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Sustainability for Camping Cleaning Trash with StayFree

Free Camping Rocket Growth: Let’s Keep the Spots Better for Those Who Come after Us

We all know how amazing camping can be, right? It is essential for many of us that our kids will be lucky to have first-hand experience of living this phenomenon too. Let’s be brave enough and lead the pack in sustainability – show other members of camper-lovers how to cherish our Mother nature… and maybe, your inner competitiveness will be satisfied too. Why? Let’s get more info here. 

Camping as a growing phenomenon

Many of us who found love in the van life and traveling, can recognize the accelerating phenomenon of camping. No wonder, its beauty and benefits are known to many of us. Some of the relatively new benefits are that it’s possible and more comfortable to maintain social distancing with this type of holiday or lifestyle.

Many people who are about to start camping are choosing their first vehicle. Some of them are not sure about some features so they just go and rent their first caravan, for example with on-line rental platfrom Campiri. Afterwards, many of the already advanced campers buy a caravan trailer or even try to make their own DIY conversion. 

Those living “on the wheels” or those only enjoying the benefits of occasional camping holidays – everybody should follow the local rules for camping, that is no news. With a growing phenomenon we see, it is crucial to also follow several non-written rules. What are those and why should everybody do it?

A Thank you to the Mother nature

As the Camperguru co-founder, who has been traveling with his family for over 9 years, said, “I see more and more young families and couples joining not just vanlife, but the nomad movement where you work and travel at the same time. It’s the slow travel approach that helps to stay in harmony.” With the huge wave of newly joined people, our environment is something we have to protect even more than now. 

Many camper-lovers believe that the right behavior is simple. One of them, Petr Ocasek, shares his tips:

1. “If there are locals nearby, use your smile and double check they think it's okay you will stay there. You may even get a recommendation for a better spot or warning that it's not a good idea for any reason. Consider offering a small present if you will have a feeling it's a good idea. Once we shared home-made no-sugar ice cream, had been invited to sit inside and we were having friendly conversation after then.”

2. “Leave the place in a better shape than it was when you arrived. It's not just important for sustainability, but it's also good for your karma. Finally, if you will make a photo evidence (before/after) it helps in case you will have problems with locals or police later.”

Another avid member of the camper-family is Tereza Rychtarik, who shares a great deal about their travels on their Instagram profile and builds campers with compostable toilet with her husband. She agrees that nature is our home during travels and we have to protect this home of ours.

“It offers us dozens of beautiful spots and unforgettable times. Being happy for this opportunity, it is our duty to leave our camping spots in at least the same condition as we found them, and if there is any trash left, even if it’s not ours, to clean it up. Now is the moment when a new era of vanlife is beginning. What it will look like, is only in our hands.” She adds that they clean up the place when they arrive and when leaving which means a little “Thank you” not only to nature but also to the locals.

Gaia Campers — van conversion in VW Crafter

Everybody who decides for this lifestyle should say a huge Thank you to Mother nature too – by treating the environment nicely, protecting it and keeping the place of stay clean all the time. And leave the place even cleaner than it was before. With more mindful people joining the nomad community, this has become a new non-written goal for many of them. 

And should be spread even more. How?

Be an example with StayFree App

There are plenty available smart apps for campers. Specifically, in one of these – in StayFree App – you can join the challenge of keeping the camping environment clean. They are pretty innovative in this. First they implemented a feature of private locations, and sharing only between friends. Then the team, being also vanlifers themselves by the way, introduced the Cleanup Challenge via the app. And we think that is the right way to help us all be more educated, mindful and wise when travelling.

Anna Bardadyn from StayFree says: “While traveling around Europe and visiting wild places, we saw the problem of rubbish left in places of nature, littering forests and lakes. That is why we have added the ‘cleanup' feature to our vanlife application. This means that our users can not only find fantastic places to sleep, but in this way, we also want to motivate all van travelers to take care of nature all around the world.”

Last year users of StayFree cleaned up nearly 200 wild spots. Such a challenge is motivating, so this app decided to add a ranking of the most active users. In the ‘Top users' section, you can see the users who have done the most cleanups in the last 30 days. Who does not like competing? 

Anna also adds: “Leaving the spots in better condition than we found them is especially important when the vanlife trend is rising so fast. We want to support our community and prevent wild spots from closing. To do this we need to prove that we take care of these places. To prevent overcrowding in the wild camping places, share them in StayFree only with your friends. You decide who the places are visible to.”

How to join the StayFree challenge to better surroundings? 

  • Take a picture of the place you are visiting, 
  • collect some garbage in a few minutes, 
  • take another picture – of the collected garbage and the better view of the place of stay,
  • afterwards, upload it into the app,
  • let us all motivate each other.
  • Easy peasy, isn’t it?
Sustainability StayFree
Sustainability in StayFree app

There are also other organisations stepping in the field – such as and many more are surely to come. The choice is up to you.

Testimonials from the amazing App users

Sustainability has become a standard for many campers and we are so grateful for that. For example Marc, the StayFree App user, who has been traveling for many years across Europe with his car named Rusty, confirms that vanlife means freedom for him but also a responsibility to keep the surrounding nice and clean. That is a common “rule” of most StayFree App users so he is not afraid to share the new spot tips to others – because he knows that these environmentally-friendly folks will behave the same way. 

Saarpfaelzer — 48 Locations and 8 Cleanups

Sustainability StayFree
Sustainability in StayFree app

We at Camperguru would like to support activities and approaches like this. And so we have interviewed a good guy and also a StayFree user nicknamed Saarpfaelzer about his motivation to make camping more sustainable and positive for others. Just to mention, this incredible person added almost 50 amazing and worth visiting places and also cleaned many of them. Get inspired a bit more with this interview.

Camperguru: How long have you been traveling by van?

Saarpfaelzer (SF): My wife and I have been traveling by van since the beginning of 2020 – so we bought it just in time before the Corona crisis started. Now we are in our van as often and as long as possible – not only for longer vacations but often just for a few days. Being able to travel spontaneously without much preparation is one of the main arguments in favor of vanlife.

What are the most beautiful moments of vanlife for you?

SF: The most beautiful moments are when after a fulfilling, eventful day of sightseeing, hiking or biking, we can return to a nice spot, tired but happy. And then, after a delicious dinner (ideally with good wine and some view), we fall asleep.

What do you think about the cleanup function? Does it happen often that you park in the wild spots where you find rubbish left by other people?

SF: For me, the cleanup function was THE sign that I was at the right place – in a responsible community with the approach of “a greenvanlife”. I have also been involved in rubbish collection campaigns for many years e.g. in the Saar Disposal Association: “Saarland picobello”. Unfortunately, we often find the garbage left on the wild spots –  we take care of it then, so we may leave the spot cleaner than we found it.

Sustainability StayFree
Sustainability in StayFree app

What do you like about StayFree and why do you use this app?

SF: It is the sustainable and responsible approach – the #greenvanlife – and the fact that the community respects it. I hope that the community will either stay small  (mass is not sustainably very possible) or that mainly new responsible users will join. You can't do a mind test but you should be a good example and create a nice environment for all of us.

It is clear to me that free camping starts to be the hype and with increasing numbers of camper registrations and a decreasing sense of responsibility, unfortunately it will not necessarily work the best.  Being respectful and conscious about that, I am also open to paid offers of small but fine camping spots – we use such places already on our journeys.

Camperguru: That is simply amazing. Thank you for inspiring us to reach higher targets and simply be a better person, be beneficial for campers and locals alike.

Go ahead and try StayFree yourself →

All countries are fighting their own way

As the camping phenomenon grows and spreads very quickly, European countries feel the urgent need to take care of the problem connected to keeping the places clean. They focus on maintaining sustainability, some of them in an easy way, some are a bit more strict. Let’s see how:

  • Portugal – since the newly implemented law in Jan, 2021, they fine anybody sleeping in their car, not just wild places.
  • Croatia – same strict, fining anybody sleeping outside of places chosen for camping.
  • United Kingdom – wild camping is basically forbidden in most parts of the UK: it is completely prohibited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland improves the reputation by allowing wild camping in most areas.
  • Scandinavia – freedom. You can park just a few km from the closest property.
  • Balkan – freedom too. In the conditions for campers it is relatively good and better than for example much–visited Poland.
  • Lituania, Latvia and Estonia – paradise for wild campers with all the local rules and conditions.

And superheroes amongst European countries?

Definitely France with their building locations in many towns and villages, Spain with many camping locations, available gas stations, municipal lots and many other services and Germany. It offers a satisfying network of free or reasonably priced overnight spots near main attractions.

Let’s sum the whole idea up – Sustainability needs to become the standard in Europe. If everybody makes a small step to better sustainability, we will keep the camping places in the best condition not only for us but also for our next generations. And we all know how much they would have missed if we ruined this possibility. 

What you can do to make our planet better for our kids

It’s not only about cleaning the spot you are currently at. It is about doing more helpful activities. Think of something you can add to your everyday life and teach your kids how to be a better person. Do it for you, for your kids, for our planet. There is a list of suggested ideas you can own too: 

  • Change your mindset by small positive steps.
  • If you get something for free, you should give back.
  • Don’t take things for granted.
  • Be grateful for every possibility you have or are offered.
  • If you found a great spot, share that place with people with the same mindset and let them enjoy the peace and quiet coming from the location, always make it ready for the next campers.
  • Always make sure you leave the place in better condition than you found it.
  • Invest your time – that is very often more than your money.
  • Think of investment your time into cleaning – remember, you saved money for accomodation .

Be smart, be brave, use smart apps (starting with StayFree App) and lead the pack. Nature is home to all of us, not only when we are on the way. Let’s take a small step each time and maybe, we can keep this beautiful Earth for our children and their children and theirs too as it is.

Don't forget to get inspired with many articles about campers and this adventurous lifestyle:

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