June 27


Van Life: Tips for the eco-conscious wanderer

By Becca Williams

June 27, 2022

tips, Travel, Van life

We share with you tips on ways to increase the sustainability of your ‘van life’ adventuring.

Van-living has become increasingly popular in recent years. With the global pandemic leading many to re-evaluate their aspirations and goals alongside the struggling real estate market – plus an increase in the ability to work remotely – it is no wonder there has been a growth in the popularity of van life or travel.

Living in a van can be a brilliant choice for yourself and the environment though with any cultural movement it is bound to come with its own mix of negative environmental effects. In this blog, we talk through some simple tips to keep you eco-conscious on the road.

The luxury of van living has been something I’d had the pleasure of experiencing myself at the ripe old age of nineteen when I hired a little van and drove from tip to tail of New Zealand. Van travel gave me great flexibility and the unique ability to experience beautiful sunrises and wildlife encounters I doubt I would have had any other way. Now, currently renovating our own van, we hope to inspire our vision for travel and living in a more sustainable way.

Quick disclosure: This post is not sponsored by any products or brands. Any recommendations are just of things we ourselves have tried and enjoy.

Cornish and cosy co-founder Becca standing on a van during travels in New Zealand. There is a deep blue sky that falls into snow capped mountains. Becca and her friends have been living the van life for a few months as they explore the beautiful country of New Zealand.

Stay for longer

Whether you are living in your van permanently or taking it away for adventure trips you are likely to rack up the miles. Rather than hopping from one place to the next each day why not stay for a while? Of course, this does not mean staying in one place for months on end but just being more mindful of your travel journey. It can be helpful to take it slow, shorten the distance between your stops and explore more of the local area by foot.

Go renewable

One of the best ways to increase your van’s sustainability is to switch to solar energy. There are lots of options for solar panels on the market and all you have to do is connect this up to a battery and you have power ready for your off-grid living.

This doesn’t only serve well for the environment but it saves pennies in the long run and means you don’t have to drive around to find somewhere to camp with power.

A man sitting in a van. In the foreground we have an out of focus bush framing him neatly. This man is clearly at a stopping point along his van life journey.

Use eco-conscious toiletries

Of course, during your van stays you will need to keep yourself and your van clean. You might have an outdoor shower or be washing your dishes outside. One of the great ways to reduce your impact on the environment is to be mindful of what products you are using. Keep a look out for natural and organic products without any harmful chemicals. Not only are these better for your skin but any water run-off won’t damage the floral and fauna that call the place home.

Another benefit of this is that there are lots of opportunities to reuse items, like washing up bottles or face clothes, and you can even find natural shampoo and soap bars on the market that won’t leave a mark at all. We really like Faith and Nature for our hair care products.

Leave no trace

Arguably one of the greatest tips here. You may be aware of the seven principles of the Leave No Trace or not, that’s okay! The increase in van life can also come with a rise in the abandonment of rubbish on the side of the road. The best way to minimise your impact is the take everything with you when you leave. This way you leave it exactly as you found it.

This is hugely important for the wildlife that lives in the area and ensures the local soil and water sources are not contaminated by rubbish. Van living is such a great way to get out there and enjoy the planet and everything it has to offer. This way we can remain a positive, eco-friendly community that fits alongside the natural world.

We are looking out the back of a van. It is a pink sunset over a crystal blue sea. A pillow saying Make Waves Not War can be seen atop a blue blanket. This person has chosen a simple van life with no kitchen or bed visible. Just the beautiful, natural scenery.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Of course, keeping your waste to zero is next to impossible. When food shopping or stocking up your van for your next adventure try and stay away from items with plastic packaging or single-use plastic. A great way could be to stop by local shops on your way, like a local greengrocer. Not only can you get some insider tips on the local area but you’ll find lovely produce that is not generally packaged in plastic.

If you have to buy plastic then try to re-use. Plastic bags can double up as rubbish bags to store everything in before you reach a bin. Maybe you can even store leftovers? I often store leftovers in takeaway containers, and find cans and jars make great little containers for plants and herbs or foods like pasta.

Of course, keeping an eye on local recycling points is really helpful. Keep your waste with you, reuse as much as you can, and recycle what you cannot use it again. Find this bit helpful? You can also check out our blog on low-waste living for more tips here.

Be mindful of your water consumption

With any van journey it is easy to over-consume water. Even if you are new to van-living you’ll have noticed that your water runs out very quickly! One of the best ways is the minimise your overall water consumption, shorten those showers, turn the tap off and even skip unnecessary water use. You can also start to collect and reuse water. Boiled pasta? Maybe use this water the next day for more cooking or water your tin-can herbs. You can find lots more tips on our other blog here about managing general water consumption.

A long dusty road, mountains to the left and in the distance. We see a van parked up with the roof tent erected. Stopping for the night to take in the breathtaking views during their van life.

Think about your toilet situation

Though not always something we want to talk about this is key to all forms of van living. We would recommend a composting toilet. A compost toilet separates your liquid and solid waste into compartments and actually turns it into compost that can be disposed of in the natural environment. This separation also means they don’t smell bad. They are a great way to reduce the amount of waste and also drastically reduce the amount of water you need for things like flushing.

A summary of van life

Is van life truly sustainable? Of course, a lot of this depends upon us as individuals. We are all individually responsible for our choices. It’s okay to sometimes end up with a plastic bag or have that quick extra shower every now and again – this doesn’t make us environmental monsters – but we can make sure we limit our impact. Plan your journey well, reduce your waste and dispose of things correctly. If we all follow these tips we can help conserve the natural environment that van living gives us access to, and keep enjoying this amazing movement and everything great that it has to offer.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to pop any comments or questions below.

Thank you for reading and good luck on your next adventures!

Becca Williams

About the author

Becca is Co-Founder of Cornish and Cosy. She is focused on product design and social media. She can be found wild swimming or out riding her horse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}