Rob Greenfield calls himself an activist and takes his personal acts of conservation seriously – he’s a vegan who lives in a 50 sq.ft. tiny house on wheels, harvests and uses rainwater, doesn’t own a car, and doesn’t shower. Nelson and I watched a few of his videos and read some of blog posts about his radical lifestyle. It was the ‘not showering’ part that caught our attention and got us talking. As we read more about his philosophy, we read the statistics he shared (how most people in the U.S. use 100 gallons of water a day, they put a ton of chemicals on themselves in the form of cosmetics and other body products, and even how the foods normally consumed as part of the SAD diet – Standard American Diet – use a ton of water to produce).
This got us discussing a few things, including our water use, what we eat, and the products we use.
Nelson points out we did not start this travel journey to be conservationists or activists. We simply wanted to travel. But somehow, we are being more purposeful about everything, partly because living in an RV with limited storage demands that we pay attention. We’ve become accidental conservationists!
Here are a few things we noticed and/or changed before we hit the road:
- Nelson quit wearing deodorant or antiperspirant five years ago. He realized he smelled whether he wore antiperspirant or not, so he just quit using it completely. More on this later.
- We switched over to using Dr. Bronner’s as our soap for bathing and hand washing. It’s an all-natural castille soap that uses essential oils and coconut oil as its main ingredients.
- I switched over to Schmidt’s deodorant. It is free of aluminum, an ingredient that can cause cancer.
- Now we brush our teeth with Earthpaste, a clay-based toothpaste that has limited ingredients and no flouride.
- Laundry time starts with one of two all-natural laundry soaps called Charlie’s Soap Powder or Molly’s Suds that don’t use harsh chemicals, bleaches, fragrances, or dyes. We like them both and they have sales periodically.
- Our stainless steel coffee tumblers and water bottles help us eliminate disposable cups. We do whatever we can to avoid purchasing plastic bottles of water.
- Cast iron is our choice for cooking to avoid the chemicals used to coat traditional “non-stick”cookware. It also adds iron to our food.
- We hold onto our cell phones as long as possible. They contain a ton of terrible metals that are awful for the planet, so we use them until they die or can’t but updated anymore.
Now that we’re on the road, we have different things to pay attention to. The big ones are our power usage and water usage.
Solar – Letting the Sun Power our World
Nelson installed solar on top of our rig. Because of our job, we are mostly boondocking in the parking lots of our projects. Getting power means we either have to run the generator all the time (which means using lots of diesel and giving the geni frequent oil changes) or we could rely on the sun for most of our day-to-day power needs. Our solar set-up runs our residential fridge 24/7. We also have a solar hot water heater to reduce our use of propane. The brands Nelson chose are Windy Nation Solar panels and batteries with a Go Power 2000 watt pure sine inverter. More solar is in our future as we have funds to add to it.
In addition to the solar permanently mounted on our rig, we have three back up/portable solar units from Goal Zero that we bought before started RVing full-time. We’ve got a Yeti 1250 that will easily run our computers. The Sherpa 100 with an inverter will charge our phones (and computers in a pinch) with Nomad solar panels. Finally, we have a Flip 20 that is perfect for plugging our iPads into while we walk around our project sites for hours. It is small enough to slip into a pocket and very lightweight.
Water – Use it Carefully
The big thing we have to watch is our water usage. Our water tank is 75 gallons. With careful use we can go 5 days before needing to (1) empty our grey tank and (2) refill our fresh water tanks. I don’t think we’ve ever filled the black tank, so that’s less of a worry for us. Careful use of water means “marine showers” (turn on the water to get wet, turn off the water to suds up, turn on the water again to rinse down). We’ve also started showering every other day. We didn’t plan that, it just sort of became our routine.
Careful use also means turning off the water while scrubbing dishes and brushing teeth, and not using excessive water to flush the toilet. Overall, we figure we use 8-10 gallons per person per day, with a few odd gallons per week for the two pets. Remember that in the US, studies show that the average person uses 80-100 gallons PER DAY.
Un-careful water use means I end up halfway through a shower, suds in my hair, when the water tank runs empty. Doh!
We do our laundry once a week at a laundromat but have no idea of the water impact of that activity.
Food – Eating Clean(er)
Remember how I mentioned above that Nelson quit wearing deodorant because he felt like he was smelly no matter if he wore it or not? We accidentally figured out that what we ATE had a huge impact on our body odor. The more crap we consumed (sodas, fried foods, too much meat, sugar, dairy, etc.) the more offensive our body odor became.
Neither of us drink soda anymore (it’s been 10+ years for me and at least five for Nelson). Many of our meals are vegetable-heavy now and we try to go for a colorful plate of food. We have cut our meat consumption by half (especially beef, where we learned it takes 16 gallons of water to make ONE hamburger). Anytime we indulge and eat out now, especially if we eat fried items, our bodies tell us loud and clear! We find this disturbingly funny. We are both horrified and amused at how our bodies let us know what they like and what they don’t!
NOT preaching here!
We’ve written this post because of our breakfast table discussion. It is NOT a post to tell you what you should or should not do. Rob Greenfield’s posts and videos just got us talking about the changes we’ve made in our own lives over the past six years, and especially in the last six months.
Are we perfect? Hell no! I mean, we had beer and wine and fried mushrooms and frozen pizza last night (our current project is stressing us out and we know it).
Also, we threw away a bunch of recycling the other day. We’d been carrying it around for almost a week without finding a recycling dumpster. Finally we got so aggravated with the piles and clinking bottles that we tossed the bunch of it. That did not feel good and we try really hard to practice good recycling habits.
So this is a personal journey we are on as we become more aware of our diesel, propane, electricity, and water needs. We are very aware of what we’re putting in and on our bodies (and still make bad choices sometimes – see: frozen pizza and fried mushrooms above). BUT- we are trying to make a difference, no matter how small.
And if any of this blog post happens to get you and your family talking about your consumption, then that will put a smile on our faces. And if we only amused you with our hippy leanings, then that puts a smile on our faces, too.