My RVing journey began with trying to find a suitable place to build a tiny home on a permanent foundation. The plan was to build a home for as little as possible. That would leave me with the financial bandwidth to purchase an RV and travel for up to six months per year without feeling guilty about paying a mortgage on a home often left unoccupied.
I flew out to Californbaia and found the perfect plot, but then clients panicked over the AB5 law and I was forced to remove California from my potential tiny home locations. Unable to decide on an alternative, I decided to get the RV first and figure out the tiny home later. Sadly, land prices rose and I all but gave up on my tiny home—until I found land in New Mexico.
While doing research on RV living, I came across many RVers praising their lifestyle choices as better for the environment. After all, they had downsized to a tiny home and had significantly reduced their expenses by a landslide. RVing is a unique and beautiful way to live, but the people claiming it benefits the environment are lying to you.
The Carbon Footprint
I have never bought into the illusion that RVing is a more sustainable way to live. In the early stages of considering it, I said to my friend:
I don’t understand how these people think they’re benefitting the environment. Do they realize how much fuel it takes to tow? And then they’re dragging those emissions all across the country. Like…gee, thanks!
This is one of the many reasons I chose a slower way to travel and why building a tiny home still makes sense for my travel plans. While many other RVers try to move every week or every few days, I usually stay in one area for 30 days to 150 days. I can then unhitch from my RV and explore with my Overlanding setup, but I entertain no delusions about the fact that I drive a thirsty boy.
Over the summer, when Wyoming drove me nuts and I ran off to Colorado, moving every week cost me a pretty penny. I might lament the financial cost, but I’m sure Mother Nature had other complaints.
So, yes, our homes might reduce our physical footprint, but when we drag it everywhere, it increases our carbon footprint. On the upside, we still consume less fuel than commercial jet planes and cruise ships. But those, at least, carry more people.
The Balancing Effect
Some RVers remain conscious of how our actions affect the environment. We pay keen attention to how much water we use, how much propane we buy, and how best to reduce our overall consumption. Many of us have learned to rely on solar, wind, and other alternative methods of fuel.
Some people even learn how to tow using smaller vehicles, as I do. Samson might be thirsty, but I’ve learned that my neighbours with big trucks have far worse fuel efficiency than I do. Van-lifers and RVers in motorhomes have even worse MPGs and don’t have the privilege of unhitching.
So, then, do our sustainability efforts matter? Of course, they do! But, compared to our carbon emissions, we have likely only balanced the effect. Some might argue that this is a lot better than our fellow coal-rolling Americans who often drive bro trucks for no reason other than the aesthetics and the strong need to overcompensate.
But, to claim we are somehow benefiting the environment compared to sitting put in modest homes on a permanent foundation? That’s a stretch. For example, I towed the RV 1,200 miles to Mexico. By the time I leave in March, the RV will have been here for five months. But then, I’ll need to tow it another 400 miles to its primary home for the summer.
A Hopeful Future
When I attended the OverlandExpo in Colorado, this summer, I saw the Hummer EV. This ruggedly handsome truck had some impressive offroad features, a solid battery capacity, and a promising tow rating. When I spoke to the GMC workers, they felt confident that I could get at least 150 miles of range towing at its max capacity of 7,500 lbs.
The Hummer EV costs almost as much as Boomers paid for their homes back in the day, so it’s way out of reach for the everyday American. Thankfully, it’s not the only contender on the list. The Ford Maverick has an even more impressive tow rating at 10,000 lbs, which is twice what my beloved Big Boy Samson can tow. It also costs a lot less than the Hummer EV.
Currently, an EV could not replace my FJ Cruiser. I have towed on remote stretches where I can barely make it to the next gas station, much less a charging station. There are also not enough charging stations in the remote areas I travel to and through. However, the current Administration, Blue States (like California), and several EV manufacturers are working hard to change this.
So, in a few years, RVing could very much become the more sustainable way to live that we would like it to be. That just leaves one small problem to resolve: the fact that most people are still using fossil fuels to charge their EVs.