What 'Sustainability' in a Camper Means.

Sustainability is a portion of our lifestyle, and if you’re reading this, living in a self-sufficient, eco-friendly, sustainable manner is probably important to you too. 

We’ve written about things we do around our home to live sustainably before, and we’ve even discussed how we live green while traveling in our camper or living on the road.

Because John travels for work and is gone from home 6+ months out of the year, it’s been especially important that we find way to be self-sufficient and sustainable while living in our fifth-wheel camper. {You can read about the camper we purchased last year here.}

Here are a few more ways we make sure we’re living sustainably and with the environment in mind while living in our camper: 

We Recycle

It doesn’t matter if we aren’t staying in an area where recycling isn’t available {you wouldn’t believe how few communities offer a comprehensive recycling program!} - we sort our trash for recycling anyway.

 For example, the area where John is working in Alabama only recycles cans and bottles with a deposit. That means other cans, plastics, paper, newsprint, or cardboard are not readily recycled. We sort our products accordingly and will either recycle them in a community that does offer a comprehensive program, or we’ll repurpose those items.

For example:
  • John will take his lunches to work in plastic containers with a lid
  • We will use cardboard or paper to start our campfire {instead of toxic lighter fluid}
  • Boxes can be used for storing other items in our camper

We Pick Up Trash

When on our nightly walks with the pups, we carry a bag with us and pick up trash along the way. We’ve noticed that communities that do not offer recycling to their citizens have a lot more roadside trash. There’s no incentive for people to keep trash in a proper container. Granted, picking up trash on our walks isn’t all about living an eco-friendly lifestyle, it’s about making our area clean and beautiful, too. 

We Cook From the Pantry & Deep Freeze

When John leaves for a job, he is usually gone for at least a month before he comes back home to visit. Most of the time, he works a job for at least 3 months before moving on to the next job or coming home for a break. Before he hits the road in the camper, I make a list of all non-perishable food items in the camper and replenish the cupboards with canned goods from our pantry.

Common canned goods we take in the camper are:
  • Jams and jellies
  • Pasta sauce
  • Salsa
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Enchilada/Taco sauce
  • Whole tomatoes
  • Mexican seasoned tomatoes
We also take beef, pork and chicken from our deep freeze rather than buying it from a grocery store when we arrive. It’s hard to find a local meat source on the road, but very convenient and cost effective to load up our camper freezer and take our own.

Common deep freeze items we pack are:
  • Frozen shredded and sliced cheese
  • Frozen veggies from the garden
  • Frozen herbs from the garden
  • Frozen homemade bread
  • Frozen butter
  • Bratwursts
  • Ground beef
  • Ground pork sausage
  • Bacon
  • Chicken (cuts - not whole)
I also make sure to fill up spice containers, pack a little sugar and flour, fill a clean, empty milk jug with homemade laundry soap, and make sure there are plenty of dry goods like beans, canned olives, tomato paste, and pasta in the cupboards.

We Use a Space Heater {& Fans}

Just a few weeks ago John called to tell me that there was a propane shortage in Alabama. There were several extreme cold snaps in the area and temperatures plummeted for a few days at a time. As a result, people were using more propane to heat their homes - much more than normal. Naturally, a proapne shortage was looming in the distance, and a few weeks later the shortage was announced on the news and propane was being rationed. 

John uses propane to heat his camper {when needed - the climate is usually mild} and to use his stove and grill. Other than the microwave {yuck}, a toaster, and a small slow cooker I packed, he has no other way to prepare his meals. That slow cooker gets a lot of use, trust me.

The camper heater is very efficient, but does use more propane than the stove and grill. To conserve propane for heating purposes, John packed a small space heater from his garage to take the chill out of the air in the camper. On really cold days, he had to use the camper heater to prevent the pipes from freezing.

When the space heater John packed from home crapped out, he had to purchase a new one. Even so, the cost of a new space heater is much less than the cost of filling two empty 30 gallon propane tanks.

We Make Friends

While in Alabama, John had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. He initially came to Alabama after talking with some guys he met in 2008 {Hey, PeeWee and Kelly!} after Eastern Iowa suffered a terribly destructive flood. The boys from ‘Bama came up to Iowa to rebuild our city. Now they needed a little help on a steam plant and extended an invitation for John to join them for a few months. 

John is staying out in the hills and hollers of rural Alabama. The nearest town with a grocery store and gas station is about 15 minutes away, and the nearest restaurant is about 30 minutes away. Making friends is important around here. It ensures we aren’t driving all over the place looking for a post office, and are spending our money at reputable, local establishments rather than the Walmart that’s 45 minutes away.

At the particular campground where John is staying there are a total of seven campers who are also working at the steam plant. Two of the travelers brought their wives. The ladies and I went for walks down the country roads every day with our dogs, went fishing at a small pond nearby, carpooled “to town” for groceries once a week, and had campfires at night when our husbands come home from work. They are sweet ladies and are living my dream: Traveling with their husbands full-time, while making a home {in a camper!} all across the most beautiful areas of America.


Do you or someone you know travel for work? What are your tips for living sustainably on the road?


  1. We also use an electric skillet daily in the camper. I found a nearly new one for just a couple dollars at a local rummage sale!

    1. GOOD IDEA! My mom is a dynamite thrift shopper. I think I'll put her on the hunt for one!

  2. Great post! Making a home in a camper and travelling sounds pretty amazing. It is awesome that you are able to take advantage of his job and join him once in a while!

    1. Thanks, Kier :) I am SO THANKFUL I had the guts to quit my job and go for it. Granted, it hasn't been easy (I've had to totally change the way I spend and manage my finances), but I am so much happier.

      Quality of life > Big paychecks.

  3. I love this! May I ask what temperature your husband deems necessary to switch from space heater to propane to protect the pipes? I live in Maryland and am planning to live in a camper before long.

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