How to Minimize Your Sound Impact in Nature
Many people who love to camp have a deep respect and love for the outdoors. It’s great to spend some time out in nature and detach from the busy world. Because this natural escape is so rewarding, it’s only fair that we all do our part to minimize our impact on nature when we camp. Things like picking up trash and lighting fires safely should be second nature, but one area of camping that’s often overlooked is noise pollution.
Humans (whether we like it or not) leave an impact everywhere we go. Sometimes these consequences are easy to see, but sometimes they’re more nebulous. Noise and light pollution are two types of impacts that can cause bigger problems than you might think. These effects are not as obvious as contaminated water or smoky air, but they can still have major impacts on the surrounding wildlife.
What is noise pollution?
Noise pollution occurs when an area is exposed to regular loud sounds that affect the nearby animals and people. If there is a certain level of man-made background noise, we would consider that to be noise pollution. This comes in varying levels of severity and this type of pollution is usually measured in decibels. If your camp is producing a constant noise level of 40+ decibels, you could be contributing to noise pollution in your area.
Humans are usually pretty good at getting used to a certain amount of background noise, but if you’ve ever been kept awake by a nearby highway or loud air conditioner, you’re a victim of noise pollution too.
Every outdoor area has a certain amount of background noise. This could come from insects, birds, wind, and a variety of other natural causes. There are sometimes loud sounds like a falling rock or creaking tree branch as well. But in most natural settings, these loud sounds are occasional and not constant.
What is bad about noise pollution?
It may not seem like pollution caused by noise is anything to worry about. After all, it doesn’t produce noxious fumes or make the water unsafe. However, there are bigger consequences than many of us realize, and the effects could be more obvious over time.
Humans produce noise everywhere we go, especially if there is a car or RV involved. These machines have made it possible for us to live in comfort anywhere, even in the middle of a natural area. But if we’re not careful, they can produce enough noise to disrupt the natural life around us.
Noise pollution has a variety of harmful effects on people and animals. According to National Geographic, it can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), high blood pressure, stress, sleeping issues, and even heart disease for humans! Being around constant noise isn’t good for anyone, even though you might not be able to immediately identify noise as the cause behind these issues.
Wildlife is also hurt when there’s too much ambient noise. Lots of animals, fish, birds, and insects rely on hearing to navigate their surroundings. If they’re in a noisy area, they won’t be able to notice predators or attract mates. They can develop health problems as well, such as stress and erratic behavior. They may go out of their way to avoid noisy areas, which will disrupt their travel routes and make it harder for them to find food.
Some animals rely on echolocation to find food, and noise pollution caused by humans makes that extremely difficult. Bats are often affected by this problem, and even the oceans and rivers are hurt by sound that is too loud and disruptive. Sonar and loud boat engines have made it difficult for lots of marine animals to travel, communicate, and locate food.
Noise pollution is invisible to the eye and it’s somewhat easy for humans to become desensitized to it. Because of this, it’s easy to ignore or overlook this aspect of environmental impact. But our actions have an impact on the world around us and we’re beginning to see the negative effects of it.
How do you reduce camping noise pollution when camping?
Now that we know that our noise production leaves an impact, we can take steps to reduce that harm. Luckily, there are many ways to make camps and RVs quieter. Even though it may take a bit of extra work and planning, you’ll find that it’s nice to be able to enjoy the sounds of nature instead of listening to white noise coming from your camp.
Limit your generator use (or switch to solar power)
Generators are a major noisemaker for a lot of campers. They’re very handy pieces of equipment that can be used to power your equipment, but you need to know how to reduce the noise levels.
You can quiet a generator by placing it on a soft surface that will absorb sound instead of amplify it. You can also position the exhaust pipes so they are vertical instead of horizontal.
Installing a muffler is another major help that will dampen the sound of your generator. You may also want to consider switching to RV solar power to limit (or even eliminate) the need to use your generator.
Keep your engine off
If you’re camping in a car or RV, make sure you keep the engine off as much as possible. The ambient noise of a vehicle running (especially if there are many of them in a campsite) will build up and create a constant layer of noise. Keeping your engine turned off will also help you conserve fuel and will improve the air quality of the area.
Keep your TV and music to reasonable levels
We all enjoy watching TV and listening to music, even while we’re camping. A bit of electronic entertainment is fine, but you need to be considerate of other campers and wildlife. Nobody wants to listen to your action movie if they’re trying to enjoy the sounds of nature. Keep the sound turned down enough that you can’t hear it if you’re outside the vehicle, and try to keep the volume within 30-40 decibels.
Keep windows and doors closed if you use a white noise machine
Many people like to listen to white noise while they sleep, but this can create some noise pollution if you’re not careful. Keep the windows and doors closed if you use one of these devices and once again keep it within 30-40 decibels. White noise can be very disorienting to nocturnal animals who rely on their hearing. Bugs, bats, and other creatures could have a difficult night if they can hear your white noise machine.
Be mindful of other noise
There are lots of other things that can cause noise within a campsite. Be mindful of your noise level, as well as your kids and pets, and don’t bring any extremely disruptive items like fireworks or loud instruments. Only use guns for self-defense or hunting and don’t fire off shots without reason. This level of noise can distress nearby animals (as well as your fellow campers)! Be considerate of the people and wildlife around you so that everyone can enjoy a quieter, more peaceful experience.
For a closer look at how human noise affects the national parks, check out this video from Colorado State University:
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