Plastic Free Camps

jackie, October 14, 2019

Plastic Free Camps 

By Kathleen Brewster


As a child, I attended faith based summer camps every year and as a young adult I’ve been a volunteer at them! As a kid they were a highlight of my summer and a way to connect more closely with my faith and other like minded individuals. Now as a college student, I’ve noticed the waste (plastics, food, trash, etc) that these camps generate each summer. 


I was shocked by the amount of plastics that go to waste EACH week! From plastic water bottles, plastic plates, plastic forks, plastic cups, plastic decorations, plastic snack bags, etc it felt like the plastic was endless. 


A five day summer camp with 50 kids compiled up to 326,400,000 pieces of trash ending up in landfills with much of it not even being able to be recycled in Fairfax County. 

To me, that is insane since we are only one church and one week of the summer. Millions of people attend faith based summer camps all around the world. And truly, most week long camps, faith based or not, are generating lots of plastic waste. From sports camps to sleepaway camps we must create solutions to the generation of plastic waste. But how can we fix this?


I’ve compiled some tips to reduce plastic waste at faith based camp. I’ve also created a guide about how to have a waste free faith based camp that can be adapted to non faith based camps. You can view it here. Here are some quick tips that can help you cut down on waste in camps that you might not even realize. 


1.) Encourage kids to bring reusable water bottles and use water fountains instead of single serve water bottles. If you must use plastic water bottles have kids write their names on them so they can use the same bottle throughout the week and fill it up in at a sink.

2.) Buy Large quantities of snacks. It’s cheaper to buy in bulk and reduces waste from the packaging. Such as buy a box of Goldfish instead of individual packages. 

3.) Use reusable plates that can accommodate many different snacks and try to focus on finger foods instead of things that require silverware. 

4.) If you have decorations for the camp save them for next year or try loaning them to another

place of worship. You could also try and swap decorations. 

5.) Teach the next generation recycling skills. Faith based camps are a great way to teach a variety of topics in a fun way.


The path to creating a positive and ethical change doesn’t have to be a sprint, it can be a walk or a stroll, all that matters is that you keep moving forward. Incorporating one or two actions still makes a huge difference and can inspire others to make similar changes!