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Ways to Reduce Waste on the Road


One great asset to living on the road is having everything you need right there with you on any given adventure. With the comes limited space in your van, and generating too much waste while you’re on the road can only complicate this, leading to a more cluttered and unkempt environment. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to reduce your waste while you’re on the road. And just as it’s the case with many waste-reduction initiatives, it’s often not one big thing that can make a difference, but several smaller things that can all add up over time. To help with your waste-reduction strategies, we’ve compiled some tips to get you started. Good for you, good for the environment… that’s all we can ask for right? Let’s take a look at the list below.

Invest in Reusable Dishware

We know it can be tempting to purchase paper plates and plastic utensils for preparing meals while you’re traveling in your van. And while this may seem convenient, it can create a lot of waste that you’ll eventually have to take care of. A better strategy is to invest in reusable dishware and utensils. This way, after you’re done preparing your meals for the day, you can simply clean them and reuse them next time. It’s a much more sustainable way to live on the road rather than filling up your wastebasket with paper plates and plastic silverware.

Separate Recycling (and Deposit When You’re in Town)

We get how recycling on the road may seem like more of an inconvenience than at home. After all, it’s pretty easy to just toss your recyclables into a bin and take it out to your curb once a week for pickup. If you’re serious about reducing waste on the road, you’ll find that there’s not a lot of extra effort that goes into it. Continue to separate waste from recyclables – just as you do at home. And then when you get into town, take a few minutes to take your recyclables to the nearest recycling center.

Assess Your Items and Eliminate What You Don’t Need/Use

Getting ready to hit the road again this spring? Before you do, give your rec van a thorough “spring cleaning.” Just as we tidy up our homes each year when the weather breaks, we suggest doing something similar with your rec van. Give your rec van a thorough assessment and sort unwanted or unneeded items into piles for recycling or selling/donating. The goal is to start your rec van traveling season much more lean than you did before. You’ll find that eliminating the clutter will give you more space.

Skip Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics are exactly what they sound like – they’re products that are only used one time and then discarded. Though popular for their convenience, they’re a real detriment to the environment. According to the NRDC, some 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year – and about half of these are single-use plastic items. When you consider that more than 90 percent of plastics are not recycled and plastic isn’t a material that decomposes quickly, these single-use items end up in landfills and polluting the beaches, oceans and environments where we live, work and play. Rather than purchase single-use plastics, instead invest in items like reusable or paper straws, reusable shopping bags, reusable dishware and more.

Go Paperless

While there are some things that you just can’t substitute with a digital file (e.g., your title, insurance information and registration), going paperless can significantly reduce the clutter in your rec van and also reduce the amount of waste you’ll have to discard. We already mentioned skipping paper plates and instead opting for reusable dishware and utensils, and we challenge you to think of other ways you can ditch paper. For example, instead of carrying hard copies of any documents, consider scanning them and uploading them to a safe, secure cloud. Ditch the paper map and use your phone’s navigation. Instead of bringing books, download them to a tablet for reading. Get creative!

Compost Food Waste

Food waste is another big environmental drag. It’s estimated that up to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in wasted food. Aside from the monetary aspect, there’s also the wasted resources that produced the food. Arguably just as detrimental is its impact on the environment. Food waste often goes to landfill, where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that has been identified as a key contributor to the changing climate. It’s estimated that about 35 million tons of wasted food go to landfill each year. With all of this being said, a better strategy on the road isn’t to discard your food scraps and waste, but instead to compost it. Purchase a small composting bin and store it under your sink or out of the way in a closet. Then, you can either reuse the nutrient-rich soil yourself when it’s ready or find a composter near you where to dump the bin when it’s full. This waste-reduction strategy takes a bit of effort, but the impact you can have on the environment is significant.

Cook Instead of Buying Out

We know how tempting it can be while you’re on the road to grab something quick to eat on-the-go, but stop and think for a moment about how much you’ll discard with every fast food meal. There are wrappers, drink cups, bags, napkins, utensils, condiment packets and more. Rather than grab drive-through, try to cook for yourself as much as you can with your reusable dishware and utensils. And if you do grab something fast, consider taking a pit stop to consume it before continuing on your travels. This won’t just give everyone a necessary break, but it will also allow you to discard any waste at the location before continuing on. Here’s another on-the-go hack: Ditch the Happy Meal kid’s toys if you have young travelers with you. This is nothing more than cheap junk that’s going to eventually be thrown out. Just ask that they leave them out of your order.

Discard Waste at Every Stop

While this final tip may not reduce waste, it can reduce the amount of waste that is in your rec van regularly. It’s a simple strategy: At every stop, get rid of any trash that you have. Whether you’re filling up the gas tank, stopping at a rest stop or grabbing some food, take a few minutes to gather any trash and discard it properly. It’s a simple strategy that will help keep your rec van clean and less cluttered.

Stay Away from Plastic Water Bottles

Speaking of single-use plastics, water bottles are another item that you may want to avoid while traveling in your rec van. While water bottles can be recycled as part of your on-the-road strategy, they’re likely to quickly fill your recycling bin. Doctors recommend drinking between 11.5 and 15.5 cups of water per day. That would equate to consuming between five and eight 16-ounce bottles of water every day, per person. Rather than purchase cases of water bottles for your next trip, instead invest in reusable (and refillable) water bottles for you and your fellow travelers.

Reducing waste won’t just help promote a cleaner and clutter-free rec van, but it will also help the environment. Follow the above tips to get started with your waste reduction initiatives today.