How to Live Sustainably in an RV

Sustainable living is finally hitting the mainstream. Eco-travel is on the rise, and part of that trend is moving towards the RV lifestyle. Who’da thunk? It’s simple! With just a few changes to daily habits, living a more sustainable life, no matter where you are, doesn’t take much. And the result is a planet that is so much better off.


Whether you live in an RV full time or vacation in one, living an efficient, zero waste lifestyle in an RV is easier than you think.


What Does Zero Waste Living Mean, Anyway?


Living a zero-waste life means taking care of your basic needs while generating little to no waste. This waste can be a variety of things: water, food, energy, and a host of other resources. One of the biggest concerns for those living a zero-waste lifestyle is the use of plastic, mainly because of the havoc it wreaks on the environment. Moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle is taking back control; being conscious of the things we buy, and the things we throw away.


What You Can Do as an RVer


If you live full-time in an RV, you no doubt have already made a massive commitment to downsizing your living arrangements. Congrats! A smaller home means less consumption and less stuff you need to buy to fill that home. The same is true for water consumption. Living the RV life naturally enables us to be more mindful of the things we buy, use, and throw away.


Even if you are an RV vacationer, camping in an RV allows you to waste far less than you would be staying in a hotel or resort, where others do the cleaning and garbage removal. It means you are responsible for your own upkeep and waste, so you tend to be more mindful of it. This is a great way to begin to make the shift towards a totally zero waste lifestyle.


Reduce Consumption Across the Board


Begin reducing waste by knowing what you are buying. The everyday items you purchase are the beginning of the life-cycle of waste. Look at the things you’re buying and make an informed decision about where they come from, and whether they are biodegradable, organic, etc. Think in terms of not only the waste you would generate from it, but about the waste that happens in producing the products you buy. Take a little time to research the products you buy, such as the amount of energy, water, and physical resources that go into the production of these items – it all adds up. Look for products that say “made of recycled materials” or “upcycled” or “organic,” etc.


Traveling in an RV occasionally poses a challenge in that more sustainable products may not always be available where you are. However, there are ways to get around this:


  • Finding alternative, eco-friendly products in specialty shops
  • When you can’t, see if you can do without the product altogether
  • If you cannot do without it, see if you can find a good DIY solution, or make something yourself.


Having a good internet connection in your RV means you can more easily find sustainable products on the internet and arrange to have them sent to your current or upcoming destination.


Let’s take an RV kitchen, for example. A lot of waste happens when we cook meals, change the storage space, or replace kitchen items. For this, use biodegradable storage containers, or upcycled wood when installing cabinets, worktops, and shelving. Use reclaimed fabric to make new blinds and curtains for the windows. Upcycle old ceramic pots, tins, and glass jars.


Here are some other handy tips:

  • Choose biodegradable paper towels rather than synthetic wipes or sponges/cloths
  • Select wooden or metal brushes for washing up
  • Choose wooden spoons and spatulas rather than composite utensils
  • Use ceramic, tin, or bamboo plates
  • If you need paper plates, go for the biodegradable ones.
  • Choose stainless steel pots and pans instead of those coated with Teflon
  • Choose knives and other kitchen tools without the plastic handles
  • Buy biodegradable plastic garbage bags.


Basically, if it’s made out of plastic or composite material, there are alternatives out there to pretty much every plastic product. Seek them out and buy them!


Cooking in Your RV


Continuing with the reducing plastic theme, much of the food we buy comes in some sort of plastic packaging. To remedy this, consider:


  • Growing your own food. You’d be surprised at how much food you can grow, even in a small RV. Or grow your food at home and take it with you on your RV vacation.
  • Cook from scratch using fresh, simple ingredients, rather than buying packaged and processed food.
  • Buy from local farm shops, farmer’s markets, and food producers rather than major supermarket chains.
  • Consider sourcing some of your food from online food vendors who use cardboard and/or compostable containers.


Those plastic food containers you do have, do your best to recycle them whenever possible, either through a recycling facility or by giving it a second life in your RV (think plant pots, containers, turning it into art, or for growing food!)


Preventing Food Waste


The first step in preventing food waste is to reduce the amount of food waste you generate in the first place. Do this by:


  • Buying only what you need (make a list of exactly what you need to prevent over-buying)
  • Preserve fresh produce by making preserves to store for later (canning, jellies, chutneys, and dehydrating)
  • Some of the tastiest meals can be made from leftovers!
  • Use food scraps to “regrow” more food (celery, scallions, and carrots, just to name a few)


Of course, there will always be food that cannot be reused or eaten. But it shouldn’t be wasted, either. (think egg shells, avocado rinds, citrus rinds, etc) Place food waste in a small composting container under the kitchen counter in your RV for later use as a growing medium to grow more food. Cardboard, paper, and organic matter can be composted, too!


These are just some of the ways you can do your part to live a more sustainable lifestyle in your RV. If you are not used to doing this already, it just takes a few minor changes, a slightly different mindset, and pretty soon it will become second nature to you!