While the sight of a massive motorhome cruising down the highway doesn't evoke a sense of environmentally conscious living, it is in fact a much less impactful way of traveling than by plane or car. And since most RVers love nature (that's why they camp!), they usually pay special attention to their dent on their environment. If you're prepping your rig for an upcoming trip or are just wondering how you can leave less of a carbon footprint while camping, check out these helpful environmental tips for RVing that might give you new insight into how you RV.
Fuel Efficiency Tips
Your attempt at reducing your carbon footprint while RVing can begin as soon as you leave your driveway. Create a pre-trip checklist with these environmentally friendly tips:
- Make sure your motorhome tires are all properly inflated so you get the best gas mileage (and avoid a blowout!).
- Begin your journey with a clean air filter so your engine can run as efficiently as possible.
- Drive at a consistent speed, trying not to "floor it" or slam on the brakes if not completely necessary. Using cruise control helps to maintain a good MPG, thus making your rig more environmentally friendly going down the road.
- Don't overload your rig with unnecessary items. I know, deciding what to leave behind is hard, but do you really need that heavy KitchenAid stand mixer or your full wardrobe of clothes for just a weeklong trip? The more your rig weighs, the worse its gas mileage will be—and the worse its impact on the environment.
Use Utilities Sparingly
Where you park your RV matters. Sure, you're one who reserves your spots early to ensure that you get the most scenic spots or the ones with the best foundation for level RVing, but consider how the surrounding landscape can actually help you cut down on your utility usage. Parking in a spot that is shaded by a tree or two can work wonders in keeping your RV cool during the heat of a summer day, therefore eliminating the need to run your A/C. During cold winter months, look for campsites that are sheltered from the frigid blowing winds by a mountainside, a canyon wall, a thicket of trees, or even a building. And if the wind consistently comes out of the same direction, park your RV with the front facing into it so it's more likely to whoosh right over it instead of relentlessly whip the side of your RV. Your motorhome's shades can also work in your favor. Open them when the sun is shining instead of turning on lights, then close them once it goes down to trap the heat in and keep the chill out. These things should help keep the inside of your RV at a warmer temperature and the need to use your furnace to a minimum. If you're a die-hard RVer and venture out in the snow, you know how cold your RV can get from the moisture and winds. A great way to help insulate your RV in the snow is by constructing a snow skirt around the perimeter of it. Pile snow from the ground up to the underbelly all around the outside (leaving openings where exhaust escapes and where the tank access points are) to keep harsh winds and snow from not only chilling your bones from the bottom up, but also from freezing your holding tanks. If you don't like playing in the snow, there are other alternatives for skirting: 2" block foam insulation, plywood, or custom-made RV skirting from places like RV Skirting.
Why not harness the power of the sun so you can rely less on your RV's electricity, thus helping to reduce your impact on the environment? Most motorhomes, like this Entegra Aspire 44W, offer an optional solar package that includes solar panels and a charge controller for easy set-up. Others come with a solar panel prep that enables you to add an aftermarket solar panel system if you want to give solar power a try. A simple Google search will provide all the information you need to figure out whether trying solar power is for you or not. Since it can be a large expense to get started, it's a good fit for people who enjoy full-time RVing, go on extended RVing vacations, or who love to boondock. However, if you're more of a weekend warrior or love to camp in populated areas with hookups, then solar power might not fit your RVing lifestyle.
Forgo the Fake Stuff
Most people love camping because it immerses them in nature. It gives them a chance to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them and soak up the world in its natural state (no smog or pollution out there!). The last thing any of us wants to see in the great outdoors is discarded paper products blowing around and littering an otherwise pristine landscape. You can do your part to lessen the growth of landfills by forgoing paper products and using the real stuff. I'm not suggesting that you bring along your favorite china or use your grandmother's crystal at your campsite picnic table. But it's easy to find inexpensive, durable camping dishes and drinkware that'll withstand the rigors of camp life. Check out this Stansport Enamel dish set for a family of four! It's attractive AND inexpensive! As far as napkins and paper towels go, choose to use cloths, dishrags, and T-shirts instead. Small washcloths meant for toddler bath time are the perfect size for napkins. And instead of grabbing paper towels for wiping down windows and countertops when cleaning, use old dishtowels or torn T-shirts. Not only are you creating a lot less waste, but you'll save money in the long run by not constantly buying paper products that just get thrown away after one use.
Use Water Wisely
When RVing with your big rig, using water is unavoidable. You have to shower, wash dishes, and brush your teeth. But there are eco-friendly ways to go about it. Give some of these water conservation ideas a try:
- Use a solar shower instead of your motorhome's shower. This Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower uses the sun to warm the water, not your RV's electricity. And since it only holds three gallons of water, it keeps your water usage to a minimum. If you're RVing in a colder climate and a solar shower is out of the question, install a low-flow showerhead in your shower so that less water flows out while you lather up. Better yet, turn the water off while you get soapy or shampoo, then turn it back on when you're ready for a rinse.
- Fill two bins or tubs with warm (or hot) water for dishwashing instead of washing them under running water. Wash in one bin and rinse in the other. They get just as clean as if water was freely flowing over them, and you'll save tons of water. Your gray tank won't fill as fast either.
- Instead of running your kitchen faucet until the water gets warm, heat up cold water over a campfire. If your faucets are like mine, they take forever to spurt out hot water, so lots of cold water goes right down the drain. With this tip, you'll save gallons of water by expending very little energy.
Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners
In an effort to make your RV presentable (i.e. cleaning it), you may be unknowingly exposing the earth to harmful chemicals! Whether shining your floors, emptying your tanks, or giving the exterior a nice shine, you should make sure you're using eco-friendly products that are safe and gentle to our environment. This goes for the products you use on yourself, too, that go right into your gray tank. Here are some that we like:
- Simple Green All-Purpose cleaner—this diluted formula can be used on all types of surfaces and is non-toxic and biodegradable
- Motorhome Eco Force Toilet Bowl Drop Ins 2-in-1 Tank Treatment—just drop in your RV's black tank for odor control, toilet paper digesting, and cleaning; 100% biodegradable
- Thetford Premium RV Wash & Wax—removes black streaks, bug splatter, bird droppings, dirt, and more; recognized by the EPA for being non-toxic and biodegradable
- Thetford Premium RV Slide Out Seal Conditioner—cleans, conditions, and shines up your RV slide-out seals; CFC-free (won't deplete the ozone layer)
- Hose Off 2-in-1 Body Wash—organic and natural, it's made from bentonite clay (known for healing and detoxifying properties); safe for lakes and rivers
Buy Local for the Health of It
When traveling the country in your lovely motorhome, take advantage of local farmer's markets and roadside stands to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods. How does this help the environment? Let's take a look:
- Buying local reduces waste—there's little-to-no waste in foods right from a farmer's farm
- Locally grown foods require less processing than store-bought foods, meaning fewer emissions and waste in their production
- Food sold at a market or stand only travels from the farm around the corner or down the street to the point of sale. Compared to food that has to travel across the country from a factory to a store, the transportation impact (cost, pollution) of local fare is hardly noticeable.
- Supporting local farmers and shops helps keep them in business, which in turn helps keep the growth of urban sprawl and congestion to a minimum
If we all do our part to live in an environmentally conscious way, even when RVing, our beautiful campground, state parks, and national parks will be around for generations to come. Do you practice eco-friendly RVing? If so, tell us how you live free and clear in the great outdoors in the comments below!