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Being Green on the Road
With travel around Australia set to boom, here are some tricks to being clean and environmentally friendly.
Words and Images by: CAROLYNE JASINSKI

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and turn your next road trip into an eco-friendly adventure, there are plenty of tips on how to ‘go green’.

The mantra ‘Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle’ rings especially true when you’re on the road:

Reduce: Try to cut back on your use of plastics and find alternatives.

Refuse: Try to say no to single-use plastics like bottles of water and straws.

Reuse: When you do end up with a plastic item, reuse it as often as possible.

Recycle: As a last resort, recycle plastic items when they can’t be used anymore.


Before you leave, make sure you haven’t left anything on standby at home (like the TV) and unplug appliances that might use up unnecessary electricity.

Plan your route to minimise backtracking. Sometimes getting lost is a beautiful part of your journey, but backtracking can take its toll on your fuel bill and the environment.

Get your RV serviced and have a safety check done — yes, it’s an obvious tip, but as well as the safety side, it’ll also ensure your vehicle is running as efficiently as possible. A poorly tuned engine will use more fuel and produce more emissions than one that is running properly. 

Check that your tyres are filled to the correct pressure — it will save fuel and reduce your carbon emissions.

If you’re not going to use it, lose it. If you have any extras, including accessories like a bike rack, which you won’t use, leave them at home as the more weight you carry, the more fuel you’ll use.

Obey the signs, please


Slow down — speeding will cost you more in fuel and lose you eco-points by increasing your carbon footprint. On that note, also avoid aggressive driving. Aggressive acceleration and harsh braking are a close second to speeding in terms of unnecessary fuel use. Accelerate slowly and smoothly, then get into high gear as quickly as possible.

If your car has cruise control, use it. It will be harder to absentmindedly speed (and get a ticket), you’ll have a smoother journey, and you’re less likely to do any harsh braking. However, turn it off on steep hills — efficiency is lost because cruise control tries to maintain even speeds.

Avoid using your fuel-guzzling air conditioning and heating as much as possible. Instead, park in the shade and open the windows in the heat or try adding another layer of clothing in the cold.

Beaches are better kept clean


Instead of reaching for plastic wrap, try eco-friendly beeswax wraps, or store leftovers in reusable containers. If you’re trying to switch to glass containers but already have plastic ones, don’t throw them away as it’s just adding to environmental problems. Keep reusing them.

Where possible, don’t buy bottles of water. Buy a reusable bottle (they make great souvenirs) and fill up at the tap.

With plastic straws, just say no, and buy a metal straw instead — another good souvenir.

Have your own ‘keep cup’ for when you need a takeaway coffee. You can even go one better by providing your own containers for takeaway meals.

Install solar panels and you’ll rarely need a generator again.

Help keep our national parks beautiful


Try washing your clothes while driving by placing them in a 10L bucket with a lid and woolwash. Let the natural road movement agitate the clothes. When you stop for the night, hang them out. Using woolwash also means you don’t need to rinse the clothes.


You know those tiny toiletries containers you have collected from hotels over the years? Don’t just throw them out. Use them and, if you can, refill them.

Before you buy cotton buds, check that the stick between the two cotton bits is not plastic.

Consider buying ‘bars’ of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, face wash and perfume. They are often sold without any packaging or come in refillable containers.

Look for products free of parabens, foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulfate, and microbeads (which are plastic and wind up in the ocean).

Don’t add to the problem


Everyone knows to use reusable shopping bags by now, but if you get to the checkout and discover you’ve left them in the RV, just reload the trolley and unpack in the carpark.

If you must have a separate bag for fruit and veg, try using biodegradable ‘green’ bags or washable cloth bags. If plastic bags are your only choice, try to reuse them as rubbish bags in your van or as freezer bags.

Package-free bulk stores are becoming more popular. Take your own jar and top up on everything from flour and sugar to cereals, pasta, nuts, dried fruit and spices.

If you do run out of something while on the road, or break an essential item, why not replace it at the local op shop?

It’s not that hard to dispose of these properly


Please don’t toss your rubbish out on the side of the road or leave it at a campsite. Take it with you — even the bits you think will break down. If they don’t come from where you have stopped, they don’t belong there.

There’s only one thing worse than someone who litters — someone who whinges about litterbugs, then leaves the rubbish there. Bin it and the world will thank you. Here’s a challenge — why not leave camp sites and picnic grounds better than you found them?

Poo trees. Yes, you heard right. Sadly, there are such things on Australian roads and in free camp sites and they are not okay. Bushes covered with bits of dirty toilet paper are disgusting and definitely not eco-friendly.

Jellyfish-looking plastic bags are a massive choking hazard for endangered sea turtles and other species


A road trip doesn’t have to be all about driving. Try to explore by bike or foot when you get to a destination.

Going off-grid can be exciting, but if you want to be truly eco-friendly, where trails have been provided, stick to them. They have been created for a reason, usually to protect natural habitats and local wildlife.

Do not feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife leads to unhealthy animals that are reliant on humans and can no longer fend for themselves in their natural habitat.

If you are travelling with a fur baby, clean up after them. And don’t take them to areas where pets are banned.

Even though your perfect pooch might not attack the local wildlife, their scent might damage the natural balance needed for local animals to survive.

Jeanneret Beach free camp at Bay of Fires


Lennai and Graeme Coleborn have been living on the road for 12 months and believe their current lifestyle is more environmentally friendly than when they lived in a four-bedroom house and commuted to work. Plus, it’s a lot more fun!

The first rule of being eco-friendly on the road is to slow down, according to two nomads who are ‘living the dream.’

“We travel very slowly as a rule, set up at a campground and do day trips,” they say. “We’re not in a rush to dash around doing the Big Lap as we are fortunate to be living on the road. This means that we use less fuel than when we were at work and commuted a fair distance.

“When we are ‘freedom camping’ we are very frugal with both power and water and rely on solar energy and gas (no generator).”

The couple, who have been in Tasmania for the past eight months, have lots of eco-friendly ideas that range from using environmentally friendly products to reusing small plastic bags for bin liners and as bags to collect rubbish off the beach on their walks.

“It saddens us to see rubbish left anywhere, let alone beautiful wild areas,” Lennai says.

“I think many of us are endeavouring to do our small bit as we travel this beautiful country.

“I am frustrated by the lack of recycling facilities at most campgrounds and caravan parks. Even most councils don’t have recycling bins readily available in public places. We do our best to collect it and take it to the local waste transfer stations. This is usually a bit of a challenge as everything has to be separated out.

“You need to be very motivated to do this one. We were even charged $5 once as we had a tiny, tiny bag of rubbish as well.”

When it comes to saving water, the Coleborns have lots of ideas. When showering, and waiting for the hot water to show, they collect the cold water in a bucket, then use it for washing up. They do the ‘wet down, soap up, rinse down’ routine, and they always turn the tap off when brushing teeth.

Warming up south of Grafton, NSW

They also keep the washing up water in the sink and use it for rinsing off dishes. Greasy dishes and the barbecue are wiped with paper towel which is then put it in a paper towel tube and used as fire starters.

“We collect rainwater off the fifth-wheeler for washing feet and shoes etc,” Graeme says. “Although we have seen some great ideas for getting clean rainwater into your tanks, we haven’t done that yet.

“We always wash the rig with buckets and maybe a very quick rinse off if plenty of water available. But usually we use buckets of water for that, too.”

What to do with grey water is a bone of contention for many RVers.

“It becomes an issue when stored, and dump points are not designed to easily get it into,” they say.

Solar panels are an ever more common sight

But the Coleborns have used it on their lawns at home for many years. One tip: a sock works well to collect any solids.

“We are working really hard at buying local produce as this reduces our carbon footprint, and it just makes so much more sense,” says Lennai.

“We go to markets and farm gates, depending on COVID-19 restrictions, and try and find shops that stock local produce. It is wonderful to see this movement slowly gathering momentum.”

Although it’s cold where Graeme and Lennai currently live in Tassie, and even though they are now on power, they still try to minimise use of their fan heater. Instead, they put on extra clothing, wear socks and beanies and use blankets.

“These are all ideas taught to us by the older generation,” they say.

“They make so much sense and even though most of us no longer need to practise them, they are so much better for our planet.”


Lorraine Smith: “Have good solar so that you do not add to greenhouse gases and use environmentally friendly cleaning products for personal and general household use.”

Sharon Walker: “Drought-stricken caravan parks and camping grounds encourage using grey water on the ground but check first and put a sock or stocking over the pipe for the ‘bits’. Birds and animals eat it during the night.”

Michael Stephensen: “We don’t need to use any chemical in our cassette as we have fitted an ‘SOG’ system. Mostly no odours, but sometimes just a hint. Very easy to fit. The best $250 we have spent.”

Evelyn Verschaeren: “Recycle plastic and paper bags as rubbish bin liners in the kitchen. Also milk cartons — I use a new one each day and when not near rubbish disposal, have an old shopping bag to keep them together until we find a bin.”

Julie Cheers: “I reuse as much as I can and avoid things like disposable plates, cutlery and dishcloths. I use washable reusable dishcloths and paper towels. I use my own shopping bags and reuse any packaging that items come in. Meat trays get washed and used as plates for nibbles and cheese platters. Paper bags get kept as garbage bags. Newspapers I make into garbage bags as well. If there are no recycle bins, I wait till I get home or until I find one. And I use eco-friendly products.”

Louise G Kynoch: “Put water and a few drops of dish washing liquid in a small spray bottle. Use on lightly soiled items and wipe with paper towel. Towel can be used to start camp fire.”

Larraine Young: “Clean up everyone else’s mess and put in council bins when we find one.”

Mark Brown: “Lots of solar. We have 680W on the roof, never need a generator.”

Julie Jagot: “I have a hand-powered washing machine — easy to use then wash the next load in the rinse water.”

You never know what you’ll find on the beach

Paul McKinnon: “We try to shop at farmers markets whenever we can. And we also have weed foraging and bush food books. It’s amazing what you can find around your campsite for cooking — saltbush, portaluca (pursalane) and Warragul greens.”

Deborah McGovan: “I use all organic natural products where I can. Depending on where we are, all veggie scraps go under a bush.”

Darren Weber: “It takes our hot water up to five seconds to come through, so I fill the jug with the cold water.”

Jenni Wright: “For the past 20 years we have used home and personal care products without any of the ‘nasties’ and continue to use them in our van. We use compostable bin liners and recycle what we can.”

Penny Kothe: “We hand-grind our coffee and hand-blend anything requiring blending; cook 99 per cent of the time on a wood fire using a selection of cast iron pots and pans; heat water for our shower — which is 9L Rainman — in sun or on the fire; and wash clothes in a bucket with a lid, agitated on the roof. We are totally solar except for wood and use very small sticks in our ozpig. Our water is 2 x 20L jerrycans which last about a week without showers. We try and camp near rivers for firewood, water for showers and, of course, fishing. We also have a compost toilet bucket.”

Jasmyne Walker: “We use bottles for environmental-friendly liquids (shampoo/conditioner/dishwashing liquid, etc) that can be refilled at bulk stores when empty. It’s chemical free cleaning.”

Jill Foley: “We try and use the recycle bins in towns and use as little water as possible. We use eco-friendly products for showering, and washing up etc, and solar power.”

Glen Stewart Stribbling: “We have a bucket with a pre-drilled plunger for washing. I have a can crusher on my camper to minimise waste size. We only use battery power, no generator. Most importantly is when we leave a campsite it looks like no one was there — plastic, paper and glass can leave a trail of destruction to our environment. Good solar so that you do not add to greenhouse gases and use environmentally friendly cleaning products for personal and general household use.”

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Category: Features
Written: Thu 01 Oct 2020
Printed: October, 2020
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