Fact: RVs are not known for being environmentally friendly. But here’s another Fact: Families that go RVing for vacation use less energy and are better for the environment than families that hop on a plane, stay in hotels, and eat out at restaurants day after day. And things are looking “greener” in the RV world. RVs are being made with lighter-weight materials for better fuel economy and tow weights. They now feature sleek, aerodynamic front-end designs for wind resistance. And relatively small RVs now pack an impressive punch with their space-saving designs and amenities normally found in larger rigs. While the RV industry gets a pat on the back for thinking globally, there are things that we as RVers can do as well to reduce our RV’s carbon footprint on the Earth. Here are a handful of easy, inexpensive things that’ll help make your RV a Green Machine, and help make our Earth a cleaner place to live.
Use LED light bulbs
First and foremost, swap out all of your RV’s regular light bulbs for LED bulbs. Yes, they’re more expensive, but they use about half the amount of energy as conventional bulbs.
If rain is forecasted in your area, try to collect rainwater in a bucket from your RV’s downspout or from a tarp that you fashion into a little river. This water can be used for washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning your RV, and bathing in, but don’t drink it. Stick to bottled or filtered water for drinking.
Ditch the big TV
Ok, you don’t have to totally go all 1940s and gather around a radio for entertainment. But if you unplug and ditch the energy-sucking TV that your rig might have come equipped with and instead watch your favorite DVDs on your laptop, you’ll save loads of energy.
Inflate your tires
Before you pull out of your driveway for your long-awaited trip, check your tire pressure (on your tow vehicle and your RV). Low tire pressure will decrease gas mileage. Inflate them according to the vehicle’s or RV’s manual and you’re good to go. Check them periodically as well if you’re on the road for more than a week or so.
Install a solar panel
Using 3M adhesives, retrofit your RV with a solar panel or two. The energy generated from this can power most or all of your small appliances (microwave, coffee maker, hair dryer, etc.). Currently about 18% of RVers utilize solar panels (according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association).
Check for drafts
Do you feel a draft? Don’t let heat or A/C seep out of your RV through a leaky seal. Check the seals on your windows, slides, and doors. If you find a draft, you can use caulk or a sealant to temporarily fix it while on the road. Just consult the RV manual first. You could also wedge towels into a leaky area to keep air in/out for a quick fix.
Fill freshwater tanks at the campground
Here’s a fun fact--water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon! No wonder watermelons are so heavy! To increase your fuel efficiency, don’t fill up your fresh water tanks until you get to your campground. Don’t ruin your fuel economy by driving water from Point A to Point B when you don’t have to.
Use natural cleaners
A lot of store-bought cleaners have toxic chemicals in them that are hard on the environment (and dangerous for us humans), like formaldehyde and chloroform. Instead, use “green” cleaners, such as Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner in Lavender and Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. You can also make your own cleaning products using everyday ingredients right from your pantry, such as white vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, lemons, essential oils, and more.
Get a tune-up
Before your trip, schedule a tune-up for your tow vehicle and RV. Having it in tip-top shape right out of the gate will ensure that you’re reducing emissions and conserving energy.
Limit your use of disposable dishware and paper products
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to use disposable cups or paper plates. We use reusable dishes and cups and just wash them in a tub with hot soapy water. It’s a little extra work, but it saves us money (we don’t have to buy new plates and cups) and we’re creating almost zero waste. We love the sound of that!
Recycle on the road
If you DO use paper or plastic products, recycle them! Websites and apps make recycling easy when you’re on the road. Just enter your location (city or ZIP) and the available recycling centers will pop up. You can even search by material that you need to recycle (paper products, batteries, aluminum cans, etc). iRecycle and RecycleNation are two that we like.
Warm up or stay cool naturally
When it’s hot out, use your awnings or natural shade from nearby trees instead of your A/C unit to cool yourselves down. And when it’s cool, park your RV so it is protected from north and west winds and can be warmed by the sun. Ahhh, who doesn’t love feeling the sun warm them through a car (or RV) window!
Switch to low-flow faucets
Help conserve water by switching out the aerators in your kitchen and bath faucets to environmentally friendly 1.2-1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) aerators. You can also put a different showerhead on that only allows 2.5gpm. Our lakes and streams will thank you!
If your RV runs on diesel fuel, you can switch to a bio-diesel blend without having to make any modifications to your RV to help reduce the use of fossil fuels. Although it’s not available everywhere yet, bio-diesel blends (fuel blended with natural oils) can be found at gas stations located off of most major highways.