Green Friday - be sanitation savvy

Posted by Tina Gardner on 17/07/2009

This week, in the second instalment of our Green Friday series, we look at how we can minimise our impact when 'going' outside.

There is a reluctance to talk about what is one of our most natural functions! And yet by not thinking carefully about this we can endanger human health and potentially poison the mountain environment. Never forgo an opportunity to use a proper toilet. If this is not possible, remember some simple guidelines:

Protect fresh water
A mountain stream is often seen as the epitome of purity – so don’t pollute it. Streams are a vital source of fresh water for hill farmers and for campers. It will also be a home to, or a water source for, wildlife.

  • Ensure you are at least 30 metres away from running water when you defecate.
  • When camping, defecate and urinate downhill from your campsite; collect drinking water from above your camp.

Leave no trace
It can be an unpleasant and unnecessary souvenir to encounter human waste on a path or close to a crag.

  • Be considerate of others and defecate at least 50 metres from paths and 200 metres from huts and crags.
  • Carry a lightweight trowel and when digging, carefully cut out and replace the top turf.
  • Dig a hole 15 cm (6”) deep to bury your excrement. If this is not possible, keep well away from paths and spread the excrement thinly to increase the rate of its decomposition (squashing it under a boulder will slow decomposition). On especially sensitive high plateaux, excrement should be carried down to less sensitive locations for burial, or even better, carried out.
  • The smell from urine and excrement is unpleasant. Avoid doing either in enclosed spaces (caves, ruined buildings etc), at the foot of crags or behind huts.
  • Consider using a ‘pee bottle’.
  • In snow, dig down into the soil. Give a thought to the consequences when the snow melts!

‘Accessories’
Toilet paper and female sanitary towels are slow to decompose and may be dug up by animals.

  • Carry it out if possible. Come prepared with plastic bags – dog poo bags are ideal for the purpose.
  • Tampons and sanitary towels should be carried out – plastic screw-top containers are convenient.

A worthwile read is the MCofS guide to Where to "Go" in the Great Outdoors

That's all for now, tune in next week for another Green Friday!

Until then, other sources of useful documents include the BMC and Climate Change and the BMC Green Guide to the Uplands
 



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