THE TRUTH ABOUT VANLIFE - SO WE BOUGHT A VAN
EVAN & KATIE of @S0WEBOUGHTAVAN
1. How do you practice sustainable living in your day to day vanlife? Do you have any creative or innovative tips to share?
We try to keep consumption in mind, whether it be how much water we're using, making sure we don't let food go to waste, always using reusable grocery bags/avoiding plastic when possible, or using reusable water bottles 100% of the time. Having less space to hold food, water, and products just automatically means we're consuming much less than we ever were before. Having limited water definitely makes you do your dishes more carefully, brush your teeth without letting the water run, and learn to utilize baby wipes instead of washing your face. We're also showering way less than we used to, which automatically saves a lot of water! Additionally, we aren't shopping for products as much, if at all. For example, we aren't purchasing any makeup, body lotions, deodorants, or beauty products in general. We only buy shampoo and conditioner maybe once every 5 months. All our energy is renewable as well. We run all our appliances, lights, fan, etc. on solar. Our best tip is to just be conscious of how many resources you're using on a regular basis. It really doesn't take much to cut down on consumption, food waste, water usage, etc. Just being thoughtful of it helps!
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2. Tell us about your water setup. How do you collect, store and conserve water?
We have a 10-gallon fresh water tank in the back of the van that we fill up using a hose whenever we have the opportunity. We rely a lot on State Parks, National Parks, and the kindness of local gas station owners. We also have a 7-gallon water jug, strictly for drinking water, that we sometimes pay to fill up, depending on the water quality of the area we're in. We make this water last at least a week, sometimes more. Our biggest way to conserve water is doing the dishes a specific way. We stack dishes while we're washing them so the water cleans the dishes below while we are minimally rinsing the top dish. We do our best to wipe out the dishes prior to washing them as well, which really helps. As stated above, we've also switched to face wipes instead of washing our faces on a regular basis. You get used to the feeling of being just a little dirtier after a while :)
3. How do you shop for and store food in your small space? How do you minimize waste?
We shop for about 4 days of meals and are usually able to stretch that out to last an entire week with leftovers. We minimize waste by planning out the entire week of meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to make sure we never buy more than we need. We are really cautious about how much extra food we buy outside of those meals, purchasing just a bit of grab-and-go fruits/vegetables and 1 or 2 healthier snacks, like mixed nuts. This helps ensure that nothing goes bad before we can eat it and we're not throwing away any food. We also try to buy local, when possible. We check out the local farmers’ markets whenever we're in a new town and buy what we can there. Regarding storage, we have a fridge with enough room to store dairy, meat, and produce. We keep a bin in the front of the car with all our canned foods, excess spices, sauces, etc. and we have plenty of extra cupboard space in our van for any other food products we need to store!
4. What are some sustainable methods / materials you’ve used in building out or customizing your van?
The first thing that comes to mind is that most our insulation was done using recycled denim batting. Not only is the material obviously recycled but it's much healthier for long-term living conditions, compared to traditional fiberglass insulation. As previously stated, we also run completely on solar. We have 3-100 watt solar panels and 4 batteries running our van on renewable energy! We were also just really careful in general about only buying what we needed and using anything we had leftover to ensure we weren't throwing away materials. For example, we had a bunch of leftover reflectix so we sewed canvas window covers filled with double-layered insulation instead of throwing away the leftovers.
5. What are some challenges you’ve faced in your efforts to minimize your environmental impact on the road? How are you overcoming these challenges?
One thing that has been really bugging us is how much plastic is required to buy produce in the grocery store. However, we recently learned about reusable produce bags that we plan to switch to very, very soon and are so excited about! Another thing that is hard to minimize is the driving. We obviously live in our van and are constantly on the move. There are definitely times when we stay put, but not for very long. This summer, we plan to be much more stationary and minimize the amount of driving tremendously. Lastly, RECYCLING. We cannot believe how many states don't recycle. Where we're from, Portland, Oregon, composting is a regular thing so the thought of states not even recycling drives us mad. We cringe every time we are exploring states that don't recycle. We just try to reuse as many containers and boxes as we can and seek out recycling as much as possible.
6. Feel free to share anything else you feel is important in regards to sustainable living on the road.
Everybody is learning here. Having conversations like this is so important because we can continuously learn from each other. I love that you guys specifically asked for tips and recommendations because that is what is so important!! Figuring out more creative ways to be more conscientious is such a positive step in the right direction. Laura Hughes released a really amazing podcast episode (Women on the Road: Episode 12 - Conscious Conserving: Caroline Winslow) that discusses environmental friendliness when living in a van. Check it out if you haven't had a chance to yet!