The Environmental Impact of RVing

15 03 2011

I’ve recently been thinking about the environmental impact of RVing, and how our current lifestyle compares to our life in NYC on the green scale.  There are four main areas that came to mind:

1-  Water.  Water conservation has been a priority in the RV, and – while we can easily refill our water tank frequently – we are nevertheless careful with every drop used.  Shorter showers, no baths, re-use of gray water, dish-washing in a bin and toothbrush-rinsing in a cup have been a few of our water-saving strategies.  Thumbs up.

2-  Recycling.  Recycling was a piece of cake in our NYC apartment.  We brought a big bag of stuff down to the basement, sorted between plastic and paper, and that was it.  In the RV, we don’t have enough space to have the recyclables lying around for weeks in separate bags.  Finding recycling centers can be difficult and sometimes they are in the middle of nowhere, meaning that we would burn through extra gas to get there.  So while I used to be very conscientious about recycling, this has definitely been one pitfall of our lifestyle.  Thumbs down.

3-  Electricity.  Getting clean energy from the sun is incredible and the solar panels provide us with enough electricity to charge our computers and turn on the lights.  Purchasing and installing the panels was a sizeable upfront investment, but seems to be totally worthwhile.  Big thumbs up.

4-  Gasoline.  Our mileage in the RV is only 10 mpg (and as little as 8 mpg in Los Angeles traffic), making our travels both expensive and heavily reliant on fossil fuels.  We try to temper this by taking our travels a bit slower, walking and biking more often, and carpooling.  These things do help, but gasoline use in the RV still gets somewhat of a thumbs down.

Did I miss anything?  Does anyone have tips or experiences to share?

posted by ayo




14 responses

15 03 2011
Stumpy and Cyndi

I love this because this has been one of my concerns.

I know I’m not full-timing, yet. but I did notice a few things while i was practicing.

I am more conscious about my trash and don’t produce as much as when I have curbside pick up.

Also, although the rigs more gas, I won’t be using my rig on a daily basis as I plan to park for weeks at a time. So there is some conservation in that respect.

A full-timing friend carries a small composting worm bin with him! I love it!

I’m looking forward to other’s input!

Cyndi and Stumpy @ RVly Ever After

15 03 2011

Trash in the RV has been an interesting experience for me, because there’s no dedicated trash bin – just a plastic bag that we keep on the far side of our kitchen counter. Having it right in me face makes me very conscious about the amount of garbage we produce, and it’s a surprising amount.

28 03 2011

A composting worm bin IN the RV? Okay, I need more information on that one. Stowing must be a pretty interesting process in that home… 🙂

15 03 2011

The biggest heartbreaks for us, environmentally speaking, have been 1) not being able to find biodiesel like we used to, and 2) not being able to recycle in most places.

We just had to let go of some of these old ways and realize that even when we are rolling down the highway, we still aren’t using nearly as much resources as a stick-dweller.

Our biggest conservation measures include a vegan diet, buying from the bulk section when grocery stores have it, and not being wasteful when it comes to water, propane, fuel or food.

When it comes to being eco-friendly on the road, just remember this, as a friend told us…”Do the least you can do, and then commit to doing at least that much.”

16 03 2011

This is intended to be more of a heads-up than criticism or complaint, but people should be aware of the pitfalls of organically sourced fuels, bio-diesel in particular. In general, they don’t actually burn any cleaner than fossil fuels, their production relies on fossil fuels, and growing the plant matter causes the displacement of something else, usually food stock in the case of ethanol or (especially in Asia) clear-cutting rain-forest to plant palm groves in the case of bio-diesel.
On the other hand, running a diesel on waste oil from places like restaurants is pretty cool, IMO. But even that, since waste oil is a product already being recycled in most cases, means someone else is going to have to find another source for the oil you’re using to drive around.

28 03 2011

Really interesting stuff, Aaron. Thanks for helping us think through this topic more clearly. Any recommendations then for the best sources of fuel or alternatives?

28 03 2011

”Do the least you can do, and then commit to doing at least that much.”

I really like the quote. Works well for most aspects of life. Thanks for sharing!

15 03 2011
Early Retirement Extreme

I think the significantly reduced footprint in terms of constructing a comparably massive house (think of the material transport required to build a house) and the stuff people fill them with outweighs the RV impact. Not buying at all trumps recycling many times over.

Not full-timing and having an RV sitting in storage somewhere is an entirely different matter. That’s pretty bad.

28 03 2011

“Not buying at all trumps recycling many times over.” So true. I think this is often overlooked and the ease / act of recycling makes people totally okay with consuming tons of new stuff. Jacob, have you ever tried Freecycle?

15 03 2011

I like your analysis. I have been wondering how what we are doing now compares to living in the 1700 square foot house in Tucson. We must be living greener but how do you calculate it?!?

28 03 2011

Let me know when you come up with the answer! 🙂

15 03 2011

I think you’re on the right track. I’m kind of disillusioned about working for most people because I think they’re over-consumers. So I’ve been thinking and here goes:

I am offering a 50% discount on my services to any RV Class B or C dwellers and to anyone living or building Tiny Houses. : )

16 03 2011

I agree totally. It makes me sad that I am not able to recycle as I did when I lived in a house. I keep hoping that I made up for my current badness in former times. But I don’t think the gasoline is quite as bad as you think. I get less mpg, but drive less miles than when I was commuting.

28 03 2011

Ah, very interesting. I didn’t factor a commute into my analysis because I – along with most of my friends – almost exclusively used public transport in NYC. Of course this would be a huge factor in other parts of the country. Thanks for pointing this out.

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