Some people might be surprised to discover that sustainable RVing is a real concern for both permanent and temporary RVers. After all, isn’t RVing more sustainable than living in a traditional house or apartment?
The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that RVs are completely innocent when it comes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, there are many ways for RVers to stay on the road in a more eco-friendly and sustainable manner.
Whether you’re an experienced solo RVer or just starting your first adventure on the road, keep reading to learn all about sustainable RVing.
What is the Environmental Impact of RVing?
Before diving into tips for more sustainable RVing, it’s important to learn about RV’s environmental impact in the first place.
It’s true that, on average, RVs consume less than a traditional apartment or house, both in terms of energy and waste production. A smaller home is bound to have both less space and fewer things. Less space to have to heat, cool, and illuminate, and fewer things that take a lot of energy to create and eventually become waste.
But, as mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean that RVs are completely eco-friendly. Most RVs are still gasoline-powered vehicles, so they contribute to burning fossil fuels, building greenhouse gasses, and, consequently, the reality of climate change.
The bigger the car, the more gasoline it needs to run (not to mention the amount of energy needed to manufacture it, to begin with). Since RVs are some of the biggest vehicles out there, it’s pretty clear that RVs are less eco-friendly than cars. And we shouldn’t forget that fossil fuels are a limited resource that will one day run out.
Besides burning fossil fuels, RVs can be problematic in other ways. If people don’t RV responsibly, they can ruin a campsite or natural environment when they leave behind waste which not only pollutes the area but could also cause problems for the local fauna.
And last but not least, campers that don’t stick to the designated camping spaces can also trample protected areas and help accelerate erosion and destruction of nature.
Does that mean you have to give up your RVing dream? Certainly not! All you need to do is practice sustainable RVing, which starts with learning about what you can do to make your vehicle more eco-friendly.
Buy a Used or Electric RV
If you already have an RV and aren’t looking to replace it, then go ahead and skip to the next section. But if you’re reading up on how to practice sustainable RVing and you don’t have an RV yet, then this will be helpful for it!
Investing in a used RV is one of the earliest things you can do when it comes to eco-friendly RV travel. Not only will a used RV be cheaper than a new one, but it also means that you are sparing the energy and resources that would have to go into manufacturing a new RV and maybe even keeping one from ending up in a landfill.
Operating on a budget and feeling comfortable with remodeling? Then you might consider buying a fixer-upper. While you’re working on it, you might even consider upgrading parts of it with sustainable RVing add-ons, which you can read about more in the next section.
Of course, purchasing an electric RV is the easiest way to engage in sustainable RVing. But remember that an electric RV isn’t completely green—it still took a lot of energy and resources to create it—and that it’s probably going to be much more expensive than a gasoline-powered one.
Sustainable RV Add-Ons
Whether you’ve got a new or used RV, you can upgrade it to achieve more sustainable RVing!
- Solar panels: Solar panels aren’t just for houses and fields! They can be a great option for your RV’s roof, too. In fact, with the help of solar panels, you might even be able to make your RV self-sustaining and stay completely off the grid. Talk about sustainable RVing!
- Eco-friendly appliances: fortunately, the rest of the world is also waking up to the idea of more sustainable living. That means you can find appliances that are more energy efficient and help keep your energy use down.
Sustainable Waste Disposal
One of the biggest problems when it comes to sustainable RVing is waste disposal. You don’t have a trashman that comes to pick up your neatly separated waste every week, so what do you do?
Many people choose the convenient route and throw everything into the same trash bag. If they don’t leave it behind at their campsite, they toss it into a general waste bin at the next gas station, which might not even have recycling if they wanted it.
If you’re looking to start sustainable RVing, take a deeper look at how you’re handling the following kinds of waste:
Plumbing and Composting
Human waste, organic waste, and water usage can get problematic on RVs fast. Using a composting toilet is a solution that takes you closer to sustainable RVing. It creates fertilizer for those beautiful house plants you keep around the camper.
Composting toilets also minimize wasted water, which can also be helped with low-flow faucets. Washing your hands might take a little longer, but it sure is better for sustainable RVing!
Recycling and Reuse
Though the idea of recycling might seem obvious to you, it gets a little more complicated on RVs when space is limited. We suggest recycling everything you can, as you do or did at home, but also practice reusing a lot of things (including reusable or plant-based waste bags!).
That means don’t buy paper plates, cups, and cutlery. Instead, invest in a set for your camper. Another great example is reusable zip lock bags instead of the typical plastic ones. And, of course, Tupperware!
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
You might think that by virtue of living or traveling in a vehicle, it is impossible to reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to mileage. We’re here to give you good news: that’s not true!
Reduce Driving Time
Just because you live or travel extensively in an RV doesn’t mean you should just drive aimlessly. In fact, one of the best things you can do for sustainable RVing is to be intentional about the destinations you travel to. Of course, the more you drive, the more fossil fuels you burn, and the more pollution you put in the air. That’s a simple fact.
Does that mean you should just station somewhere permanently? Certainly not. But it gives you an extra excuse for staying a bit longer at your destinations and really enjoying them. That means less time driving and less carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
Hint: Google Maps sometimes allows you a more eco-friendly route. It could be a bit longer than the fastest route, but it might be worth paying attention to this if you live on the road!
Some people prefer RVing to traditional camping because you can stuff as many things as you want in an RV. But when it comes to sustainable RVing, you should take care not to overpack. The heavier your RV is, the less fuel-efficient it is.
Trust us, the better packer you become, the lighter and freer you’ll feel, which will contribute to the overall feeling of wanderlust!
Save on Cooling and Heating
This sustainable RVing suggestion is commonly sought in traditional homes and apartments. Still, it’s worth reminding people because they sometimes forget that it can also be applied to RVs! The more you crank the heater or cooler, the more energy your RV consumes.
To avoid that, park in the shade during the summer in order to not rely so much on air conditioning, and use curtains to keep out the direct sunlight that might warm your RV even more.
During the winter, ensure your RV is well insulated to stay warm without too much heating!
Bring Your Bike
If you’re looking to practice more sustainable RVing, bringing a bike along is a great way to do so. It is fun and lets you station your RV in one spot and continue to explore the surrounding area without burning additional fossil fuels. Plus, it’s a great workout—what else could you ask for?
When it comes to purchasing products for your RV, buying eco-friendly everyday products goes a long way to supporting your sustainable RVing mission.
If you’re thinking about the best way to complete the interior decoration of your dream, consider buying thrifted or used objects. They usually cost less and are better quality—the proof is that they’ve been around for longer and used by more than one person!
You should also be careful about the kind of cleaning products you use. Eco-friendly brands usually advertise the fact that they use natural ingredients without chemicals or aerosols, which is much better for the environment. Pay attention to the labels!
Last but not least, a great way to practice sustainable RVing and conscientious shopping is to buy locally. Not only are you supporting the local economy (which is always a good thing!), chances are that creating local products requires much less energy than commercial products.
Plus, small local companies tend to be more eco-friendly than giant national and international brands.
Wrapping up Sustainable RVing
I hope this post has inspired you to take up more sustainable RVing! Whether you live in your RV or just enjoy vacationing on the road, you have plenty of opportunities to diminish your footprint. Now that you know how to travel in an eco-friendly manner, learn all about RV safety on the road!
- About the Author
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Margherita Bassi is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor. She grew up between the US and Europe, and nurtured her love for nature and the outdoors in both countries.
In the US, she went on dozens of RV trips with her family, scouted out the best restaurants in every city she visited, and learned how to grow herbs and veggies of all kinds by watching her mother.
With an MA in International New Media Journalism, Margherita is also a skilled researcher in a wide range of topics, and has extensive experience interviewing both individuals and experts.