Tips and Resources for Eco-Friendly RV Travel

Recreational vehicle (RV) campers provide an intimate way to experience nature. RV campsites are available near many national parks and historical sites, and RVs can even be used on some public lands, allowing direct access to nature’s wonders. Modern RVs are equipped with many accessories, such as television sets, kitchenettes, showers, and queen-sized beds, so campers can enjoy many of the comforts of home anywhere they go. RVs haven’t traditionally been known for being energy-efficient, though, and the comforts of home can produce plenty of trash. Thankfully, there are several ways to reduce the environmental impact of taking an RV vacation.

Downsizing

To reduce the fuel consumption of an RV, consider downsizing. For example, instead of purchasing a large class A camper, consider buying a smaller, electric model. Electric vehicles are inexpensive to operate and emit less carbon dioxide than vehicles with diesel- or gasoline-powered engines. Alternatively, reducing the number of items loaded into the camper could lead to a more environmentally friendly trip. Restocking the camper along the journey with locally sourced goods not only supports local farmers and businesses but also simplifies preparation for the trip and reduces waste.

  • Select a destination that is relatively close to home.
  • Take more time to reach your destination by driving more slowly, thereby reducing fuel consumption.
  • Minimize the number of non-essential items in the camper.

Recycling and Upcycling

Multi-use items can help you to reduce consumption and waste. Instead of buying paper plates, for instance, consider purchasing a few ceramic or wooden dishes and using biodegradable soaps to keep them clean. Over time, maintaining multi-use items is less expensive than repeatedly purchasing single-use products. Also, consider replacing the RV camper’s waste bin with a recycling bin. Often, re-imagining waste products as recycled or upcycled items reduces consumption. For instance, wastewater from the kitchen can be used to flush toilets, and torn clothing can be used as a dishcloth.

  • Replace plastic items and paper products with ceramics, silverware, wood products, and bamboo.
  • Compost expired and left-over food.
  • Re-use plastic packaging.
  • Repurpose torn and broken items whenever possible.

Maintenance

Keeping an RV operating well reduces fuel consumption and the need for costly repairs. Before a long trip, consider scheduling an appointment with a mechanic who can ensure that the engine parts are functioning smoothly, that the tires are inflated to the proper pressure, and that the vehicle emissions are as low as possible. Also, consider cleaning the interior and exterior of the camper regularly. Regular cleaning reduces the need to replace parts damaged by rust. Additionally, ants and termites will not be able to take up residence as easily in a frequently cleaned RV, reducing the need for harsh chemical treatments to get rid of them.

  • Regularly check appliances to make sure that they are functioning properly.
  • Routinely clean and check the camper to find rotting wood or rusting metal parts.
  • Seal cracks in the floor, roof, and windows to improve insulation and save energy.

Smart Shopping

Using biodegradable products can reduce the environmental impact of RV travel. Consider using gentle, biodegradable soaps and cleaning products; finding natural alternatives to harsh chemicals can further reduce the environmental toll of RV travel. For instance, baking soda and vinegar are natural and environmentally friendly alternatives to harsh chemical agents for cleaning the septic tank of a RV. In addition, using quickly dissolving RV toilet paper can reduce the amount of heavy, undissolved solids left in the septic tank.

  • Use microfiber cloths, which dry quickly, for cleaning.
  • Select biodegradable alternatives to common household cleaners.
  • Choose wooden or bamboo versions of plastic products such as toothbrushes.

Reducing Consumption

Planning your trip so that the RV remains at each campsite for as long as possible reduces fuel consumption. Instead of moving the camper between nearby campsites, bring a bicycle for exploring the local area and pack a foldable tent to expand your travel radius by taking multi-day excursions away from the RV. In addition, choosing to cook over an open fire instead of using the camper’s oven saves fuel, while enjoying the natural light of the fire reduces the need for electric lights. Also, consider taking cold showers and heating kitchen water over the fire. While consuming less resources requires planning, reducing consumption can significantly minimize the environmental impact of RV camping.

  • Limit consumption of highly processed foods such as potato chips.
  • Eat more raw produce such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
  • Turn off non-essential appliances when away from the camper.
  • Travel at night or early in the morning, when there is less traffic.

Further Reading