7 ways to drive more sustainably in your RV

Updated: Sep 7



Even though moving around in a Petrol/Diesel vehicle, travelling in an RV for vacation has a lower carbon footprint than a flight and hotel holiday. Additionally, living in an RV remains a much lower-carbon lifestyle than traditional housing. This is due to the smaller space and fewer amenities in a van. Indeed, everyone quickly learns to turn lights off when not in use, boil water with a lid on, don't waste water (Composting toilet anyone?), etc.


Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement and below are a few tips to help us all enjoy exploring in our RVs more sustainably.


1. Drive Less, Stay Longer, plan more.

The easiest way to travel more sustainably by van is to drive less.


Rather than criss-cross the countryside twice times to see 3 events, try to see them in better order. Perhaps even skip one out and be more present enjoying the other two or enjoy a new experience altogether?


2. Drive Slowly

Take a deep breath and just enjoy the view, your wallet will thank you for it. Here's the science part: the energy in a moving object is called kinetic energy. The formula is 1/2 x mass x velocity x velocity.

Yes, velocity squared - the energy required to get your van to 56mph and keep it there vs 50mph is 25% more. 25% more gas costs!



3. Travel Light

Having a lighter van you'll use less gas getting up to speed and getting over any hills. This is an area that may need its own blog post, but for now, let's keep it simple. Trust us, once on the road, you'll be grateful for carrying less.

  • Travelling light can begin when you're building your van by choosing lighter materials where possible.

  • Empty your tanks before long journeys if you can refill your water the other end. Every litre of water weighs 1kg. Every gallon weighs 8.3lbs.

  • Choose items that have multiple purposes where possible: functional and fashionable clothes? (Remember how heavy your suitcase of clothes is? 🧳)


4. Check Tyre pressure

Having soft tyres means that the tyre is constantly being deformed as it rolls. That requires energy and that means more gas. As a very lazy cyclist, when on a long ride I inflate my tyres to the maximum allowed pressure. What my bum curses me for, my legs thank me!



5. Choose Suitable Tyres

Tyre tread can have a significant impact on the efficiency of your van. Yes, the meaty off-road tyres look great (I would love some!) but the added noise they make on the road is a clue to how inefficient they are. Most vans don't really venture far beyond the asphalt and road tyres cope just fine with dirt roads for short periods so be honest - do you really need them?


Chunky off-road tyres also wear quicker on asphalt than tyres specifically designed for roads. Did you ever stop to wonder where the rubber went? Sadly most of it ends up being washed by rain into rivers and the sea as microplastics. By choosing more suitable tyres for where you'll be doing most of your driving, you'll save money and help reduce this microplastic pollution.



6. Brake Less

Having a lighter van you'll use less gas getting up to speed and getting over any hills. This is an area that may need its own blog post, but for now, let's keep it simple. Trust us, once on the road, you'll be grateful for carrying less.

  • Try not to accelerate quickly from a green light then brake sharply at a red light 100 yards later.

  • If you can see a red light ahead, ease off the gas earlier. You'd be amazed at how your car will maintain sufficient speed on the flat or downhill. (See next point)

  • Downshift to use your engine to help slow you down. This is especially true on long mountain descents where your brakes are doing a lot of work!


6b. Stab Braking

When on a long descent, avoid applying little pressure for extended periods to slow the vehicle. This constant pressure causes the brakes and discs to get hot. This can cause the discs to warp or for the brakes to fade as they heat up. Instead, apply a harder pressure when you reach your desired maximum speed to bring the speed down by 5mph before letting off the brakes again.

Try not to accelerate quickly from a green light then brake sharply at a red light 100 yards later.



7. Keep Rollin' (Manual gears only)

You would be amazed at how far your vehicle will continue to roll when the transmission is disengaged, or how it will maintain speed on gradual descents. It is often the case that shortly after you are up to speed that you need to slow down again. In such situations, shifting to neutral once up to speed will provide enough momentum for some time, while only travelling a few mph less.


Note that I've caveated this suggestion as for manual transmission only. I don't drive an automatic and from this thread there seems to be a bit of discussion around it. I leave it to you to make up your own mind.



You may have noticed there's a common theme to all of these sustainable driving suggestions - that being more sustainable and efficient also saves you money.


If you have any other tips - please add a comment below and share them with the community!


Happy travelling!

The CompoCloset Team

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