Our RV sits on the bank of Muddy Creek, surrounded by the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. No matter the window you look out from the RV, you’ll see trees, water, and a variety of wild creatures. Within weeks of our arrival, a river otter caught a fish in front of our large, rear window. He then climbed up the opposite creek bank and enjoyed his fresh lunch. Having a home tucked into such a beautiful – and alive – environment, it is hard not to feel a certain amount of responsibility for protecting it. We’ve been making some eco-friendly changes to help the environment. Out of necessity, we have significantly reduced our water usage, but there have been others.
Small Homes for Eco-Friendly Living
There’s not lots of research on the topic, but it seems like common sense that a smaller house would be intrinsically better for the environment than a bigger one. With less space, there is less energy needed for heating and cooling. There is also less room for appliances and gadgets. We once owned a large home with seven televisions, and only three people were living in the house at the time—shame on us.
A 2019 study showed that tiny homes are indeed eco-friendly. It also showed that people living in small houses change their lifestyle habits, often in more environmentally friendly ways. Some grow a portion of their food, some buy less stuff, and some do more recycling. But it’s not all good news. Some people also need to drive more because they live in rural areas; others go out to dinner more often because they don’t enjoy cooking in a tiny kitchen.
Lifestyle Changes for the Environment
As the study indicated, I added ten miles to each trip originating from the RV, which is located in a more rural part of Virginia Beach. But I’m not bothered by this too much. Because of my work, I often drive over a hundred miles a day (when not living with a pandemic, that is). So since 2005, I have been driving a hybrid. (Recently, I purchased a 2020 Prius and am getting 67 miles to the gallon!)
But I’m also driving to do laundry. We don’t have a washer and dryer in the RV, so I’m using a laundromat again after 35 years. I was happy to discover that laundromats are sometimes more environmentally friendly than home washers and dryers; commercial washers and dryers tend to be more energy-efficient than domestic ones. Where I go has front-loading machines with varying size capacities.
While I was at it, I have modified the way I have always done laundry. Now I:
- almost always use cold water (every third week, I use hot for a load of underwear),
- do only full loads
- switched to Tru Earth Eco-strips laundry detergent (no more big, plastic bottles)
- stopped using dryer sheets and switched to wool dryer balls
We’re also smarter about how often we wash an item of clothing. It’s undoubtedly easier to toss a pair of shorts into the dirty clothes basket at the end of the day, but I now fold them up neatly and wear a second time if all I did was sit in front of my laptop.
Ironically, we don’t have space for a large recycling bucket in the RV as we had in previous homes. But we’ve become more conscientious about recycling and do more of it than ever before. The post office where we have a PO box is around the corner from the city’s recycling center—thus giving me no excuse not to take a small bucket of recyclables to the center every few days.
We’re also more careful to make sure jars, bottles, and plastic containers are free of food. And any portion of packaging that can be recycled is cut away; no longer is the whole thing dropped into the trash can.
Recovering Paper Towel Addict
I’m a recovering paper towel addict. When all the news was all about a lack of toilet paper, I was just as worried about how much paper towel was available. No matter how small a spill or spot that needed cleaning up, I always grabbed a paper towel. And even if only slightly used, I’d toss it out and grab a new one for the next little spill. So, if I didn’t have at least a half dozen rolls tucked away, I never felt comfortable.
Well, that’s now changed. I wish I could say that it came from a place of pure intentions, but it did not; lack of storage is the reason. Fortunately for the environment, rolls of paper towels take up lots of space in a cabinet.
A few old hand towels have been recently sacrificed, cut up into small squares to act as paper towel replacements. They are piled up and sitting next to a roll in the cabinet.
Hygiene Changes for the Environment
For a long time, I’ve been using Neutrogena cleansing towelettes to wash my face and haven’t wanted to give them up. A while ago, I made a compromise and started tearing one towelette into three pieces to get more use out of the package. Today I decided that when I’ve used my last one, I won’t be replacing them. That also goes for the tube of toothpaste that is half gone. I will be switching to dental tablets and saying good-bye to the plastic tube.
Several months ago, I stopped using nylon floss that came in a plastic container. The nylon is non-biodegradable and the floss is a hazard to marine animals. I saw a picture of a bird badly tangled up in it. I switched to Dental Lace, which is made of silk and comes in a glass container.
Living as we do, surrounded by nature, it’s a constant reminder of what’s at stake if we don’t all adjust our ways and fight climate change. A 2019 study by the Yale School of the Environment showed that:
- 67% of the adult population in the US believes global warming is happening
- 69% believe it is harming plants and animals
- 70% feel that environmental protection is more important than economic growth
- 77% think schools should teach about global warming
- Yet, a whopping 64% rarely or never discuss the issue
That’s sad. (There are lots of fascinating numbers from the study—take a look.)
Throughout life, I’ve always been hesitant to tackle something if I didn’t fully understand the situation, or if I didn’t think I could do it entirely in the right way. It’s not a good way to be. But I’m not that way with this. Any little thing that each of us can do in an eco-friendly way can only help.
Since moving into the RV full-time, I feel a responsibility to all the wild creatures I have come to enjoy seeing everyday. And I want to feel comfortable looking them in the eyes.