Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own an RV, campervan, or overland rig and travel full time?
Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore. Van life is liberating, fun, and in the eyes of many, a dream come true. Not only do you get to see some of the most amazing places in the world, but you also get to wake up to some breathtaking views.
With housing costs climbing and the reality that you’d have to work 75 hours a week, being paid minimum wage, to even come close to earning a living wage. It’s no surprise that the younger generation is finding better ways to live. Millennials have allowed the nomadic lifestyle and van life dream to skyrocket.
However, when you first start thinking about getting an RV or converting your own campervan, many of us don’t always think about the environment. In fact, it’s probably the last thing on our minds. With Earth Day turning 51 this year, we thought it’s time to show you that your dream lifestyle can also be positive for the environment if you follow these 10 simple tips.
1. Use recycled materials for your conversion
If you’re thinking you want to take the plunge and convert your campervan yourself, then do it. As long as you have the time to commit to converting it.
Find yourself a sturdy base vehicle that’s not gonna give you engine problems in a few months– that’s the biggest expense. After that, you’ll save yourself a ton of money if you use recycled materials.
Use wood from a salvage yard, local construction companies, or from your neighbor who’s throwing out some wood they no longer want. You can get these materials super cheap, if not for free. Using recycled materials helps cut down the demand on these industries, which means fewer pollutants in the air.
2. Use renewable energy – solar power
When converting a vehicle into a campervan, remember you include renewable energy. A suitably sized solar setup (approximately above 300w) is ample to maintain a charge in a leisure battery system combined with a vehicle split charging system.
A split charging system uses your vehicle’s alternator to charge your leisure battery, which is great when boondocking, on cloudy days, or in the winter months. This is a lot more eco-friendly than using a standalone generator.
3. Use non-toxic, biologically friendly cleaners
You’d have thought that the products we use in our everyday life would be acceptable to use in your van, but sadly that’s not the case. A lot of our cleaning products actually contain pollutants.
If these pollutants were to enter our water systems, streams, or rivers could have a detrimental effect on wildlife and eventually us as they will enter the food chain. When consumed or absorbed through the skin, these chemicals can potentially cause cancer and even birth defects.
So switching to products that are non-toxic and natural will definitely help the environment. It also doesn’t have to be complicated. You can actually make your own, which as an added bonus will save you money.
You can also find eco-conscious companies that offer zero-waste, refillable bottles, or plant trees for every purchase. Some companies have even gone as far as making their shipping carbon-neutral.
4. Eco-friendly personal hygiene
We all know that personal hygiene is essential, and you shouldn’t let that slide when it comes to living in your RV. As mentioned above, when switching to non-toxic cleaning chemicals, these practices should extend into your personal care routine too. Many of the products we use to clean ourselves and our hair contain synthetic ingredients that work their way into our water systems.
If you enjoy swimming in rivers, streams, and lakes, know that these chemicals will wash off your body. Switching to biodegradable soap is just one way you can help the environment. Plus, it will also help the environment if you wash your dishes or “shower” 200 feet away from streams and water sources. If your van has a wastewater holding tank, you won’t need to worry too much about your dirty water.
5. Use camping facilities when available
The whole thrill of van life is to park up wherever you fancy, but it’s not ideal when your waste water tank and toilet are full. When this is the case, utilize your camping facilities and dump stations. Most of the “gray and black water dump points” are available for free (or a nominal fee) at any RV parks and campgrounds. This means you have a designated spot to get rid of your polluted water and your chemical toilet.
6. No more single-use plastics
This is actually something you could implement today. Minimize and limit the number of disposable plastics you are using.
If you’re going to the grocery store, try and bring your own containers for loose items. You can also store a few tote bags in your campervan for when you stop at a store or a local farmer’s market.
Buy yourself a reusable water bottle that you can continuously fill up instead of buying single-use plastic water bottles. You can also get a water bottle with a built-in filter if you want to fill up at streams or rest stops without worrying about contamination.
If you love coffee, buy a reusable coffee mug/flask. Most coffee shops will happily put your favorite caramel latte in them. This might all seem a little stupid, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do. You’re reducing the amount of rubbish that will end up in landfills, plus it limits the amount of plastic that ends up in our seas.
Oh, and recycle cardboard and plastic as much as you can, even if it means you have to keep hold of it until you find somewhere to recycle them. When shopping, make sure you are checking the companies you are buying from. Check to see if they use sustainable products, packaging, carbon-friendly packaging, and doing their part.
7. Compost your scraps
It’s staggering the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfill sites. But what’s even more staggering is that we can reduce the amount of organic waste by up to 50% if we just composted it instead.
Yes, we know that space is scarce and precious in a campervan, and we can probably guess that you’re thinking, “how on earth can I do that?”.
Well, the answer to that is relatively simple. You don’t need a massive compost bin; a small compost collection bin will do.
Compost collection bins, often just a stainless steel canister with an odor-blocking carbon filter, are compact and small enough to store in even the smallest of RV’s. They are only designed to start the biodegradation process. They aren’t intended to do the heavy lifting. You’ll still need to transfer it to a larger compost bin or pile.
This is the easy part, reach out to the locals in the area you are currently in. There’s plenty of people out there that would be happy to accept your scraps.
8. Choose your camping toilet wisely
If you are looking to be off-grid, you’re going to need to think about your camping toilet. There are two options, a chemical loo or a “compostable” loo.
The chemical loo isn’t exactly eco-friendly as the usual chemicals used are rather harmful. Plus, some of the chemicals you use aren’t safe for campsites with septic tanks. However, you can get a green biological liquid that helps to naturally break down human waste and is safe to use in septic tanks.
If you’re looking to go super eco-friendly, then your best bet would be the “compostable” toilet. The composting toilet requires no water or harmful chemicals. There are two sections to these toilets, one for urine and one for excrement. They are super hygienic, much better for the environment, and a great addition to any campervan.
9. Be water conscious
When you’ve got a constant water supply, you don’t really think about how much you are actually using. Well, when living in an RV or campervan, you soon switch your way of thinking.
There’s no longer that constant supply. In fact, depending on your water tank, you may only have a maximum of 15 gallons (70 liters). When compared to the average of between 80 and 100 gallons a day when living in a house, it is considerably lower. However, you do get used to it. So don’t panic.
There are actually a few things you can put into your van that will help with water conservation. One of these methods is a water filtration system. It turns your wastewater from your shower into clean water that you can use again. There’s even a company that sells a shower water recycling system that can do it in real-time while you’re showering. No more super quick, short showers.
If you have a smaller van or overland rig, you might want to consider a portable shower. Portable shower and cleaning systems are ideal for smaller setups and take it easy on your water supply as they require A LOT less water. Weighing a little over 7 lbs, the Geyser Systems Portable Shower allows you to take a hot shower using less than 1 gallon of water for up to 15 minutes.
How do you heat your water? Well, there are several ways, but the most eco-friendly way would be to use a heat exchanger from your engine. When you’re driving, the car’s engine heats up, but that heat is usually wasted. Well, not anymore.
With an insulated hot water tank, you can use the heat from the engine by transferring energy from your vehicle’s coolant system to heat your water. The water will stay hot for around 12 hours after driving, depending on the type of tank used and the amount of water stored. This means no more gas or electricity, which can be costly and harmful for the environment.
10. Leave no trace
The Leave No Trace movement has gained popularity in the van life community. The whole movement revolves around the idea that if you stop or stay anywhere that you leave it exactly as you found it. You take your rubbish home and, as the phrase says, “leave no trace.”
Basically, leave it as if you were never there. Also, if you see any rubbish when you pull up somewhere, even if it isn’t yours, pick it up and throw it away! Not only are you helping clean up nature, but you’re also making sure that the natural environment around you is being left undisturbed.
Hit the Road!
Now that you’ve thought about and read up on how you could be more eco-friendly in your van life adventure, it’s time to broaden your knowledge further. We’re all about helping you create the life of your dreams, so learn more about working remotely and take your dream of a nomadic lifestyle to the next level.