Sustainable travel with the motorhome

Sustainable travel with a motorhome, is that even possible?

Sustainable travel with a motorhome, is that even possible?

Leonard Röser

1 April 2021

Schau aufs Land stands for sustainable camping travel. We very often get the question "sustainable travel with a motorhome, what is sustainable about that?". This is a good and important question, and I would like to address it in this blog post.

"Every known form of mobility inevitably causes environmental pollution. Only the extent of the burden can be changed".

I got this quote from an article about electric mobility and its batteries, and it has been with me ever since. When travelling with a camper, it is clear: we drive around with an internal combustion engine, which of course leads to environmental pollution. So you can't travel 100 % sustainably with a camper, but you can travel more sustainably.

The comparison

The first question is always what alternatives you compare it to. Compared to a flight to New York, travelling by camper van in Europe, or even better, in your own country, is much more sustainable. Compared to a bicycle tour through Austria, not so much. When it comes to alternatives, it always depends on where you spend the night during your holiday. With an equipped motorhome, you don't have to rely on much, as you always have your accommodation and kitchen with you. A hotel, on the other hand, consumes a lot of resources and energy and thus contributes significantly to environmental pollution. An interesting study by the Öko-Institut e.V. deals precisely with this comparison. Take a look.

So what can I do to be more sustainable on the road? We have 11 tips for you here.

11 tips for more sustainable camping travel:

First of all, I think we can all agree that travelling by motorhome inevitably has a negative impact on our environment. Therefore, we should see to it that we keep these as low as possible:

1. reduce fuel consumption & thus CO2 emissions

Unfortunately, the biggest environmental impact comes from the fuel we all need to get from A to B in the first place. That's why we should try to keep consumption as low as possible. And this is how it is possible:

  • Constant and comfortable driving
    When it comes to fuel consumption, your driving style can make a big difference. Frequent acceleration and a fast driving style increase fuel consumption enormously. If possible, drive at a constant and comfortable speed. For example, at 130 km/h, fuel consumption is on average 1/3 higher than at 100 km/h.
  • Optimum tyre pressure
    Too low tyre pressure leads to higher rolling resistance and thus to increased fuel consumption. Even 0.5 bar too low leads to up to 5 % more fuel consumption.
  • Pay attention to the aerodynamics
    Roof box, surfboards, boats, bicycles ... the more on the roof or at the rear, the more fuel consumption increases, especially at higher speeds. A roof box, for example, leads to an additional consumption of up to 20 %. Even an empty roof rack without a load leads to 10 % more fuel consumption. So if possible, transport things in the motorhome rather than on the roof, or - as already mentioned above - travel at a comfortable pace.
  • Reduce weight
    Everything that does not necessarily have to be on holiday should also not be taken along. For every additional 100 kilograms of weight, consumption increases by about 0.3 litres.
  • Switch off the engine during longer waiting times
    If you are stuck in a traffic jam or at a level crossing, it is often worth switching off the engine. Fuel consumption at idle is around 0.8 - 1.5 litres per hour.
  • Air conditioning and heating
    The air conditioning and the various heating systems (seat, rear window, exterior mirror heating, etc.) need electricity, which is generated by the additional fuel consumption. Depending on the conditions, this can add between 5 and 20 % to fuel consumption. So, if possible, only use these when they are really needed.
  • Avoid short distances
    Avoid short journeys by motorhome at your destination. If possible, take bicycles with you (for short journeys) or rent some locally (for long journeys).

2. compensate the emitted CO2 emissions

Even when saving, CO2 emissions are still inevitably produced in the end with every trip. However, these can be offset by supporting climate protection projects. Although the emitted CO2 emissions are not eliminated, they are saved in the future through the implemented projects. Nevertheless, it is important to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible. Because we have to fight climate change now and not in the future. Here you can find out more about climate compensation.

3. adapt the destination to the time of travel

The further you travel, the more time you should plan for your journey. The long distance leads to a higher burden on the environment, which is why the journey should also be worthwhile. Of course, the most environmentally friendly way is to travel within your own country, which is why this should always be an option.

4. use solar energy

In the motorhome, we usually need less electricity than at home. By using solar energy, we have the opportunity to become self-sufficient with our motorhome. A photovoltaic module, whether mobile or permanently installed, makes it possible to stay in one place for longer without having to plug in.

5. use ecological cosmetics and cleaning products

Every cosmetic and cleaning product we use ends up in our groundwater at some point. Many conventional products cause great damage in the long term. Microplastics in particular are a major environmental problem. That is why it is so important that we make sure that the products we use are ecological and natural.

6. respectful and appreciative travel

When we travel, we are automatically guests in the region or country, so it is important that we find out about the way of life and habits of our hosts, for example:

  • Norms and conventions
  • Dress code
  • Manners
  • How and where to tip
  • For me personally, it's very important when travelling abroad: learn a few words in the local language!

7. give something back to the region visited

It's very easy to do this by favouring regionality. Be it when staying overnight, shopping or eating out. In this way, you help to ensure that the holiday money you spend also benefits the people in the region you are visiting.

8. reduce waste and dispose of it properly

Especially when it comes to plastic waste, there are many ways to avoid it.

  • Use your own sacks and fruit nets when shopping.
  • Having your own refillable drinking bottle and cafe-to-go cup also saves resources
  • In many cities there are already unpacked shops, and shopping in these shops saves a lot of packaging waste. You can find an overview of the non-packaging shops in Austria here. here.
  • Use reusable kitchen utensils
    • High-quality and durable camping tableware and storage containers
    • Beeswax wipes instead of cling film
  • If the infrastructure allows, try to separate and properly dispose of waste when travelling.

9 Sustainable shopping

Our food consumption has a major (negative) impact on our environment. Around one fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions in Austria are due to food. If possible, you can make a big positive contribution by paying attention to the following things when shopping:

  • Everything in its time - buying fruit and vegetables seasonally
  • Best from the region - prefer regional foods
  • Organic if possible - prefer organic food to conventional food
  • Less meat, more fruit and vegetables
  • If possible, purchase food directly from the farm or at the farmers' market (strengthen direct marketing).

10. use sustainable campsites or pitches

  • Look for certificates such as EcoCamping, Austrian Eco-label or European Eco-label. These also certify campsites
  • Here you will find an overview of all certified campsites in Austria.
  • Here you will find idyllic campsites for one night at organic and other sustainable farms in Austria.

11. become active yourself

It goes without saying that you take your own rubbish back with you. However, if necessary, you can also leave a site cleaner than you found it. In this way, we not only free nature from rubbish, but also contribute to a better image of camping travellers in general.

  • Support (beach) cleanup initiatives
  • Plogging (Jogging while collecting rubbish)
  • Initiative "Do not look away" against sexual exploitation of children and young people
    on travel and tourism

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for travelling more sustainably with a motorhome? Feel free to write us a comment.

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