Eco-Friendly Camping Destinations and Tips

Sun shining over a like with a rocky shore

Eco-friendly camping, sometimes called zero waste camping or sustainable camping, is an effort to lessen your environmental impact when staying in the outdoors. This can include where you choose to camp, what you bring with you and what activities you do while camping. Every campground and RV park is different in how they approach eco-camping. Some places have added more green spaces to their grounds, some use solar power and other renewable energy sources, and others offer recycling and clean up programs.

It’s no surprise that camping and RVing have seen a huge influx, and campgrounds are starting to make more sustainable and environmentally-friendly changes to help address this wave of new visitors. The hope is that by adopting more sustainable practices now, future campers and RVers will be able to enjoy these green spaces for years to come.

A woman picking up a plastic straw outside

If you’re interested in staying at an eco-friendly campground or park, we’ve included a list of places that are really taking the lead in this space. We’ve also included some simple steps to help lessen your environmental impact regardless of when and where you choose camp.

Eco-Friendly Campgrounds

  1. Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve

    This 190-acre park in Santee, California, was not only awarded the 2021 Large Park of the Year by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) but it also won the Plan-It Green award. This award honors campgrounds and parks that have implemented a multitude of eco-friendly initiatives, including landscaping practices, recycled water systems and on-site composting. Santee Lakes has 300 full hook-up sites, many of which are powered entirely by solar. The preserve also has a robust water recycling system and a plethora of water efficient trees.

  2. Shelby / Mansfield KOA Resort

    Located in the heart of Ohio, Shelby Mansfield is one of the many locations that is now part of KOA’s Kamp Green program. This program, which first began in 2010, encourages individual KOA campground owners to adopt practices that will minimize the campground’s impact on the environment. At the Shelby  / Mansfield KOA Resort, some of these practices include more efficient water systems, farm-to-table produce and ingredients at the camp store, and mandated catch and release fishing on the property.

  3. Carlsbad KOA Holiday

    At this particular campground, you’ll find a wind turbine that powers the campground’s offices, restaurants and bathrooms. Additionally, the swimming pool uses a passive solar heater and there are LED lights all throughout the grounds.

  4. Cape Hatteras / Outer Banks KOA Resort

    After Hurricane Irene, the owners of this campground took a lot of steps to become more eco-friendly. Not only have they banned using and selling any plastics (including water bottles), but they’ve also added solar heating to the main building, which provides hot water to the entire building, laundry facilities and on-site cafe.

Eco-Friendly Parks

  1. Gulf State Park

    This state park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, has become a leader in sustainable tourism and eco-friendly camping. Throughout its 9,000 acres and nine different ecosystems, visitors will find sustainability-sourced wooden bike paths and free bike rentals. All lighted pathways along the beach utilize low-light, orange bulbs to help protect nesting sea turtles. There are nearly 500 campsites at Gulf State Park, all of which have full hook-ups. There are showers and bath houses scattered through the campsites, many of which utilize recycled rainwater. You can also dine at their on-site restaurant, Woodside, which features locally sourced, farm-to-table ingredients.

  2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    One of America’s most popular national parks is also one its most eco-friendly. This particular park has an elaborate recycling center that provides 70 percent reclamation, meaning that 70 percent of the solid waste collected within the park is recycled at the on-site center. The plethora of frontcountry campgrounds is an excellent way to enjoy the park and keep your stay sustainable. Cades Cove and Smokemont campgrounds are open year round, and offer running water and flush toilets. Cades Cove Loop also closes its roads to vehicles during the summer so cyclists and pedestrians can freely enjoy the space.

    Smoky Mountains at sunset

Other Eco-Friendly Camping Destinations

  1. Moonpie Farm and Creamery

    This adorable farm in Cottondale, Florida, is part of the Harvest Hosts campground network. At Moonpie Farm, not only can you park your RV right in the middle of the property but you can also help with various farm chores. Harvest Hosts locations place an emphasis on conservation, and this place is no exception. You’ll conserve resources by boondocking here and you can help support a local, sustainable farm.

Eco-Friendly Camping Tips

While many campgrounds and RV parks are making great strides to help conserve resources and build healthier, greener spaces, we can all do our part to make camping and RVing more eco-friendly. Here are a few ideas:

As you’re planning your next RV camping trip, think about staying at destinations that are making a difference and being more mindful with the services and amenities that they provide. Every little bit helps, and our planet will thank you for it in the long-run.

Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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