Exploring RV Living – Environmental Considerations

(This post is part of a series. If you’re new to my blog or this is the first you’ve seen of this series, you might look at the introduction first.)

When you see an RV travelling down the road, do you see a gas-guzzling road-hog? Or do you see an efficient and eco-friendly home on the move? I suppose it could be either or both — it all boils down to how it’s being used.

Conspicuous Consumption

At first glance a big RV, especially a ginormous rolling McMansion complete with exotic woodwork, crystal chandeliers, two baths, full laundry and dishwasher is luxurious, but far from sensible. If that is one’s mode of recreation, and it is in addition to one or more conventional houses, cars, and who-knows what else, then I’d certainly call it conspicuous consumption.

On the other hand, if an RV – even an oversized and lavishly appointed one – is one’s only home, it makes for a surprisingly eco-friendly dwelling. Of course oversized and lavish is not my style, and compact and sensible is an even more economical and environmentally sound choice.

Drive Much?

The truth of the matter is that while most RVs get horrible mileage, they are rarely used as daily commuters. While an average automobile might be driven  fifteen thousand miles per year, the average RV travels only a few thousand miles. Maybe a little more for frequent travelers, and a lot less for infrequent travelers.

Remember that each time you move an RV, you are moving your entire house and all its contents. Compare that to moving all the contents of a typical household, involving packing, one or more trips in a vehicle at least as large as the largest RV and then unpacking again, and the RV is the hands-down winner.

Less Is Less

While camped in one spot and providing a cozy place to live, an RV is very thrifty in its use of resources. This is primarily a result of its smaller size in comparison to conventional housing options. Less space to heat or cool means less energy is used. Same thing goes for having less space to light. With a rooftop photovoltaic array, I can be off-grid and free of fossil fuels for most of my electrical needs. Conservation habits learned while boondocking help me save resources (and money) even when I have full hookups.

Small Is Smart

Regardless of type of construction,  smaller homes are better for the environment and the budget. Being among the smallest homes around, an RV is an excellent choice for the eco-conscious as well as the frugal. Add to that the convenience of being able to move about readily and on short notice (and at lower cost, both financially and ecologically, than moving a conventional household) and RV living is just the smart thing to do.

One response to “Exploring RV Living – Environmental Considerations

  1. Ed Helvey - The Professional Nomad

    I agree completely, Mike! And once when humans were basically a migratory hunting and gathering species this was our way of life. When humans discovered that they could cultivate and grow food in one location the agrarian age began and small stationary villages popped up with farms surrounding them and the beginning of fiat or money evolved from the bartering process.

    Then humans discovered that they could mass produce various products, build steam boats, locomotives and fossil fuel powered vehicles – so there went the village smitty and many other small trades and cities grew up around factories with the promise of cradle to grave jobs of hard labor for the masses.

    And, of course, as we’ve seen over the past 85 years the population of the Earth has grown from 2 billion to 7 billion – the population of the U.S. has more then doubled in 62 years. Motor vehicles ( approaching 260,000,000 in the U.S. ), McMansions (with more bedrooms and bathrooms then occupants) have taken what was once agricultural land consumerism with so many kinds of clothes, gadgets, toys, appliances, etc. that we smother are in “stuff.”

    And the politicians – whichever party they come from, spew the same BS. They are going to create jobs. Right! That would work IF we still did things the way they were done a 150 years ago when buggy whips were hand, etc. Today, even the motor vehicles are assembled by robots to a large degree and require 1/3 the human workforce. Computers have eliminated massive numbers of jobs. Downloadable books have closed thousands of bookstores and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We increase population, but we creat technology that can out produce humans, thus, eliminating the need for a growing human workforce. This last recession forced major companies to reevaluate their human requirements. They are now able to produce more, more efficiently, cost effectively and reliably with less people. Sure there will always be a need for some people and new career fields are developing. BUT, will there ever be enough need for all the people on the planet to actually work productively? I doubt it.

    So, what you have said about compact and efficient living, perhaps on wheels, makes excellent sense. If nothing else, it’s easy to pull up stakes and migrate to a place where new work opportunities arise. But, in reality, I believe there is only a tiny fraction of the population who are willing or even capable of living the eco-friendly, compact, mobile or tiny home lifestyle and relying on their own abilities to do something productive to sustain themselves. I guess I’m saying you’re preaching to the choir (and I’m a bass). But, many of the comments in the NYTimes RVing article you posted the link to prove my point. Closed minds.

    Great post as usual.

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