Are RVers eco-pigs or eco-conscious?

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By Andrew Robinson
To some people the image of the RV is that of a large, gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing beast full of ugly, inconsiderate tourists. I’m not saying it’s the most eco-friendly activity out there (I think walking or biking takes that blue ribbon), but I can sit here and claim that RVing is actually a very eco-conscious activity.

Here’s what I think: RVing makes you very aware of the resources you need, use, and dispose of. It’s all right there — no escaping it. Especially when full-time RVing and boondocking (aka dry camping), where every bit of waste you produce you have to deal with yourself.

Not only that but while living in an RV, whether it be a full-sized motor home, mini-motor home, trailer, camper, etc., you also USE fewer resources. It’s a small space — it simply doesn’t take long to heat it up. You get the picture.

Living in our homes we are pretty oblivious as to where that water goes when it disappears down the sink or toilet. We don’t think about how much water we’re using to wash the dishes or brush our teeth or flush the toilet. When we flip on a light switch there’s very little to worry about other than the electricity bill at the end of the month.

In an RV you have to fill up your own water tank. You are very aware of how much that water weighs as you roll down the road. You know you only have so much you can use — and so you do so sparingly. And when it goes down the drain you have to dump it, eventually, at a dump station. Once again, you find yourself creating as little gray water as you can. When you flip on that light switch you know you only have as much power as your 12-volt battery can hold and that you’ll have to get several hours of sunshine on your solar panels to recharge it again so you become ever so conscious of how much power you use.

You find yourself inventing ways to deal with these things. Things you don’t give a second thought to when you’re in your house.

Here are some great suggestions, both for conserving resources and reducing the waste you create, in your RV or at home:

  • Use two spray bottles for washing your dishes. One with a little bit of biodegradable soap and water and the other with plain, clean water. Scrape off the dishes as best you can, then spray with the soapy bottle. Wipe with a dishtowel. Spray with the clean water bottle to rinse. You’ve just used a fraction of the water you’d usually use, and most of it has evaporated away so no gray water to dispose of.
  • You can use the same method above for sponge bathing.
  • To cool yourself in a hot, dry climate, dip towels in water and hang them in front of open windows. Open up your roof vents, and if you have a fan on one, turn it on high. This sucks air from outside the windows through the cool, wet towels, and into the RV. It’s a hillbilly swamp cooler really. And if you’re using the fan it will still use a lot less power than, say, an air conditioner would.
  • Dry food scraps in a mesh bag, like an onion bag, by hanging it outside your rig in the sunshine. In nice warm climates this can cut your trash weight and space tremendously.
  • Use battery-powered appliances. Then you can get a solar-powered battery charger and swap out the batteries as needed. I keep my charger in on the dashboard, so even when I’m driving, the batteries are getting charged.

So there you go! By having to take care of these things yourself and having less space to have to heat/cool/clean, being in an RV can be a very eco-conscious way to go.

Do you have more ideas for reducing your resource usage and waste creation? Share them in the comments below! We’d love to hear.

##RVT926

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Captn John

I did all that and more as a Boy Scout and even more for 2 years in Nam. I didn’t buy a 41′ 5er with 5 slides and a diesel dually to go backward. Waiting,, what will it be next after Global Warming, now Climate Change? How about ‘normal, as God planned’?

Sue

We use Enjo products both at home and in the RV. Uses only cold water to clean, no soap required. Only use biodegradable soap to clean the Enjo cloths when needed. Works great for us since I’m sensitive to chemicals.

David Totten

We are far more ecological friendly when RVing. We use less gas (about half) because of two of us driving off to work on totally opposite sides of town, we have one vehicle going in the same direction. All electricity is solar on the rv, and at home we use grid power that uses natural gas. We Have to be very prudent with water use and waste, because finding dump stations can be a pain. When we do have a camp fire (not that often) its propane powered. In fact, I take issue with the person who said we all have campfires all the time. I see just as many if not more tent campers with fires (after all, how else do they stay warm.). Most of the people who bag on us RVers are young people who are still able to hike twenty five mile into the backcountry and set up a tent. I see them as a sort of elitist who thinks everyone should do it their way. Those days are gone for a great many of us.

Wolfe

The fuel equation is simple… I burn twice as much gas commuting at home than towing my trailer. We drive for work and shopping and sports and other crap at home and only required food or fun runs from camp. Work is necessary but hardly ecological when I could do my work from my coffee table.

As far as home electric efficiency, I build smart switches for $5 and have them on increasingly all my circuits…programmed to match our usual usage they don’t interfere with us but automatically kill lights and electronics we forget overnight or when leaving for work. With a quick command the entire house shuts off and stays off. This may be over technical for some but has made a difference, and can be similarly accomplished with basic lamp timers if less “smarts” is needed.

Goldie

If you are hanging food scraps outside to dry I hope you are not in an area containing any animals. Might work in the desert but any bear worthy of the species would make short work of your garbage and start searching for more!

Donald N Wright

Solar powered battery chargers ?

Stephen Kight

Most campers are eco-pigs. Some more than others.
RVers and campers tend to sit around roaring campfires and socialize with each other. These campfires, even small ones, are very bad for the environment. They degrade the quality of air we breathe, contribute to the global warming problem and add to the world deforestation problem. Sure, a lot of campers burn dead falls and scrap lumber but most of the firewood was cut just for burning.
I go camping to see nature. That’s hard to do through a smokey haze. And do we really need to have a campfire when it’s over 70 degrees outside?

Nanci

When boondocking we leave the water heater off to both conserve the propane and to preserve water. It takes over 1/2 gallon of water to get even warm water to any of the sinks or shower. We heat all water on the stove and for showers heat water and use a bucket, the size of an ice cream bucket and fill half way with warm water. When doing dishes, add one drop of dish liquid to a dish cloth and a little water. We save rinse water and hand washing water saved in buckets.and use to flush toilet. Hint: if you don’t buy ice cream in gallon size buckets, every spring Walmart sells plastic gallon size Easter buckets.

Bill

When washing dishes with a minimal amount of water we use cleaning vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. Spray, wipe with a paper towel, and repeat until clean. No rinsing required. No food or vinegar residue.

ThreeQuarterTon

How about when you leave home ,do you turn the hot water heater down or off ? Turn the thermostat down (for heat ) or up (for A.C.)? Unplug TVs. and other solid state appliances? (Just shut off doesn’t mean they aren’t burning Electricity !) You would be suprised how much MONEY you can save just doing these things also!