Home RVingRV Tips 12 Ways You Can Become a Greener RVer

12 Ways You Can Become a Greener RVer

by Kate McCallum
greener RVer

Even as a full-time RVer you can make a difference and make some changes that will protect our growingly fragile planet. Every day we see eye-opening images & video and read tragic news stories about how our planet is changing for the worse. It is time for change and time to become a greener RVer.

The main villain – plastic! A sea bird with a plastic ring around its head, pieces of plastic washing up on the beach, whales dying from eating plastic. It’s a horrible reality in our oceans. We are running out of room in landfills for all of the plastics that we use. We think by recycling we are doing all that is needed, but the truth is, most plastics are not recycled. According to the Canadian Government less than 10% of plastics are recycled.

In Canada, over 3 million tonnes of waste plastic is generated each year and less than 9% of plastic waste is diverted for recycling. What does this mean as a full-time RVer? I don’t know about you but I cringe when I read on other RV sites about people using single-use plastic cups, plates, and plastic cutlery as their everyday dishes.

We have to change. We need to train our brains to figure out how not to use single-use plastic. We’ve been conditioned by convenience. Adam and I were raised using single use plastics every day. Waste was never considered back then but here we are now with our oceans being choked by plastic and our climate changing. It’s time for change and every little bit helps. We are trying to reduce our day-to-day waste and even though we are way off from being waste-free, we are down to a small bag of garbage weekly.

If you are living full-time in your RV, that alone is a great help to the environment. The tiny home movement has shown to take up less energy, and because you are using less space, you have less stuff. Full-timers don’t have a basement or many closets to fill with “stuff.”

In the little town of Tofino that we live in, there is a ban on plastic bags and plastic straws. This opened our eyes to the fact that we need to be better and that it actually is possible to make a lot of these changes quite easily.

The following are some of the things we are doing, that we hope you can try to become a greener RVer

1. Insulating the RV

Unless you buy a Polar RV with proper insulation, chances are you will notice that there is barely (if any) insulation in a typical RV. There are a few things you can do to help insulate your RV that so that you are wasting less energy. Adam insulates our slides with pipe insulation shoved into the gaps in the slide-outs. We did this both inside and outside and noticed much less drafts. Adam also puts plastic over the windows every window in the RV. Unfortunately, the plastic over the windows isn’t the best for the environment because it is throw-away and unusable for the next year. We are fortunate though that we do have a clear plastic recycling program at Crystal Cove Beach Resort that we use for that disposable material.

Insulating the windows and slides has not only made our RV much warmer in the cooler fall/winter months but we’ve also noticed our furnace coming on substantially less which is saving on propane as well.

2. LED Lights

A quick fix for power-sucking light bulbs in your RV is to go all LED. We have done this and love how long-lasting LED lights are. Check out everything you need to know about going all LED here.

3. Solar Panels

Adam and I do not have solar panels on our RV but we are thinking about doing it in the future. We found a great blog that covers the basics of solar panels. 

Using the sun for energy in our RV is definitely something we are going to invest in.

4.      Reusable Shopping Bags & Produce Cloth Bags 

This is an easy one that a lot of us have been doing for awhile now. Buy reusable shopping bags and then put them in your vehicle. The key is not to forget them. When I go grocery shopping I put my purse in the back seat where the shopping bags are. If Adam goes grocery shopping, same thing, he puts his wallet in the reusable bag. If you are purchasing reusable bags, get ones that you can wash. I throw ours in the laundry in a cold wash once a month and let them air dry.

Don’t stop at reusable shopping bags, also be sure to grab cloth produce bags. These bags are what you can store those loose produce items in instead of the plastic bags the grocery store provides.

5.      Rags 

Spilled something? Grab paper towels to clean it up. Grease in the frying pan? Wipe it out with a paper towel before you wash it. Cleaning windows in the RV? Use paper towels to give it that streak-free shine. Nope! Not anymore. We use rags. We haven’t used paper towels in over a year. I have a few good rags for cleaning windows and some other rags for just general cleaning. Give them a wash and reuse. My mom, her mother, and my great grandmother and beyond used rags. No more paper towels that come wrapped in plastic.

Need a little more convincing? Here are some paper towel stats that hopefully will open your eyes…

*Stats provided by the Paperless Project

  • To make one ton of paper towels 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted.
  • Globally, discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash every year.
  • If just 50% of the U.S. population uses 3 paper napkins a day, that totals 450,000,000 napkins for 1 day—or more than 164 billion per year.
  • If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year.
  • Worldwide the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for 4% of all the world’s energy use.
  • Over 60% of the roughly 17 billion cubic feet of timber harvested worldwide each year is used for paper and pulp.
  • The paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry.
  • Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35% by weight of municipal solid waste.
  • Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water and land in both Canada and the United States, and releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year.

6.      Personal Hygiene

I love a good bottle of shampoo. I can remember as a teenager having all kinds of varieties under the bathroom sink and selecting the scent based on my mood. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to think that a lot of those bottles are still around in some form.

What is the alternative now? Shampoo bars and no more body wash or hand soap in bottles. Back to bar soap. That is the saving at least 3-6 single-use plastic bottles per month that Adam and I won’t be contributing to our landfills. Imagine if everyone who read this did the same! We can make a difference.

If you haven’t tried it already, grab some natural deodorant and give it a try. I’ve been using it for about a month and while you sometimes have to give your armpits a little extra scrub, the packaging for a lot of natural deodorants is glass which easily breaks down to sand and is much better for the environment.

7.      Laundry 

A typical family of 4 can do between 6-10 loads of laundry per week, depending on the ages of the children and whether you wash your sheets once a week. As a couple, Adam and I do between 3-4 loads of laundry a week. A big jug of laundry soap would last us about two months. That’s 6 large plastic jugs a year.

Now, we no longer use those disposable jugs. We use Tru-Earth laundry strips. It’s a Canadian company (which is always great to support) and the strips use no plastic packaging. You can buy the strips that arrive in the mail in a recyclable cardboard package. It’s about $19 for 32 loads without a subscription or you can subscribe and they knock the price down to about $13.00. They send you the strips either monthly or bi-monthly depending on your needs. The company is still new so they aren’t available in a lot of stores yet. They have a scented version, unscented, and laundry strips for babies. I’ve been using them for a month and absolutely love them. Our clothes are clean and fresh smelling.

Also, give the wool balls a try for the dryer. This is a great green alternative if you need to use the dryer and perhaps can’t hang the clothes out to dry. The wool balls work like dryer sheets and help with static. Tru-Earth also sells this product for about $20.

8.      Compost

According to the EPA – food waste makes up more that 28% of our trash which should be composted instead. Keeping this food out of landfills is a bonus as this is where it will release methane – a greenhouse gas.

If your campground has a compost unit use it. Or perhaps the town you live in has a compost heap that everyone can use. We are very lucky that Crystal Cove Beach Resort has a composter that we can put all of our food scraps in. The only thing we don’t put it in bones or crab shells due to the bears in the area. Composting is an easy way to reduce your garbage and it makes your other garbage not stink as much.

9.      Doing the Dishes

When we first started becoming more environmentally conscious, we bought larger bottles of dish soap. A large jug would result in many smaller jugs not being thrown out in the recycling. Now we are looking at alternatives. I have started looking at dish soap bottle alternatives. There is a refill store in Tofino now that we may check out where we can simply take in our old jug and refill it. There is also the possibility of using bars of Sunlight soap, Castille soap bars, or an olive oil bar soap.

10.  Food Containers

20 years ago, I used to use plastic wrap on everything whether it was storing food in the fridge or wet cat & dog food. Like many, I did this without even a thought of how it would affect our earth. Now we have had the same roll of plastic wrap in our RV for almost 2 years. Instead we now use beeswax wraps which you can buy or easily make yourself. Plus, we have a lot of storage containers which we’re always using to eliminate plastic storage bags. 

11.  Clothing

On average, a North American person throws away 81lbs of clothing per year. That has a huge impact on the environment. What can you do? Buy good quality shoes, boots, jackets, and clothing. Basically buy quality instead of quantity. Look for items that have good warranties. One item we bought this year was Darn Tough socks. They’re expensive at $30 a pair but they have a lifetime warranty and they’re super comfortable. You can also repair zippers, sew on buttons and get the soles of your shoes fixed if you can.

12.  Walking, Biking, Travelling

When we can, we walk to work, bike to the store, and we plan on travelling more but in a smaller RV. Our RV does cost a lot to travel with, which means more diesel burned by our truck. While we are absolutely going to continue RVing we are going to rent a smaller RV. Our next trip we plan on going through Washington, Oregon and California. We are going to rent a tiny RV and not have to worry about damage on our full-time home or unnecessarily affecting the environment.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed our planet is changing and not for the better. We all have to be better. Adam and I only recently started to consider these changes but have made quite a few significant changes that have reduced our waste and our use of plastics. The main thing is don’t feel like you have to change everything at once. Make the changes in your life slowly but surely. This will help make the changes seem less drastic which will make it easier to continue to produce less waste and make you a greener RVer in no time!

How have you become a greener RVer? What do you do to cut down on waste and eliminate your single-use plastic use? Let us know below!

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Beth December 14, 2019 - 3:06 am

Great ideas. Those roll out awnings on RV’s protect from radiant heat – less air conditioning, not that you need air conditioning on the island 😃.

Miriam December 15, 2019 - 6:40 pm

I am ordering a portable bidet on kickstarter. It is the size of a paper towel roll. I never throw toilet paper down the toilet on my RV so the hope is that I won’t need toilet paper at all. The bidet is from kickstarter.com. Haven’t gotten it yet so we’ll see!


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