Can Van Life Be Eco Friendly? Yes!
The popularity of van life has skyrocketed during the pandemic. More and more travelers have (re)discovered the joys of camping, van trips and such.
With more and more individuals planning their weekend trips or holiday in a mobile home, many are wondering if there might be ways of making this experience more sustainable. So, how can you green up your van life?
1. Your sustainable van life starts at the gas station
Well, sort of. We thought we’d start off by saying hi to the elephant in the room. So there it is, your beautiful vehicle. Your beautiful, fossil fuel powered vehicle. Obviously, no alternative to the good old combustion engine exists yet. Hence, the best (and the only) earth-friendly decision here will be: strategize the heck out of your journey.
The rule of thumb for fuel-efficient driving is, and has always been, going at a slower pace. Every vehicle has a sweet spot where it consumes slightly less. By planning ahead, you have a chance of avoiding crowded routes or traffic jams, those notorious fuel killers, and drive at a steady pace with no to less stop-and-go. You’ll save on fuel, and you’ll also save money.
Pro tip: Two more (avertible) fuel eaters are flat tires and heavy load.
And finally, what helps in reducing your travel footprint even more is just generally driving less and staying longer at each destination. Checking out filling stations in advance is another smart move (pun intended). Again, this is something you can take care of way before hitting the road.
2. Be considerate to the environment and other travelers
In his 10 Commandments for Campers and Vanlifers, German vanlifer, blogger and podcaster Mogli has put together ten great, comprehensive principles to make camping a well-rounded, sustainable and environmentally-friendly experience:
- Only camp in designated camping areas.
- Always leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.
- Respect those around you.
- Respect nature.
- Don’t throw toilet paper or empty your waste water in the natural surroundings.
- Only start an open fire at designated fire areas – be aware of forest fires.
- If a parking is fully occupied, find another place.
- Be nice and positive, don’t judge those around you.
- Watch your dog and pick up after it.
- Explore the small and secluded campsites and protect them from mass tourism.
#CampWithManners is the hashtag for the 10 Commandments campaign on social media. Vanlifers will also want #vanlifers.
3. Have a sustainable camper van toilet installed
This one follows the Commandments – because it is considerate to keep the environment clean when it comes to human waste. However, you might have objections to having a toilet in your vehicle. You might fear the smell, you might dread the maintenance and the emptying, and you might hate to give up (sparse) space to store it.
But the benefits outweigh the downsides, that is, if you choose wisely. The pros of adding a toilet to your van life are:
- Cleanliness – Some public restrooms are just nasty.
- Convenience – Going to the bathroom is no more a “going behind the bushes“ moment.
- Independence – You are literally free to use it as you need to.
Also, modern dry toilets— also known as source separation or composting toilets— reduce the smell by containing the liquids and the solids in designated containers each. The solids are dried up using a handful of cover-up material (that comes in 100 % sustainable quality), which lessens the smell even more.
For those vanlifers who are not sure if they can commit to a modern composting toilet yet, the company offers the handy, comfy, and foldable HappyLoo toilet made of super-solid cardboard, originally designed for short trips or festivals. It’s an affordable one and a perfect introduction to sustainability.
4. Low waste and zero waste
The logic behind this one is simple: less waste means less load, less scouting for collecting points, and less literally wasted space. And zero waste isn’t about heavy mason jars either. Reusable items or items that don’t require any throw-away parts can be cool and actually fun to use, for example:
- Reusable wax wraps instead of cling wrap
- Fabric towels—or sponges—instead of paper towels
- Stainless-steel coffee filters, storage boxes, or coffee mugs
- Stainless-steel, or cork, or bamboo kitchenware, straws, cutlery, etc.
Bonus points: these items are all lightweight, nearly unbreakable, easy to clean – and not plastic.
5. Skincare and cleaning: Solid & multi-use
Thanks to the popularity of green and clean beauty, we’ve seen a massive rise in water-free and multi-use products for personal hygiene and home cleaning.
These can save so much place, time, and waste—from solid toothpaste to a shaving/shower powder, the market offers a plethora of sustainable options.
Now we’d like to hear from you – how do you make your van life and camping more sustainable? Let us know in the comment section below. For more tips on van life, head over to Vanlifers.com.
At RV LIFE, we build tools that make camping simple. We run a network of websites and services that help RVers get the most out of their adventures.