Most summer camps have eco-friendly attributes, such as kids playing outside, lots of active sports and exercise, nature-minded activities and recycling programs. However, some summer camps go above and beyond the basics in order to make sure kids spend the summer becoming better protectors of the planet. Keep reading to learn about some awesome summer camps that focus on sustainability, conservation and green-minded activities -- and learn how to locate a green summer camp in your neck of the woods.
Image courtesy of Community Cycling Center ©Ben Latterell
Portland won best bicycling community in America, in 2012, and with good reason. Portland is the only large city to earn Platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists and they’ve got 180+ miles of bike lanes, 79 miles of off-street bike paths, plus bike boxes, bike parking, bike rentals, and bike repair shops on nearly every corner. The Community Cycling Center would like to see even more bikers in Portland, hence their biking summer camp. Youth enrolled in bike camp ride all over the city, cruising neighborhoods and parks in the summer sun. Camps focus on issues such a riding safely, crossing intersections, reading maps, and troubleshooting common bike mechanical problems. There’s also a heavy emphasis on how bikes can improve the health, environmental stewardship and enhanced livability of a community. Biking is something everyone can do in order to conserve fuel and energy while decreasing toxic batteries, motor oil and auto air pollution — and kids enrolled in a bike camp learn these eco-lessons early on. Bike camp is available for all kids, grades 1st through 12th.
Image Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp courtesy Cornell Cooperative Extension
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County offers a number of environmentally minded summer camps for kids from 12 months of age through 12th grade. These camps focus on 4-H, marine sciences including hands-on time with marine life, growing food, making art with plants and found objects, music, trekking, chick incubation, career exploration, skill building, environmental science classes and much more. Programs include day camps at the beach to overnight camp and more.
Image courtesy IslandWood
IslandWood is a world of green, complete with 255 acres of forest and wetlands located in the heart of Bainbridge Island, Washington. The summer camp offerings are very eco-minded and extensive, with programs to please every type of kid. IslandWood offers Nature Day Camps, for children from 4 years old through 6th grade with topics ranging from chemistry to archaeology to woodland wizardry. Other camps feature nature exploration and scientific investigation with cool skill building for kids such as how to use binoculars, collect bugs from the ponds, create nature art projects and learning how to safely hike the trails.
Image courtesy Eco E © Béa Tiritilli
Kiddos participating in the ecology/environmental-science camp get to learn conservation fundamentals as they explore habitat of the Santiago Park Nature Reserve on the Santa Ana-Orange border. Other cool camp experiences include visiting environmental-science experts from the nonprofit Green Being Project, examination of microscopic organisms, conservation importance (energy, water, resources), ways to avoid pollution while protecting wildlife, nature- and ecology-themed games and crafts, hiking and much more.
Image courtesy Gwynn Valley
- Recycling paper, plastic, glass, and metal for 10 years
- High efficiency lighting is used in over half the cabins – run from batteries for over 10 years
- Water-saver shower heads that use only 2 gallons per minute plus water saver toilets in most of the cabins and bathrooms.
- Compact fluorescent lights throughout the camp.
- The camp grows 70% of their own food
- 70% of the camp’s hot water is heated with wood that is down or dead on the property.
- Composting all food waste.
- Their mill is powered with water that also churns their ice cream freezers.
Image courtesy Shutterstock
Finding an Eco-Summer Camp Near You
Now, of course not everyone lives by one of the cool camps featured above. A good rule of thumb is to start your search locally, by contacting your local parks and recreation association to learn about summer camps in your area. You can also check out the following links for advice and ideas about locating a more sustainable camp in your neck of the woods.
- Eco-Camps for Kids – an excellent eco-camp round-up.
- The American Camping Association has a search feature that allows you to look for camps with specific attributes, so you can narrow down to greener choices.
- My Summer Camps offers a specific search: Environmental Summer Camps for Kids & Teens that should help you out.
- A list of summer environmental camps for kids and teens in the U.S. and Canada as well as overseas.