Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by Christina
If you’re like us, you love the outdoors. Fresh air and sunshine. Lush, mature forests. Crystal clear streams. Awe-inspiring mountains. Beautiful sandy beaches. These are just a few of the things that draw us back to nature again and again.
As RVers and campers, we play an important role in protecting the environment we enjoy so much. Many of the park fees we pay when visiting help maintain those grounds for future generations. For those who want to do more, there are several other ways you can go green in your RV – from shopping secondhand gear to installing RV solar panels, you can be a hero for the planet while exploring and enjoying the natural world around us.
To help you make your own RV camping trips more green we spoke with an expert, Paige, a Huron Pines AmeriCorps member serving with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She’s an avid camper and experienced RV who undertook a six-month long RV tour to gather data about rustic campgrounds across Michigan. Paige holds a degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Michigan State and is passionate about protecting the outdoors. She took a break from her day job to help us compile this list of earth-friendly camping tips.
Here are 25+ ways to be more eco-friendly when you camp in your RV.
Think green before you hit the road to improve gas mileage in your RV
Fuel-consuming vehicles are a major source of pollution so think green before you hit the road in your RV to reduce your carbon footprint.
Plan a fuel-efficient route to maximize your miles per gallon (MPG) and make the most of your adventures on the road. Trip planning apps can help you check all those must-see sites off your list without having to backtrack.
Also, make sure your vehicle/RV is road ready – check tire pressure, get an oil change, replace air filters, etc. Skipping routine maintenance can make your RV less fuel efficient and might also leave you stranded. Check your owner’s manual for recommended service schedules.
Pack what you need and leave the rest at home. Excess weight in your RV will decrease your MPG so leave the leather-bound books and those free weights at home. When possible, empty your RV’s holding tanks before heading to your next destination.
Stick to the speed limit to maximize your MPG. Watch the traffic flow so you can accelerate gradually and brake smoothly while maintaining a safe distance between your RV and other vehicles.
Bring bikes or a small vehicle for day trips. This will help you conserve your RV’s fuel. Also, having an alternate mode of transportation means you don’t have to break camp for a quick supply run.
Stay longer! Another way to conserve fuel is by traveling shorter distances and staying longer at each destination.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle to be an eco-friendly RVer
The best way to reduce waste on the road (or at home) is simply to use less. Be mindful of the products you’re buying and using; search for alternative, sustainable substitutions. A little extra thought goes a long way to help our planet and your wallet.
In the kitchen, you can reduce waste by bringing your own cups, cutlery, plates and bowls. This will save you money, as you won’t have to buy single-use dishes, and will minimize the amount of trash going to the landfill.
In addition, bring a refillable water bottle and invest in a refillable water container for water storage while camping. REI makes a great collapsible 5 gallon water container. It’s lightweight and easy to store when you’re not using it.
Visit local stores and farmers markets when you’re on the road. You’ll be supporting the community you’re visiting when you choose local products that didn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to be put on the shelf. Shopping local is an intentional and easy way to be mindful of your ecological footprint.
Choose products with minimal packaging when shopping. Less packaging means less waste. And bring your own reusable shopping bags so you can say no to plastic. If you forget to bring your reusable shopping bags to the store (we’ve all been there), choose plastic bags and reuse them for trash bags. Once again, you’ll save money by not buying plastic trash bags and are helping the planet by reusing an item.
Reuse food containers, like salsa jars or sour cream tubs, for produce or leftovers storage. Reducing your waste by reusing single-use items is a great way to be mindful on the road. Alternatively, investing in reusable products like beeswax wrap or reusable silicone food storage bags will help eliminate single-use plastics bags and clear film wrap.
Reduce food waste by meal planning and only buying what you need. If possible, shop in bulk for commonly used items like rice, beans and oats. The larger-sized containers will save you money and contribute less waste.
Buy secondhand gear to help the planet and save your cash. If you’re shopping for outdoor gear, camping supplies, or other non-food items check out your local thrift shop or Facebook Marketplace. Many companies also offer discounted and lightly-used gear. Check out REI Co-Op Used Gear, The Northface Renewed, Patagonia Worn Wear, and Switchback Gear Exchange.
How to be eco-friendly at your RV campsite
It isn’t hard to make your RV camping trips more eco-friendly; you just have to make a conscious effort and thoughtful choices. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, or just relaxing in your RV, you can lessen your impact on the earth with these tips.
Pick the right campsite for the weather. When camping in warm weather, choose a shaded campsite to protect your RV from the sun’s rays. This will help reduce your AC usage. The opposite logic applies for camping in cold weather; choose a sunny site to help keep your RV warm.
Conserve energy in your RV by switching to LED lights. LED lights draw less power and produce less heat than traditional bulbs. Whether you’re running on solar or shoreline power, turn off lights and appliances when not in use.
Conserve water in your RV by installing low flow faucets and showerheads. These upgrades are an easy DIY project. Check out the Parts department at your local RV dealer to get started.
Cook over a campfire or grill when you’re camping. Not only will this save energy, it will also keep excess heat from being produced indoors.
Use RV toilet paper in your RV. Special RV toilet paper may seem silly but it’s designed to breakdown faster in your RV’s black water tank. You don’t want to deal with a clogged camping toilet on your adventures so pick up a pack before every trip!
Cut up old towels or t-shirts and give them a second life as cleaning rags. This will help you save money on disposable paper towels or new packaged cleaning cloths.
Use an earth-friendly cleaner and a washable rag to wipe down interior surfaces. Avoid using disinfecting wipes or paper towels that will end up in a landfill.
Choose eco-friendly, bio-degradable cleaning products and RV chemicals. There are greener options for RV toilet cleaner, black water and gray water tank treatments and more. Look for that items marked with the EPA Safer Product Standards logo.
Wash all your dishes at once in order to save water while on the road. Paige suggests letting your dishes stack up for a few days in order to wash them all together. Simply fill a spray bottle with water and biodegradable dish soap and spray down all of the dishes. Then, scrub and rinse them with the faucet on a low trickle. Do not wash dishes in rivers or lakes, and never dump black or gray water into rivers or lakes.
If you’re traveling with a pet, pick up after them. Bring biodegradable dog duty bags to make sure you can pick up their waste and dispose of it properly.
If a public restroom is not available and nature is calling, make sure you know the proper procedures for going to the bathroom in the outdoors. One of the most common pieces of trash found on trails and in campgrounds is toilet or tissue paper. Ladies, check out Kula Cloth. This company is woman-owned and makes reusable antimicrobial cloths for peeing in the woods. Paige has one of these and loves it. Alternatively, consider getting a stand to pee device like the She Wee or the P Style. There are many options available so you can find one that works for you.
Most importantly, make sure to leave your campsite better than you found it. Take everything with you when you leave – trash, waste, food, etc. – and follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
Use RV solar panels, go boondocking to reduce your carbon-footprint and make your RV adventures greener
Install and use RV solar panels to cut down on energy usage and costs. Solar power can free you from the grid and open up a whole new world of new camping opportunities. RV solar panels can be used to power your RV’s electrical appliances and charge your phone or other devices. You can find solar power parts and kits to install on your RV at your local RV dealer. If installing permanent RV solar panels isn’t feasible (say, if you’re renting or borrowing), check out portable solar power options like this one from Jackery. These green camping power solutions create zero carbon emissions. Plus, they’re quiet and easy to use.
Go boondocking! Boondocking (or dry camping or wild camping) simply means camping without being connected to water, electric or sewer. Essentially, your RV is self-contained. Challenge yourself and see how eco-friendly you can be when you camp off the grid without any hook-ups.
Last but not least, choose an RV that matches your eco-friendly lifestyle. Many RV manufacturers are taking extra steps to make their RVs more green with features like double-paned windows, extra insulation, solar power kits, etc. Visit the manufacturer’s website to see what they are doing to minimize the impact to the environment when producing RVs.
Get out there and go green when you RV
Green RVing isn’t just about using solar panels and boondocking. There are tons of ways you can reduce your impact on the planet while enjoying your RV in the outdoors. Traveling and living on the road can sometimes provide challenges when trying to live a “green” or earth-conscious life, but with a little planning and a few thoughtful choices, it is possible to be an eco-friendly RV camper.
In return for spending time in beautiful places we love, it is our duty and responsibility to take care of this earth so future generations can continue to enjoy these natural spaces. Be intentional while traveling and consider the decisions you’re making and how they will affect the earth.
This blog post is part of our Project Rustic series. Paige, the explorer behind Project Rustic, helped put together these helpful tips while living and working in a Nexus Triumph Class C motorhome provided by General RV Center. Stay tuned for more guest posts on our blog. And follow General RV Center on Facebook and Instagram for more exclusive content from Paige’s adventure across Michigan!