How to live a sustainable van life

How to live a sustainable van life
For many people living in a van, part of the reason they choose to do so is to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Van life forces you to reduce everything you own to fit in a tiny space a fraction of the size of a house. As well as reducing the belongings that you own and making you really think about each and every item that you purchase, it also helps you to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Your power can come largely from solar and the space that you’re heating in winter is tiny, so you’ll only need to use a fraction of the power you would in a conventional bricks-and-mortar home.
But what else can vandwellers do to reduce their impact whilst living in a van? We wanted to share some ideas and ways of living from our own experiences on how you can live van life sustainably.
Travel slow
When you live in a van, the biggest part of your personal carbon footprint is likely to be your travel. As electric vehicle’s are relatively new and don’t quite have the mileage required by campervans yet, most van conversions are based on petrol or diesel vehicles. So one of the biggest ways you can reduce your impact is by travelling slowly. If you spend days or even weeks in one area rather than driving hundreds of miles each day, not only will you use a fraction of the diesel, but it will also allow you the opportunity to really appreciate and absorb the areas you are travelling to.
This is our favourite way of travelling - we like to spend at least a couple of weeks in each area that we visit, and sometimes we even spend a couple of months in one area if we love it so much! For us this is a very relaxing way to travel and it allows us to get to know the area and the locals which feels very special.
If you want to take this to the next level, Google Maps has just released an update to show the lowest carbon route for car journeys, so when you’re planning your route to your next stop, simply turn this option on and you can reduce your footprint even further.
Eat a plant based diet
One of the biggest contributors to your personal carbon footprint is what you eat - whilst a meat eater’s diet produces on average between 2.5-3.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, a vegetarian diet is closer to 1.7 tonnes, and a vegan diet only 1.5 tonnes. This means that by reducing the amount of meat you consume and eating a more plant based diet, you can reduce the impact you’re having on the planet.
Van life also allows you to live a slower pace of life, so for us this has given us the opportunity to eat more plant based meals as we have the time to research recipes and make sure we’re still getting the nutrients we need from each meal.
Buy locally
Shopping locally helps you to support the communities you travel to. Rather than shopping in large supermarkets, finding local fruit and veg shops or little bakeries gives back to the areas you’re enjoying. These sorts of shops also tend to have more plastic free options and higher quality produce, so it’s usually a win-win!
Wash your clothes by hand
A household washing and tumble drying a load of laundry on average once per week would create 125kg of carbon dioxide per year. If you swap the washing machine and tumble dryer for a Scrubba wash bag and wash your clothes by hand, as well as saving the CO2e you’ll use a lot less water in the process too which is also good for the planet! The Scrubba wash bag allows you to wash a few items of clothing at a time, so it’s best to use it little and often when living in a van, and when the sun is shining so you can hang your clothes outside to dry.
Reduce & recycle
Trying to reduce your single use plastic usage can help to protect our planet’s oceans and reduce items going to landfill. As we previously mentioned, shopping at local stores can help you to do this, and it’s a good idea to have a few reusable bags and containers in your van to refill. We’ve found having a couple of big IKEA bags in the van for when we do a big shop is really useful! For anything you can’t avoid, make sure to recycle as much as possible so that any waste going to landfill is at an absolute minimum.
We hope you found our tips for sustainable van life useful, and that they can help you make some small adjustments to the way you live to help you live more sustainably!
About the authors
Charlie and Dale have been living in their self-converted van Ringo for the past 9 months, travelling slowly through the UK and Europe, working remotely on the road and climbing whenever they can. They fund their travels by selling their book, The Van Conversion Bible, and by designing campervan electrical systems for other self-build van converters with their service Nomadic Energy.
You can read more about their travels on their website or their Instagram page: