The RVillage Guide to Environmentally-Friendly RVing

Aug 30, 2022 | RVillage Guides

The RVillage Guide to Environmentally-Friendly RVing

Here are a few ways you can hit the road in your RV and set up camp with sustainability in mind.

By Alisha McDarris

Photo: Ching Fu

RVing offers the chance to explore the world and experience more of what it has to offer—plus, it gives you easy access to the most stunning landscapes throughout the U.S. But RVing can also leave a hefty environmental footprint. Big rigs, low fuel efficiency, constant power supplies, and the propensity to always be on the move can really put a drain on the planet’s limited resources. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to green up your act to make every adventure more sustainable, even in an RV.

Skip the Bottled Water

According to some experts, there will likely be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, which is a hard pill to swallow. Campers and RVers can help reduce the amount of plastic waste by refilling reusable vessels from the tap instead of buying cases of bottled water.

Related How to Make Sustainable Camping and RVing More Attainable

If you don’t trust tap, opt for a reusable filter. Easy-to-use countertop models like those from Epic or Berkey will filter and hold more than just a few cups of water at a time, so even if you’re not hooked up to a spigot, you’ll have filtered water to enjoy wherever you go, sans plastic.

Ditch Disposables

The plastics dilemma doesn’t stop at water bottles, though, and not all wasteful disposables are plastic. Fortunately, it’s easy to eliminate single-use products in an RV. Instead of paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils, stash reusable steel or silicone tableware in your cabinets.

Instead of paper towels, use washable cloths for everything from spills to dishes to washing windows. You can even get reusable cloths that wrap around a paper towel stand. Just throw them in the laundry and they’re ready to be used again. And you can ditch plastic zip-top bags and cling wrap for durable silicon bags and wax wraps that are versatile and endlessly reusable.

a brown bear-proof trash can and recycling can

Leave No Trace

When camping, hiking, picnicking, or RVing, follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace to not only help everyone in the great outdoors enjoy their time in nature, but to protect the natural places and spaces you love. The principles include:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

Related Tips for Green RV Living: How to Hit the Road With Sustainability in Mind

Offset Your Fuel

One of the largest parts of an RVer’s footprint is the fuel it takes to get from place to place. While you can make an effort to reduce your fuel consumption by inflating tires, driving at the optimal speed of 55 to 65 miles per hour, and lightening your load, there’s only so much you can do.

For the rest, it’s best to offset. As in, purchase carbon credits on reputable websites like Terrapass or Native. Most will provide a calculator so you can estimate your carbon footprint, then tell you how much it costs to balance it. Your investment might go toward planting trees, funding renewable energy, or capturing methane.

Related How to Save on Fuel and Improve Your RV’s Gas Mileage

Grill Up Veggie Burgers

It’s not a popular statistic, but it’s true: Animal agriculture is one of the top contributors to climate change. Meaning the meat on your plate has a bigger negative environmental impact than you might think.

Not ready to go full vegan? Consider adhering to Meatless Mondays, avoiding animal products until dinner, or eating vegetarian meals a few times a week. Every meat-free meal has a positive impact on your footprint.

Pick Your Campsite With Energy Savings in Mind

Many campgrounds offer the opportunity to look at photos of available sites online before you book. If that’s the case, choose wisely before you roll into the camp office to claim your spot, because where you park could have an impact on how much energy you use during your stay.

In the summer, a spot in the sun means you may end up cranking the air conditioner to keep it cool inside while the sun beats down on your rig. In the winter, a spot in the shade may have the opposite effect, causing the heater to work overtime. So consider the season, how much sun you’ll be in, and save energy by choosing a site with energy conservation in mind.

Use the Power of the Sun

If you’ve installed solar panels on your roof, then sunny sites will always be your best pick. Solar panels are almost always a good option from a sustainability perspective. You can upgrade your RV to run entirely (or almost entirely) on solar, but if you’re not ready to do a full electrical re-haul on your rig, no problem. 

Many manufacturers like Goal Zero and BioLite make large, foldable, portable panels that you can stash in a storage compartment when not in use and deploy at camp when you find a sunny spot. Hook them up to a rechargeable, electric generator and you have access to free, environmentally-friendly energy.

Related 7 Must-Have Solar-Powered Devices for Your Next Camping Trip

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Compost)

You’re probably familiar with the three R’s, but sometimes it takes a conscious effort to abide by them, especially when RVing. But it’s absolutely possible to reduce, reuse, and recycle in an RV.

  • Reduce the amount of single-use items you consume. But don’t just think about paper towels and plastic utensils; consider the packaging as well. Make more eco-friendly decisions for everything you buy and buy less of it.
  • Reuse items if possible. From reusing glass jars to turning coffee grounds into houseplant fertilizer, try finding new purposes for items you’d usually throw away.
  • Recycle when possible. Not all campgrounds offer a place to recycle. If they do, learn what’s accepted and only toss in items that are approved. If they don’t, consider taking recyclables to the nearest recycle center.
  • Compost your food scraps. To take your sustainability game to the next level, learn to compost your food scraps and waste. And if you aren’t stationary enough to compost yourself, look up a compost facility near you and drop off veggie and fruit scraps there. Until you do, store them in the freezer to keep fruit flies at bay.

Related How to Recycle When RV Camping


Wherever you’re headed, there are plenty of ways for you to take action to protect the planet and RV sustainably.

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Alisha McDarris

Alisha McDarris is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Popular Science, Backpacker, Hemispheres, Eater, and more. She’s also the co-founder of sustainable travel and adventure blog, terradrift.com, where she writes about the outdoors and quirky destinations both near and far, preferably explored with hiking boots on.