17 Eco Friendly tips and ideas for the Vanlife and Overlanding community
17 Things You Can Do to Protect the Environment While Overlanding by Evelin @overlandsite
Overlanding is a very exciting sport that can easily be enjoyed as a family activity – but as these large vehicles generally use diesel or gas engines with a low mpg, they can leave quite a bad footprint on the environment.
Considering that hybrid and electric vehicles are still fairly much in the distant future, there’s nothing much that you can do concerning the effect that your car has – but there are certain things that you can do aside from that. Many of these things seem to be common sense, but in truth, not as many people respect them.
Here are 17 things that you can do as an overlanding camper so that you can protect the environment.
1. Avoid Plastic Bags
Plastic bags have been with us ever since we were born – and at this point, we can all say that we had a plastic bag in which we gathered all the other plastic bags. However, these bags are fairly hard to recycle – and are almost never biodegradable – which means they aren’t any good for the environment.
The first step here would be to stop using plastic bags and bring reusable ones. Moreover, you may want to avoid items that have been packaged in plastic. Go for recyclable options, such as cardboard cartons or reusable bottles.
A good inhabitant of the planet Earth will know that waste should not be left lying around – regardless of its nature. Therefore, when you are overlanding, you should not throw your waste on the side of the road – instead, try to recycle it. Dead batteries thrown on the roadside represent one of the greatest environmental nightmares.
By doing this on a regular basis, you’ll bring it into your habit to be environmentally conscious. Try to use recyclable packaging as much as possible – and if you have to throw it away, wait until the next recycling point.
3. Avoid Products for Single Use
We’ve all been there. We’ve purchased a bunch of single-use batteries because we didn’t want to recharge them continuously. Throwaway containers for portable stoves are also fairly popular, particularly when you like to stop and cook your food every now and again. It makes things very easy for us.
However, we live in a time of USB rechargeable units, solar torches, and kinetic watches. Many solar-touch products are also cutting edge, and fairly convenient when you are away on the road for quite some time. Plus, they are not as harsh on the environment – so, you’ll be able to stay comfortable while saving the planet.
4. Slow Down
You’re overlanding; it’s obvious that you’ll want to pick up the speed and go crazy on the road. After all, nobody is watching you – and the terrains and roads that you are going on will likely prevent any traffic.
Still, environmentally speaking, there is a problem with this: the faster you go, the more fuel you consume. And the more fuel you consume, the more carbon emissions you will leave in the air. These emissions represent one of the main reasons why global warming is wreaking havoc and why everything seems to be literally burning up and melting.
Keep your wheels properly inflated to reduce the drag and diminish your speed and coverage for each day. This way, you should be able to protect the environment by preventing more release of the harmful emissions.
5. Use Water Wisely
If you cherish your water supply, not only will you be kept off the beaten track for a much longer time, but it will also help the environment. For example, simple things such as showering less (or for shorter amounts of time), or simply saving the laundry for until you get to the next campsite (or home) will be very helpful to the environment.
Ultimately, you might also want to use as little soap and detergent as possible. The more you use, the more foam it will make – and the more water you will tend to use. Not only will you be using precious water, but soap is also difficult to filter from the environment.
If the shower water is cold when you initially turn it on, save the flowing water into a bucket until it begins to get warm. The water that you have collected can be used for washing the laundry, for example. You may also use a portable purifier to make that water drinkable.
6. Eat Organic and Local
We all like to eat a nice avocado for breakfast or go for some sort of exotic food while we are on the run. However, think about it this way: if the food was not locally grown, it means it was brought from quite a far distance. This will mean that quite an amount of fuel may be used – as well as a fair amount of refrigeration power.
For this reason, you should try to eat organic food that has been grown locally as often as possible. This will take less fossil fuel to produce and bring on the market, which will make it all easier to protect the environment.
7. Use Products that are Eco-Friendly
It might be very tempting for you to use regular bags and soap and other chemical products – but by using biodegradable products while overlanding, you will be making it much easier on the environment. Moreover, on the plus side, it will be much better on your health.
Instead of using soap, shampoo, detergents, and laundry, try to use natural ingredients. For instance, sodium bicarbonate and vinegar and not only cheap, but they are also safe to use and environmentally friendly. Not only can you use them on yourself – but you may use them to clean your gear and things as well.
8. Mind Your Camping Habits
Many people live under the impression that if they stay on an actual campground that has all the amenities you need, they can forget all about their saving habits – power, water, and everything else.
Just because you have access to a shower, it doesn’t mean that you can use all the water. Turn the tap off while you are soaping your body and hair and press the half-flush button unless it is absolutely necessary to press the full-flush one. Try to be mindful of the other campers as well.
9. Don’t Use Plastic Straws
Let this information sink in: every straw that this planet has ever produced is still here and it will never really go away. As a result, all that these straws can do is accumulate continuously. People use millions of plastic straws every day – and considering their non-biodegradability, you can see why this might pose a problem.
Therefore, instead of going for the classic plastic straw, try to go for alternatives. For example, if you simply cannot get out of the use of straws, use bamboo straws instead. Not only are they sustainable and renewable, but they are fully compostable as well. They represent the perfect choice if you are a juice or smoothie drinker.
10. Don’t Use Single-Use Coffee Cups
As a camper, it is likely that your best friend in the dead of the morning is the steaming coffee cup as you are watching the sunrise. However, many overlanding campers also tend to bring single-use coffee cups with them, just so that they do not have to carry any actual utensils with them.
To take the more environmentally friendly path, you should consider bringing your own mug with you. A reusable travel mug, for instance, may only keep a few disposable cups out of your waste – but when it comes to the environment, you will see that it is actually quite advantageous.
11. Go for Eco-Friendly Sunscreen
When you are traveling during summer, you will eventually feel the need to put on some sunscreen that will keep you safe from the wrath of the UV rays. However, classic over-the-counter sunscreen can not only be harmful to your skin – but to the waterways as well. Certain ingredients, when going into the water, can damage the habitat and kill the coral reef.
This is why you should look into natural sunscreens instead. The ones based on zinc oxide will be able to naturally protect your skin – and will do so in a natural way. It will be safe not only for the water but for yourself as well.
12.Go for Quality Camping Gear
Good quality camping gear is not always something you go for, because it is not usually cheap. However, if you do decide to go the final mile, this camping gear will not only last for a long time – but it will also be friendly on the environment.
Go for good clothing, quality overlanding gear, portable fridges, and other quality units. This way, you will not be leaving any “pieces” behind. You will also own them for quite a significant amount of time.
13.Avoid Wet Wipes
We know, we told you to use as little water as possible – so, in this case, wet wipes may seem awfully convenient. However, you may want to rethink their use – because while many manufacturers say that they are biodegradable, the truth is that they are not.
When a wet wipe enters a sewer, it will become what is commonly known as a “fatberg.” It will eventually break down – but it can take 100 years until that happens. In the meantime, many sea creatures can die if they end up ingesting these wipes.
14.Recycle Vehicle Oil Responsibly
Perhaps one of the biggest issues of overlanding is managing your waste vehicle oils. Many people throw the waste oil away randomly, not knowing that this can be quite harmful to the environment.
Ideally, you should plan the service intervals around the larger capital cities, as they generally have proper oil collecting and recycling facilities. However, if you are servicing your own vehicle, make sure to store them in heat-resistant containers until you reach the collection point.
15.Manage Your Trash Properly
A common camping problem is caused by the fact that trash is left around, lying on the side of the road. This is why, as a conscious overlanding enthusiast, you should manage your trash daily and properly.
Make sure that you properly consider the space you have for waste. Depending on the trip that you are going to, it might take weeks until you actually reach a town or a city. This is fairly important, as you need to dispose of the rubbish in a proper facility.
You should also consider the not-yet-trash items that you are carrying. For example, while tinned food can be quite convenient, it can take quite a lot of space in the trash – and is not very easy to use. You may want to consider transferring the food in ziplock bags that you can use later on.
16. Manage Human Waste Properly
This was going to come up eventually: how you manage your own body waste. You might be surprised to know that while it is biodegradable, there is a right and a wrong way to poop when you are out in nature. Realistically speaking, you cannot pack this with you – so you only have the bury option.
Human poop should be buried in a hole that is at least 6-8 inches deep – around 200 feet from any water source. In theory, any used toilet paper should be packed out in the trash – but once more, realistically speaking, you can responsibly burn it. Do not forget to bring sanitizing gel with you!
17. Be Careful with Fuel Filling and Jerry Cans
To be protective of the environment, you should only fill your jerry cans or fuel at an actual filling station. You might want to take your time so that you can plan everything in advance. This way, you can avoid any potential spillages.
Bear in mind that some pumps do not have an auto shut-off feature – and will still run when you turn your back around. To prevent any spills, you should line all your cans in advance, open the lids and have the fuel cap ready.
You should opt for approved fuel cans instead of the disposable plastic barrels. This is the environmentally friendly method.
Camping is the perfect way to take the stress out, and overlanding will give you the privilege of seeing everything that Mother Nature has to offer. However, if you want to keep enjoying this privilege, you must ensure that you limit your impact on the environment as much as possible. It might take some practice, but you can “install” these good habits in your system. Follow along with our adventures and keep in touch with us @overlandsite