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10 Waste-Free Van Life Tips To Ditch Single-Use

It’s Possible to Be Eco-Friendly and Enjoy the Van Life

Van life is a wonderful way to explore the country and connect with nature. However, we have to remember that “connecting with nature” means we need to respect it as well. Trash buildup is a serious problem in the world, so we all need to do our part to embrace waste-free van life.

Of course, no one can be completely waste-free. We will always have some trash that needs to be disposed of, but you can vastly reduce your consumption by switching to more sustainable products. The world currently runs on single-use items, but new options are emerging every day. If you change a few habits, you’ll find that your van life is more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Below, we have 10 tips that will help you transition into a waste-free (or at least waste-reduced) van life. Try implementing a few of these in your life and watch how your consumption habits change as a result!

1. Use Washable Towels, Napkins, and Tissues

Plastic waste is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about single-use items. While this certainly is a major issue (which we’ll discuss later on), we can’t overlook paper products in this discussion. There are lots of paper-based items that are designed to be used once, then thrown away.

Paper towels, napkins, and tissues are some of the biggest culprits. Although they may be convenient to use, they build up over time. Some of them are treated with chemicals that make it hard for them to break down.

To solve this issue, try using washable cloth alternatives. Washcloths and dish towels can be used for cleaning, while cloth handkerchiefs can serve as substitutes for tissues and napkins. Plus, you can often choose fun colors and patterns for these items! You can add a bit of style to your van while also moving towards a waste-free van life.

2. Try Long-Term Rubber Gloves For Waste-Free Van Life

Another item that you can swap out is your sanitary gloves. If you ever deep-clean the nastier parts of your van (and you should), you’re probably wearing some kind of gloves. Single-use latex gloves are often used for this purpose. Although they can be useful, these items don’t break down easily once they’re thrown away.

Sturdy rubber gloves are a better alternative. These can be disinfected and re-used in the future. In addition, they’re usually a bit hardier than standard latex gloves, so there’s a lower risk of ripping through them.

Homelux Theory Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags
Homelux Theory Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags Photo: Amazon

3. Switch to Washable Storage Bags

Now let’s get to the issue of plastic. I don’t know about you, but my household goes through a lot of ziplock bags. They’re super useful for food storage and anything else you need to carry around throughout the day. However, these bags aren’t designed to last very long. They can tear fairly easily and are easy to contaminate.

Luckily, an innovative new product is rising to overtake them. Washable silicone bags are starting to replace standard ziplock bags around the world. There are many different varieties, but the Homelux Theory Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags are particularly popular.

These have all the benefits of a standard sealable bag, but they are sturdier and can be washed and reused. They may be more expensive at first, but they will eventually pay for themselves because they can be reused over and over instead of thrown away.

4. Reusable Silverware and Straws are Great For Waste-Free Van Life

You’ve probably heard of the push to replace disposable cutlery and straws. This initiative is still alive and well, and you can help it along. Stock up your van with hardy sets of silverware. Metal straws are another useful item to keep on hand because a lot of restaurants and fast food chains will still hand out plastic straws. Next time you go out, just ask them not to give you a straw!

There are lots of permanent options you can choose from. Utensils that are made from bamboo are becoming popular, but you can also opt for things made of metal, ceramic, or plastic (as long as you plan to use them for a long time).

5. Choose Waste-Free Vanlife Metal Water Bottles, Not Plastic

Plastic water bottles make up a large percentage of plastic waste every year. These bottles are convenient, and it’s very easy to just grab a pack and drink it whenever you’re thirsty. However, this practice isn’t sustainable if you’re trying to switch to a waste-free van life.

Metal water bottles are a great alternative. They’re much stronger and are easy to clean and reuse. Plus, they can keep your drinks cool for a longer period of time. You can even get some fun stickers to personalize your bottle and show off your style!

6. Bring Personal Takeout Containers

Takeout containers are certainly convenient, but they’re also designed to be used once and then thrown away. Fast food waste is hard to avoid, so you might want to cut back on this habit if you want to reduce your waste.

However, if a restaurant offers you a doggie bag, there’s a sustainable alternative you could try. It might sound strange, but you can bring your own container to most restaurants. Just keep a Tupperware in your bag and load your leftovers into it. Then you’re free to take it back to the van and eat/refrigerate the remnants.

7. Reusable Grocery Bags Are Imperative For Waste-Free Van Life

This is a common tip, but it’s still worth mentioning. Single-use grocery bags are still the standard in many locations, but you can help by bringing your own reusable bags. These are usually sturdier and can hold more items, plus you won’t have to throw away a bag.

If you want to cut out bags entirely, try bringing a few laundry baskets in your van when you go shopping. Load the groceries back into the cart once you scan them, then bring them directly out to the van. Then you can place them in your storage spaces or just transfer them into the laundry bins until you’re ready to sort everything.

8. Try Using a Menstrual Cup

For those of you who menstruate, you’ll know that pads and tampons can quickly fill up a garbage can. These products fill an essential need, but you can reduce waste by switching to a menstrual cup. It might take a while to get used to, but these cups are fairly easy to use and clean.

9. Brew Your Coffee, Ditch Individual Pods

Single-use coffee pods are popular and easy to use. However, they are the epitome of a disposable product. If you’re aiming for a waste-free van life, these little pods have got to go! Try switching back to home-brewed coffee. There’s more room for customization, plus the coffee grounds can sometimes be repurposed for other things around your van.

10. Choose Biodegradable When Waste-Free isn’t Possible

Finally, buy biodegradable products if you must buy things that will be thrown away. There are now biodegradable/eco-friendly alternatives for almost every type of single-use product. Certain types of grocery bags, wet wipes, straws, and more can be easily broken down.

You may have to go a bit out of your way to find these products, but they exist. Again, nobody can live a completely waste-free van life, but every little effort makes a difference. Give some of these suggestions a try and check out the results!

Tell us your zero waste van life tips in the comments.

  • Emily Lawrence lives in Idaho with her husband Nathan. Despite the cold winters in this area, it's Emily's favorite season! She loves to spend time skiing, roadtripping, and just exploring the outdoors.

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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1 thought on “10 Waste-Free Van Life Tips To Ditch Single-Use”

  1. Instead of metal drink bottles I use soda bottles, over and over, they last as long as metal drink bottles in my experience, Paper, towels, plates, etc., can be burned in a burn pit – or take them home, shred them, and make compost with them. Metal or ceramic spoon for soup – chopsticks for other food – I can pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks, can’t do that with a fork. Instant coffee, no grounds.

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