Whilst converting our campervan, we started our journey towards a zero waste lifestyle. This means that we had to make choices regarding which stuff we’d bring along on our travels. In particular since we now have quite limited storage space to bring just about anything with us.
Today, we’d like to share with you 5 zero waste items that we think every vanlifer should have in their campervan. Of course, they don’t just belong in campers and campervans. They should have a place in every household.
1. Cotton produce bags
Everyone goes shopping for fruit and veg, be it at a grocery store or the farmers market nearby. But have you ever stood still and looked at the share amount of flimsy plastic bags that goes around? It’s simply mind-blowing.
Luckily, there are simple alternatives. Organic cotton produce bags! Or other small bags with a drawstring made from whichever natural material you prefer, or that is available where you live. These are not just for fruit and veg though! We also use ours when buying bread, nuts, or fresh herbs.
Before we bought our produce bags (which were actually sold as gift bags), we took our veg and fruit with us without using bags. However, many grocery stores weigh their products at the counter. Storing the produce in bags makes life much easier for them, but also for us since we can organize our shopping bags a little better.
Ever since we bought them, we always take a set with us wherever we go. never know when you might need them.
2. Jute scouring pad
Doing the dishes is certainly not the most fun part of life, but they have to be done. Certainly in a campervan, as they generally do not contain dishwashers. Having a scouring pad is certainly no luxury. Why not go for a jute or other type of natural scouring pad instead of your regular plastic one?
We’ve seen many campervans that discard waste water directly into the environment. Your regular sponges and scouring pads are made of plastic. Whilst using them, they release micro plastics into the water. Using a plastic free zero waste scouring pad prevents micro plastics from directly entering the ground and damaging ecosystems.
It obviously depends on your preferred way to do the dishes. When I lived in Germany, I couldn’t even find a brush to do my dishes. Everyone seems to use sponges and scouring pads. In the Netherlands, people generally use dish brushes. Luckily, there are plastic free alternatives for both options.
If you’d rather use a dish brush, you can go with one made from wood and metal with a replaceable head. These are widely available. We’ve come across the same type in many countries throughout Europe.
By the way, did you know that you do not need hot water to properly do your dishes? We’ve done some research into this, which you can read all about here.
3. Cotton dishcloth
Our third item on the list falls into the same category as the previous; cotton dishcloths. Just like jute scouring pads, they prevent micro plastics from entering the soil water.
If you’re creative, you can even make your own! Go to your local market or sewing shop, and buy some thick organic cotton thread and start knitting. Marijke’s mom made ours!
4. Metal food containers and drink bottle
Everything takes a bit longer to do when you live in a campervan. Therefore, we find it incredibly convenient to prepare lunch for two days at a time. It saves a bit of time each day, meaning that we can spend more of it exploring the outdoors.
In order to do it though, you’ll need something to store your food. That’s where metal food containers come in to play.
Besides being better for the environment, metal food containers come with more advantages. They are much easier to clean; the food you’re carrying does not permeate through the material and thus does not give off old flavors to your new food; and be honest, they look much better when enjoying a meal in the forest, right?
They are not just handy to store food for the next day though. You can also use them to carry your lunch in your backpack during long hikes in the outdoors, or just to your work!
If you’re going for metal food containers, why not opt for metal drink bottles as well?
5. Biodegradable organic soap
Our last must have zero waste item is biodegradable organic soap. Well, all cleaning items really. If you have natural cleaning utensils, it would be a shame to use soap that’s harmful for your body and the environment.
Biodegradable soap really is a must if you want to protect the environment.
We do however not mean biodegradable soaps that you mainly see in your regular grocery store. Those usually still come in a plastic bottle. We’re talking about soap bars. Just about every type of soap exists in bars these days. To wash your hands; to use for your body and hair under the shower; or for your laundry (we use soap nuts for this). We even own shampoo bars for our dogs! A lovely UK-based store that sells all kinds of handmade natural vegan soap bars is zerowastepath.
There are many more zero-waste items that can be convenient not only in a campervan, but in everyone’s life. What’s your number one zero waste must have item?