Today's blog post comes from Tara Wagner of the Organic Sister. She provides many ways to be eco-friendly while on the road.
At first glance, eco-friendly tips for RVs may sound like greenwashing. Or at least I would have thought so a year ago.
I'm almost as crunchy as they come. So, the very first thing that came to mind when my husband proposed full-time RVing was our environmental footprint. How could driving thousands of miles across the country with 8 mpg fuel economy be eco-friendly?
Quite easily actually. After calculating our home's energy usage (for space that was hardly used, I might add) and adding our vehicle emissions from our single vehicle commute, I came to see that even an environmentally unfriendly RV still had a smaller impact than the average suburban home.
And with a few eco-friendly tips geared just for our new lifestyle we diminished that footprint even more.
Here's what you can do:
Use cloth napkins and dish towels instead of napkins or paper towels, a stainless steel water bottle instead of plastic bottles, reusable shopping bags when you hit the store, real plates instead of paper plates, etc. It's one of those eco-friendly tips that will save you money, as well as save resources.
Precycling is the art of consuming with waste management in mind: buying things with little to no packaging, choosing items with a longer shelf life, etc. It will help you keep down the amount of waste you produce each day.
I'll admit, it's a tough one but it's not impossible. Keep one small trash can for recyclables in your RV and sort them into three small bags placed under your RV or in your tow vehicle. Alternately you can keep three small boxes in your shower when it's not in use, or get a three-tier storage cart to keep them sorted. As they get full do a quick Google search for recycling drop-offs in your area or ask local restaurant or grocery store managers if you can use their bins. Some schools will also take them off your hands.
Composting your fruit and veggie scraps in an RV might seem impossible, but really it just takes some creative eco-friendly tips and a committed spirit. Do you have a dog? Dogs naturally eat raw veggies (avoid grapes and raisins!) and there are even health benefits to not feeding dog food. You can also ask local friends if you can save them your scraps. Some scraps (like onions peels, carrot tops, etc) can be used to make veggie stock. And don't forget to ask RV park owners if they offer compost for their plants or gardens; you may just inspire them. If you’re truly committed, grab a shovel and bury them at minimum of 6-12 inches below the surface.
Most RV parks are within walking or biking distance to the best sites. With a little extra time and energy you may find you don’t need your tow vehicle often at all. And don’t forget city transit or carpooling with your temporary neighbors as a viable alternative to starting the car.
Propane and DC energy are much more efficient than AC energy. Whenever possible avoid using the AC settings on your fridge. Also be sure to check the seal: place a small piece of paper or dollar bill between the fridge and the door; if you can pull that paper out your seals need to be replaced. And be sure not to overfill it OR under-fill it. Overfilling it prevents proper air circulation, but a near empty fridge loses more cold air.
One of the biggest drawbacks of an RV is the small amounts of insulation, especially in older models, causing loss of heat or cool air. Do what you can to offset this by checking for drafts and checking the seals around doors and windows. You can also use heavier curtains and park in sunnier spots in the winter, and avoid full sun in the summer whenever possible. Also invest in things like a windshield shade, and an insulating reflective vent cover.
Stick to enzyme-based tank cleaners or deodorizers and avoid anything with formaldehyde, which has been linked to several types of cancers. You can also pour an entire box of baking soda and an entire bottle of vinegar into an empty tank, then fill it with clean water and allow it sit or slosh as you drive. A large bag of ice added to the tank may also help dislodge particles from the tank.
There are plenty of ways to save water. Check out Jim and Rene's post on water conservation on the road. To add to their eco-friendly tips, you can also throw water from your sink on an outdoor plant. And since greywater is completely safe some local ordinances may allow greywater dumping on trees. Never dump your blackwater tank outside though!
If your RV is in need of new paint or flooring, opt for eco-friendly materials with zero-VOCs and renewable resources like bamboo. Other eco-friendly materials include organic cotton, hemp or wool. Buying secondhand or handmade items from small businesses is also a good idea.
Buy Local Food
Find farmers markets, local farms and natural food stores on websites such as LocalHarvest.org or GreenPeople.org. Shop small stores, flea markets, thrift stores and locally-owned RV stores. Avoid the Big Box chains whenever you can and try to support the local economy in each place you visit.
Adding solar panels to our RV has kept us from using our generator. The number of panels and size of your inverter will vary depending on your needs, but even a small array will power most of your needs for most of the year. It's certainly an investment on a home, but for an RV that uses much less energy, it's really is one of the more affordable eco-friendly tips and can save you money down the road.
If you have a diesel engine, you might want to consider converting it to run on waste veggie oil found for free at restaurants around the country. In 7 months and 8,000 miles we spent $200 on fuel and fuel-related expenses and created 75% less emissions than regular diesel. And we used something that could have otherwise gone to waste!
There are dozens more ideas for green living that can easily be applied to RV travel. Check out Sustainable Baby Steps for more eco-friendly tips or share a few of your own in the comments below!