How to Minimize Your Carbon Footprint While Living on the Road


Photo by Geoffroy Hauwen

The rise in remote work and technology has made it easier than ever for people to lead nomadic lifestyles – and many are taking advantage of that. In 2019, it was estimated that 140,000 people in the U.S. were living in vans, boats, or other recreational vehicles. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has undoubtedly risen, especially due to the #vanlife movement

Living out of a car or van typically means you’ll use fewer resources than you would in a traditional home. However, there are some drawbacks, especially when you want to live a sustainable lifestyle. Traveling across the country in a vehicle that depends on gas doesn’t exactly scream sustainability. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to minimize your carbon footprint while living on the road. Nomadic living can be one of the most eco-friendly ways to exist if you’re willing to make small changes and offset your carbon footprint with eco-friendly habits. 

Not sure where to start? Let’s cover a few simple ways to lead a more sustainable life when you’re always on the road. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repair

These are really the four “Rs” you should live by when you’re leading a nomadic lifestyle. We’ll talk more about reducing your consumption later, but let’s focus on reusing items as much as possible, the benefits of recycling, and learning how to repair what you otherwise might throw away. 

When it comes to reusing items on the road, consider how you can establish a waste-free van life. Some ideas to easily put into practice include

Avoiding single-use plastic

Bringing your own mesh bags when you go shopping

Investing in reusable water bottles

Using cloth towels instead of paper towels

Some single-use items are hard to avoid, but that doesn’t mean they should go in the trash. It’s easy to set up a small recycling spot in your van, camper, or car. Have a dedicated “recycling bin” for things like plastic, aluminum, and paper, but also consider how you can go “bigger” with your recycling efforts. 

For example, if you’re driving thousands of miles each year, you’re going to put a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle. Instead of buying a new one, consider using recycled parts to restore yours. Making sure your vehicle is fully restored and well-maintained will also make it more efficient, so you won’t put as many carbon emissions into the air. 

If you don’t want to use a mechanic, consider learning how to repair things on your own. Investing in a few simple tools, like a multimeter to measure electricity, will equip you with everything you need to repair your car and any appliances or electronics you might use for everyday living. 

Be a Conscious Consumer

When you’re living in a vehicle, space is limited. You’ve already undoubtedly had to adopt somewhat of a minimalist lifestyle to fit all of your belongings in your car or van. However, that limited space can also inspire you to be a more conscious consumer. 

You’ll still need supplies, food, new clothes, and entertainment items regularly. However, you’ll be able to easily fight back against the social addiction of shopping simply out of necessity. 

Even if you’re making a decent living on the road by working remotely, you can save that money for more important expenses (including gas to fuel your vehicle) rather than filling up your limited space with things you don’t need. 

Those desires to buy a lot of “stuff” don’t necessarily go away. However, living in such a small space will help you to realize what you truly need to survive and be content. Van life helps create conscious consumers. Although you can’t avoid having to buy gas and a few other necessities, it will open your eyes to overconsumption and make it easier to change your buying habits. 

Leave No Trace

One of the biggest benefits of living on the road is being able to explore and experience new places. While you might end up sleeping in truck stops, rest areas, or parking lots more often than not, you’ll also take advantage of campgrounds and RV parks. 

If you do, it’s important to adopt the “leave no trace” model. 

When you choose to keep a site clean before you leave, you’re making a better experience for the next person there and doing something beneficial for the environment. Some people even choose to leave their campsite (or parking spot) cleaner than they found it. If that’s you, you definitely get a few bonus points. 

Sustainable camping is easier than you might think, as long as you utilize what you have, prepare your meals beforehand, and dispose of any waste or trash responsibly and ethically. 

Whether you’ve been living on the road for a while or the idea of #vanlife is appealing to you more than ever, you can still practice a sustainable lifestyle. Recycle and reuse what you can, don’t buy what you don’t need, and choose to leave the earth a better place no matter where you park. 

Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy focused on alleviating the negative impacts of the tourism industry on the marine environment.

Want to communicate about what you are doing for sustainability, but don’t know where to start? Let’s chat.

  Nomadic living can be one of the most eco-friendly ways to exist if you’re
willing to make small changes and offset your carbon footprint with
eco-friendly habits.

Not sure where to start? Let’s cover a few simple ways to lead a more
sustainable life when you’re always on the road.Read MoreSustainable LivingBlog – Sea Going Green


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