Living in a city can be a luxury when it comes to finding sustainable products that align with our values. But for Alex and I, van life proves that this is far more of a challenge, and it almost becomes a little game we have to put a lot of effort into. While we’re used to living in an urban area, where we have an array of different shops to consciously choose our foods and items from, being in a remote setting – which is where we often are – ensure that our options are far more limited. 

Quality, Local, and Conscious

Every time we go shopping for food or necessary items, we seek out quality products that align with our values. But we run into the same problem often: most parts of the planet don’t offer such easy access to these sustainable options. But we do the best we can – the effort is very much there!

In one of my other blog posts, I run through a list of why shopping ethically is so important. Now, it’s a different story if you’re financially strapped. And it’s the same issue if you’re unable to meet your daily sustainability goals because you’re in a region that doesn’t offer many green alternatives. Which is why I’m writing this. 

Whatever restrictions there are – whether it’d be financial or geographical – doesn’t mean there can’t still be some effort put into the practice. For Alex and I, going into a supermarket isn’t just an in-and-out procedure. We scour the store for anything that contains quality ingredients, is sourced locally, highlights ethical production, and has recyclable or compostable packaging. We aim to steer clear of plastic – this doesn’t mean it’s always a success. 

Call me picky, but I’d like to think of my preferences as something that’s helping the Earth as well as my health – and the health of others.

Here’s the list we abide by when purchasing products:

  • Ingredients: If I’m searching through a variety of kombucha’s, and am having a hard time choosing which to get, I usually start with the ingredients. Is there a lot on this list? Are there “natural flavors” or “concentrates”? (Yes, even this “healthy” drink can contain additives.) Something that should be noted is that anything with those titles usually means there’s an excess amount of sugar. Obviously, the sweetness makes it more desirable, but for those of us who are searching for quality, any additives are a big no-no. I could throw “organic” in here as well, but there’s been a growing controversy around this topic since any brand can label their product as “organic” but still use loopholes to add other kinds of harmful chemicals that aren’t great for the human body. (The term organic has really become a fad to showcase how “healthy” we are.)
  • Local: Then I look at where this kombucha was manufactured. Is it from New York? Or is it from a nearby town out here in California? Most of us know that the further away the product is made, the higher the carbon footprint it takes to arrive at this store location.
  • Packaging: Is it plastic or is it glass? Or even better – is it some kind of recycled material? A lot of products are put in aluminum cans and glass bottles, which are not only recyclable but can also be repurposed. (Think something like olive oil – both plastic containers and glass bottles sit side-by-side to each other. Opt for the glass – it’s only usually a few cents more!) Living in a van is difficult to repurpose items compared to living in a home. But this doesn’t make it impossible. An aluminum can or glass bottle may be used as a place to grow some herbs or a plant. 
  • Philosophy: This one is often viewed as being absurdly particular for someone who’s shopping conscientiously. But it’s certainly a plus to search for brands and companies that aim to manufacture their foods and drinks through ethical and fair-trade practices. This means they treat their workers well, they’re not ravaging lands and draining resources, and they’re committed to making the planet a top priority when it comes to their production, transportation, and packaging measures.

I should mention that adhering to these sustainability standards while road traveling is not at all easy. Unfortunately, most parts of the USA (and the rest of the world) don’t offer these – I feel drawn to say – “privileged” options that so few of us can afford to choose from. But again, I stand by what I mentioned above, that it’s the effort to change our habits so that we can help our planet heal, even if it’s almost an invisible amount. Maybe it’s not! Perhaps each bit of effort we make is a step towards an improved society – just think of it.

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