When Jay and I first started talking about our transport options for this project we thought about a motorhome straight away. And dismissed it almost as quickly. We weren’t happy to let the idea go- we’ve both always really wanted to get one – but let it go we did. Why? Because we wanted to try and make our trip as Green as we could. After all we’d like to have a beautiful planet, teeming with life, to travel around on. For that to happen long term, there’s not much denying that we all need to change our ways a bit. With lumps in our throats, and a definite dimming of the sparkle in our eyes, we dropped the motorhome idea and turned our attention to other options.
It had seemed like a no-brainer at the time. Hymer B544s, our motorhome of choice, aren’t exactly small vehicles. With 2.3 – 2.5 litre diesel engines and a laden weight of over 3 tonnes their mpg is clearly going to be a lot more than your average family car. Definitely a lot more than our 3 door Toyota Yaris. We’re also planning on doing quite a lot of miles. Somewhere around 8,000 on our first 6 month trip round Europe. At first glance a motorhome is clearly not an eco-friendly option.
At second glance we estimate it’s going to slash our carbon footprint in half.
Say what? How?? Okay let’s have a look at the main areas that cause that carbon footprint:
- Stuff – clothes, gadgets, furniture etc.
First of all when we’re at home Jay’s job involves a lot of commuting, which mostly has to be done by private car. So our mileage for the van is offset against what we’d be doing anyway if we were at home. I mostly walk to work, so no saving there. There will be two of us in the van though, so it’s carbon footprint is divided between us. The 8,000 miles sounds like a lot, but that’s for two people over a six month period. We won’t be doing any other travel on top of that. No weekends away. No hopping on a plane for a foreign holiday. Supermarket shops will happen while we’re on the road to our next detsination. Once we’re parked up we’ll be walking or cycling everywhere. There might be the odd occasion we get on a train to avoid driving into a busy city centre, but I don’t think that will happen very often.
Then there’s our living space. Accommodation accounts for quite a big chunk of most people’s carbon footprint. Even relatively small homes use a lot of gas, electricity and water. An average size motorhome is a lot smaller than even a modest one bedroom flat. And when you’re living off the grid (not plugged in to electricity supplies etc.) you have to re learn how you use things. Our electricity will be provided by a leisure battery, which we’ll charge while driving and with a solar panel. So for most of the time we’ll be producing zero extra carbon footprint for our electricity. As our electricity will be in finite supply we won’t be wasting a bit of it! In preparation for this, and for saving money for the trip, I’m already much more careful with electricity at home.
For heating we’ll be using refillable LPG , and probably for running the fridge when we’re parked up. If we run low we have to find somewhere to refill the tanks. So again we’ll be being frugal with it and trying to make it last as long as possible. Heating a motorhome takes a lot less energy than heating a house. Plus we’ll be travelling in southern Europe over the cold, winter months. As hardy Scots that means most of the time it’ll feel like early summer to us and we’re unlikely to be using heating all that much. We’ll also be spending most of our time outdoors. If we stayed at home we’d have heating on non stop for most of that 6 month period. This and the electricity are going to be huge reductions on our carbon use.
The most important utility is water. We literally can’t live without it. Being Scots water isn’t something we usually think about too much. Scotland has a lot of water. It falls out of the sky on top of us all the time. Like all the time! We’re pretty bad for taking it for granted. But we all need to learn to limit our consumption of everything to what we actually need. Human beings consume far more than the planet can provide. We need to stop. I need to stop.
Living in a motorhome we won’t be plugged into a water supply. We’ll need to fill our onboard tanks, which will cost us money, and we will be limited to what we can carry. You can bet we will be using the absolute minimum water for everything. There’s not going to be any more running a tap to rinse a cup. Far too wasteful. Also I hear motorhome showering involves a quick splash of water to get wet. Turn the water off and lather up. Water back on for a quick and efficient rinse off. I know we’re going to miss that feeling of a nice long shower or bath. But hey! There’s going to be a lot of beaches and rivers and lakes along the way. I foresee a lot more swimming in our future. Even in winter the Meds gotta be warmer than Scotland’s seas in summer.
Food. Food, especially meat production, accounts for a lot of carbon emissions. Two key ways of reducing this are to eat less meat and to eat local produce. We’re expecting this trip to help a lot with both of these things, simply by us doing what we like to do. One of the lovely things about travelling is trying all the local specialities. And fresh, local produce tends to be in abundance a lot of places on the continent. We find when we have access to a wide variety of cheap, tasty vegetables we naturally want to eat them. They look so good all heaped up on local market stall tables! Also, as we’ll be hugging the coastline for a lot of the trip, there’s going to be a lot of fish to try out. We’ve always wanted to be a bit more adventurous with our fish eating. I guess it’s time to put our mouths’ where our money is.
And then there’s stuff. All the bits and pieces people are tempted into buying all the time. There’s not going to be a huge difference here for us, neither of us are big consumers to start with. On top of that though, again we’re going to have a pretty small living space. We’re also limited by how much weight we can legally carry so we won’t be doing any whim buying. That being said getting started up we’re likely to buy quite a few items that we’ll need for the trip. We’re not too worried about this though, because as I said we really don’t buy stuff very often so spread our carbon footprint for purchases over two or three years and it’s pretty negligible.
If you’ve got any tips on making our trip even more eco-friendly we’d love to here them. We’ll try and keep a record of what we use, and update you on our actual carbon footprint as we go. Here’s to a Green future for us all.