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Living more sustainably and being conscious of our environmental impact are important parts of vanlife for Karo and I.

Our partner, Mercedes-Benz is also working towards a more sustainable future, investing in electric mobility solutions that will reduce their carbon footprint. As part of their sustainability movement, they have asked us to share how we reduce our own footprint on the road. Living in our Sprinter Van (basically a compact house on wheels) reduces our environmental impact in many ways. However, it’s no secret that fuel consumption, and other factors, still have an impact. While we may not achieve a zero-waste lifestyle, we do make many choices on a daily basis to minimize our impact and work towards improved sustainability in vanlife. Keep reading to find out some of the ways we do this. 

sprinter van on bridge with water - sustainability in vanlife

The Minimalist Lifestyle: Less Is More

Many vanlifers embrace living minimally. When residing and travelling in a van, even one as spacious as the Sprinter, it makes perfect sense to do so. In many ways, vanlife teaches people to simplify the way they live.

A popular term amongst vanlifers is “one thing in, one thing out”. When we buy something new to take with us, we choose something to leave behind and often donate it to a suitable charity. 

The absence of regular plumbing or unlimited water supply also teaches us to live minimally. Most small campers hold between ten and thirty gallons of water. To put that in context, the average ten-minute shower uses about twenty gallons. To minimize our consumption, we avoid taking showers just for leisure, and we keep them short.

men and sprinter in front of field

Opting for re-used and re-usable materials throughout your vanlife journey is another impactful way to live minimally. This can range from including secondhand materials in a van build, to avoiding single-use products and buying in bulk during travel. Everything that can be done along the way makes a difference. 

Make Van Maintenance a Priority

A well-maintained van is a big part of living the most eco-friendly vanlife possible. Regular scheduled maintenance is a key factor in sustainability on the road. Keeping your van running optimally can help improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. 

If your home on wheels is a Sprinter Van like ours, Mercedes-Benz offers great ServiceCARE plans to help keep you on the road, adventuring efficiently and safely. 

Reinforcing Low Waste

When on the road, carrying around heavy amounts of waste is not an option. We don’t want to make frequent stops to dispose of trash (or even produce a lot of trash to begin with), so we are very careful with what we buy. We always take into consideration the packaging our food and goods come in. 

Beyond what we purchase, we also consider where we purchase. Our advice? Explore local farmers markets, bakeries and butcher shops. This way the food you buy has less of an impact on-route to the store.

sprinter van on bridge with water - sustainability in vanlife

Reusable Energy

While not all vans include off-grid allowance, it is becoming increasingly popular among vanlifers, including ourselves. Reusable energy is both convenient and cost efficient. It helps us experience the outdoors for longer without sacrificing luxuries, such as charging devices, a cold fridge, and light sources.

sprinter van on bridge with water - sustainability in vanlife

Many people opt to mount solar panels on the roof of their converted van, which allows for energy intake whenever weather permits. For those looking for a simpler setup, lithium portable batteries and power stations are an excellent option. These take up much less space and can be easily moved around for convenience. All that’s required to charge them is a small, portable solar panel that can be stored inside the van. 

Buying Secondhand

It’s important to think about the quality of products we’re choosing. Instead of purchasing low-quality clothing that won’t last long, buying secondhand is one of our favorite ways to practice sustainability in vanlife.

Not only is buying secondhand inherently eco-friendly, it also allows us to purchase higher quality goods for a lower price. 

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace principle is among the most cherished in the vanlife community. In the past few years, we’ve seen more camp sites closed to the public due to misuse, dumping, and human waste. Camping is a privilege that requires proper care and respect for the land we get to use. We follow these seven principles everywhere we go:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

The golden rule: leave it better than you found it.

sprinter van in forest with solar pannels

Karo and I invite you to reflect with us on our actions and impacts as we continue to strive to be better stewards of the road. We hope you’ll find these ideas helpful in your efforts to practice sustainability when you head out on your next vanlife adventure. 

If you’re in search of the perfect Sprinter Van to hit the road in, a great place to start is: