)
Camping Alba-Agricampeggio (IT60570)
La Valle Agricampeggio (IT66081)
What are we doing to make a difference?
We’ve introduced a program of eco-friendly initiatives designed to reduce the environmental impacts of both staff and customers. LOVEGreen is our sustainability and environmental initiative aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of our team and office. It covers things like who we work with and how we operate internally as well as how we communicate with our customers.
The steps we take may be small, but each and every one counts towards a greener and healthier future.
Find out more about what we're doing in the office, what the organisations we work with are doing and our dedicated Green Team...