Sustainable Living and Vanlife

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

While driving is not considered to be one of the most eco-friendliest ways to live life, vanlife is known for having a much smaller carbon footprint than today’s modern, more traditional, stationary home living lifestyles. One of the greatest ways living in a van contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle is the greater environmental awareness and overconsumption it teachers over all.

Vanlife is showing those who have adopted the “American dream” mindset how it’s possible to maintain a minimalist lifestyle. Custom van builds are purposefully designed for less waste, because there’s less space, and this in itself promotes a zero-waste lifestyle. Josh Theberge, founder of Vanmakers shares:

“I realized that success and happiness come from doing things I truly love and not from owning things. When I started making a lot of money in my career and buying those things, I began to realize that the “American Dream” wasn’t fulfilling to me. Once my van was done, I hit the road and spent over two years exploring the outdoors while doing the things that make me happy. Vanlife is all about trading a small amount of comfort for a larger amount of freedom.” 

As a vanlifer learns to live in a small space, they are forced to downsize and begin to live only with life’s essentials. When they make this lifestyle switch, most learn a new way of living and become more environmentally conscious consumers by default. Those who have become minimalists over time explain that living in a van is the best way to learn about what you truly need, and it helps you to find greater happiness in experiences and meaningful connections, not just in things.  

Waste: Because vanlifers generally consume less than a typical American, they in effect produce less trash than a typical American.  I switched from paper to cloth towels because it was better for the environment, but also because I didn’t like my tiny trash can filling up so quickly!  My friend bought a soda stream because his tiny trash was constantly filled with soda cans…you simply don’t think about these things when you live in a house.

Gas: Many vanlifers build their vans with lightweight materials because they can save a lot of money and time having to stop less for gas over the course of their travels.  So essentially by being cheap, vanlifers are effectively lowering their vehicle’s carbon footprint.  Diesel engines are considered “lean burn” because they use less fuel and more are to get the same performance as a gasoline van. 

Power: Living in a van usually means you’re running a very low energy consumption electrical system.  Low energy consumption usually means your lighting is LED, your appliances are 12v (DC) and you’re powering all of them with batteries that store energy that you’re producing. You’re producing your own energy either from solar panels mounted to the roof or charging your battery bank from your alternator as you drive (or ideally both).  Producing your own energy helps to offset (somewhat) the carbon emissions of traveling in a van.  

Water: Water is limited as well because most vans only have enough space for between 5-35 gallons of water storage on board.  When you have a limited amount of water or energy storage on board you can be sure you aren’t going to let the water run when you’re brushing your teeth or leave the lights on.  Vans typically have more efficient toilets that use little to no water (cassette, composting toilets, etc), making them even more environmentally friendly than a household flush toilet.

Wastewater: A grey water tank holds the wastewater from your shower or sink (not toilet).  As long as you’re using eco-friendly (biodegradable) soaps, cleaners and toothpaste, it’s generally legal to dump your greywater on the ground (DISCLAIMER: it is illegal to dump grey water in national parks and forests and most state parks and you should always check state and city laws before dumping grey water on the ground.)  I make it a habit to not dump in any natural setting and wait until I am near a city sewer or dump station.  Having the option to dump grey water has opened many vanlifers eyes to using non-toxic, biodegradable household products.

Due to the coronavirus lockdown and all the changes taking place around the world, more people have realized that the typical American dream lifestyle of working hard to make money and spending it on purchasing high-end designer brand clothing, luxurious cars, and other materialistic items, is less full-filling than embarking on great adventures and having more memorable experiences

Are you ready to live the life of your dreams and interested in becoming part of the vanlife community? Vanmakers designs & builds custom, high-quality vans, with style and functionality for the best vanlife experience. The founders have extensive knowledge and experience of living life in a van and help to create the right blueprint to meet each person’s needs. They customize and build one-of-a-kind vans, as if it was their own, and help get you ready for an adventure that will last a lifetime!

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