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Van life: a sustainable lifestyle for the new age traveller?

All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Hannah Basnett, Posted: Tuesday, 25th July 2023, 09:00

The resurgence of new age travellers living in vans prompts the question of sustainability. Can residing in a petrol-fuelled vehicle help to rebuild an environmentally-inclusive society?
While the increased carbon emissions from long-distance travel may initially suggest that this lifestyle is unsustainable, reframing the perspective allows us to explore a solarpunk view of how modern travellers can positively impact the world.

One sustainable approach to van life is making the vehicle electric and using solar panels for power generation. Staying in one place for multiple nights and limiting travel distances also minimises environmental impact while still providing the joy of a mobile home with ever-changing vistas.

Living in a van offers increased immersion in nature, fostering a deeper understanding of wildlife and ecosystems. Van dwellers step away from consumerist activities and prioritise experiences like scaling mountains, indulging in wild swimming, and mindfully savouring sunsets and sunrises.

Concerns about litter can be addressed by van dwellers becoming stewards of nature. Beyond the principle of ‘Leave No Trace’, they can actively pick up litter in remote locations, contributing to the preservation and cleanliness of natural areas.

The limited space in a van encourages selective ownership of essential items, discouraging unnecessary purchases of single-use gadgets. Embracing multi-purpose functionality and seeking second-hand items reduces waste and promotes resource conservation.

Water, a finite resource often taken for granted, becomes a precious commodity in this lifestyle. Van dwellers adopt water-conserving practices, reconsidering daily showers and setting limits on washing up and teeth brushing.

Buy from and connect with locals

Ethical choices can be made by stocking up on fresh seasonal vegetables from local markets and purchasing dry goods from refill shops, creating rustic home-cooked meals with foraged salad leaves or berries.

Community spaces, such as libraries with free Wi-Fi, allow van dwellers to connect with locals, engage in conversations about local history, and discover what places have to offer. This lifestyle provides opportunities to participate in community projects, attend festivals, events and community meals. The sharing of ideas and initiatives among van dwellers can be one of its greatest outcomes.

Should the government consider providing more support and flexibility to accommodate the needs of new age travellers? This community has the potential to promote sustainable practices, environmental awareness, and the creation of a more inclusive society.

Although van life may seem unsustainable initially, embracing an eco-conscious mindset, making intentional choices, and engaging with local communities can transform it into a sustainable lifestyle. By reimagining the role of the new age traveller, we unlock opportunities for personal growth, environmental stewardship, and the pursuit of a more harmonious way of living.

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