Nature Camp has always defined itself as a camp that emphasizes conservation. Although we seek to fulfill our mission to inspire environmental awareness and responsible citizenship by cultivating an interest in nature rather than preaching rhetoric of environmental destruction, we also recognize the importance of engaging in practices which are consistent with this mission and which limit our consumption of natural resources and minimize our impact on the earth.
- Recycling—We recycle glass and plastic bottles, aluminum and steel cans, cardboard, and mixed paper. Recycling bins are conveniently located around camp, and campers gather recyclable materials every evening and consolidate them in large containers behind the kitchen. Several times a session these materials are transported to a local recycling center.
- Recycled paper products—Nature Camp also uses napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue and office paper made from recycled paper with as high a post-consumer waste content as possible (80-100%). This means that the paper is made from material that has already been used at least once, rather than made simply from scrap wood and pulp discarded from the process of making virgin paper. Recycled paper uses less water to produce, reduces water and air pollution, and conserves forests. In addition we use paper napkins and towels made from paper that is unbleached or bleached with hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine, which allows this paper to be composted. Chlorine bleaching produces dioxin, a dangerous carcinogen.
- Composting—Since the late 1990s Nature Camp has composted food scraps (excluding meat and dairy products) from the kitchen. In 2005 we expanded our composting efforts to include appropriate foods left over after meals. This food waste is combined daily with leaves or wood chips to create the proper balance between materials high in carbon and those high in nitrogen, to promote decomposition, and to minimize odors. The compost that is generated is then used to enrich garden beds in which produce for the Nature Camp kitchen is grown, thus completing the cycle of production, waste, composting, and fertilization.
- Energy-efficient light bulbs—Most buildings at Nature Camp are equipped with light fixtures that use compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs produce similarly bright light but consume two-thirds less energy than and last up to ten times as long as equivalent incandescent bulbs. If every American home replaced one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, the reduction in pollution would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. External floodlights use even more efficient LED bulbs and are equipped with motion-detector sensors so that they do not have to remain on all night.
- Water conservation—Although a deep well provides an adequate supply of water, campers are encouraged to conserve water by limiting the duration of showers and turning off the water while lathering and while brushing teeth. Showers are equipped with low-flow heads, and modern toilets use relatively little water per flush. A rain barrel supplies water for the garden.
- Support of local and organic food producers and suppliers—In recent years we have begun to purchase a significant fraction of food for the kitchen from local farmers and other suppliers. These producers generally employ land use practices that work in harmony with nature; conserve topsoil, water, and heirloom varieties of plants; rely on natural rather than synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; and eschew genetically modified organisms. Click here for more information about some of these local food sources. We also have a small garden in which we grow our own tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, greens, and herbs.
At the beginning and end of each session, campers recite the Conservation Pledge which hangs above the mantel in the Lillian Schilling Building. This pledge was written by writer Ben East after a meeting of conservationists in 1937 that led to the formation of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Widely adopted by scores of other organizations, the Conservation Pledge reads
I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country: its air, soil and minerals, its forests, waters and wildlife.