Living as minimalists is inevitable. We have a van that’s on the smaller side for two people and a dog. We’ve had to downsize a LOT in order to fit things in an organized fashion in our tiny home on wheels. Every inch of space is valuable for our essentials that we’re currently carrying. But another addition to this simplistic lifestyle is also: sustainability.
So . . . how are we living eco-efficiently while on the road?
We compost: For the most part, we try to use and consume as much of our food as we can so that there’s little waste. But it doesn’t always work, so we put the leftover scraps in a container while cooking. Then, if we’re in an area with a lot of dirt, we’ll dig up a hole in a remote place and place our leftovers there so they can quickly biodegrade into the soil (while remaining bear aware since this can be a risk). Why do we compost? Because food scraps, once sent over to the landfill along with piles of other foods, add an absurd amount of methane gas into the atmosphere – almost as much as car emissions. It’s insane.
We limit our packaging materials: Non-recyclable plastic is a big no-no. Usually, we’ll avoid purchasing our fresh produce in any kind of packaging, if we can help it. For items such as pasta, eggs, and yogurt that do come in packaging, we aim for paper material or containers that are clearly labeled as “recyclable”. (Yet recycling is a whole other complication in itself, with restrictions made on what can and can’t be recycled based on specific locations – more on this in the next blog.)
We try our best to reuse and repurpose: Plastic is omnipresent. You probably know this too. It is sometimes completely unavoidable to purchase a product that is wrapped in plastic, and so the guilt is real. And even though at some point in time it will end up in the landfill and exist on our planet for hundreds of years later, we can still get crafty and get some use out of it! So when Alex and I have this situation on our hands, we do our best to repurpose the plastic container or bag. It’s actually easy to come up with creative ideas on how to do this, and there are plenty of resources online that are helpful too (such as this site).
We seek to purchase local and ethically-sourced products: When we can, we’ll put in a lot of energy into buying items that are made locally and with an emphasis on positive environmental impact and human wellbeing. This means these brands focus on doing better for our planet by sourcing and producing sustainably while meeting responsible standards for their workers.
We’ve become water-conscious: The average American household uses over 300 gallons of water a day, according to the EPA. Meanwhile, our simple living here in the van ensures we use approximately 8 gallons a day. We’re limited to our 10-gallon water jug, which we’re having to refill every couple days, but it’s made us extremely conscious of our water usage.
We get our energy from the sun: Our 400-watt solar panels are what we rely on in order to cook, charge, and use our lights every day. This is a common thing van lifers do because it’s often the primary choice that we’re faced with. But it’s awesome because it feels good knowing that your energy is strictly coming from our own sustainable resources, and no other.
We’ve reduced our meat intake: Now, we’re not yet vegans (that’s a long road towards the goal) but we’re conscious of the insane impact the meat industry creates on our planet. There are countless documentaries out there (such as Cowspiracy) that’ll convey this brutal reality transparently. For me, I can feel when the meat is not resonating with my body, and this is a strong indication that I shouldn’t be eating it. So we have formed a conscious diet that almost entirely omits meat consumption. (For Alex, it’s around 3x a month. For me, about once or twice per month.) Also, we’re saving a ton of money by not purchasing meat, so that’s another plus!
We focus every day on reducing our human impact.
Considering our goal is to offset the carbon emissions we release during our daily drives in the van, we try to become extra conscious of how our purchases and our consumption might be affecting the environment. It eases our conscience knowing that we’re putting effort into reducing our damaging human impact and making a small difference to keep our environment clean. And guess what? These things are way easier to commit to in a house or apartment than in a van. So if we can do it, so can you.