Van Life: Minimal & Sustainable Mobile Living
Today on the blog, we have special guests, Dustin & Noami, of Irie to Aurora, who are amazing vanlifers, eco-advocates, and New Orleans natives. They also are eco consultants and run a sustainability website and blog. We’ve got the inside scoop on living a minimal, low-waste and sustainable lifestyle all the while on the road in a van.
1. When and how did you decide to start your journey living in a campervan?
Dustin and I decided to start this wild journey three years ago. Our inspiration came from a love for travel and the need to reevaluate our life’s trajectory. You see, at the time, we were living in New Orleans, going through the motions of the daily grind. What we found was that we weren’t fulfilled with the way our lives were going. We felt like we were living someone else’s idea of success and happiness. So, we decided to dig up an old dream of traveling the country in a campervan. Initially, we planned for one year, but six months in we realized there would be no end in sight.
2. What did your friends and family say when you told them of your plans to live in a van?
Our friends thought we were making a mistake. Our families thought we were crazy, but they supported us anyway.
3. What are some lessons or changes this experience has thrown you in?
One of the biggest lessons is learning to let go and go with the flow. Society teaches us to be rigid, that everything must be structured a certain way. That you must have a plan and stick to that plan, or you’ll certainly fail. What we’ve found is that life is fluid, and by flowing with it we open ourselves up to the beauty and the magic of living. Now we go slow, embrace change and relish uncertainty.
4. How has this experience influenced your perspective on living a sustainable lifestyle?
Travel surely has a way of putting things into perspective. Throughout our travels, we’ve seen firsthand the impacts we as humans have on the natural world. I think it’s easy to have an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality when it comes to plastic pollution in our oceans and overconsumption of our resources. But what we’ve learned is that no matter where we are, we are all connected, and the decisions we make impact us all. Our home is the outdoors, it’s where we live, work and play. As such, we feel it’s our responsibility to reevaluate our footprint and work to minimize what we leave behind. We live a low waste lifestyle and practice Leave No Trace in the outdoors, and we’ve made it our goal to help educate and inspire our community towards environmental stewardship.
5. How has this experience influenced the way you purchase food?
Our experiences have inspired us to rethink the food we eat and realize the importance of supporting sustainable food production. We purchase our food as close to the source as possible, from farmers’ markets and local farms. This is typically more nutritious, and small local farmers tend to produce their food in more sustainable ways. We shop in bulk as much as possible in order to cut down on unnecessary packaging and waste, this allows us to buy only what we need. And, we eat more plant-based, in-season whole foods.
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Here’s a list of my #plasticfree vanlife kitchen must haves: ~ 1. Mason Jars (or any glass jars) – These are a staple. We buy bulk food into them, store leftovers, ferment veggies, and they’re one of the most affordable switches we’ve made. We have them in just about every size. Most of our glass jars are reused from products we bought, and the rest we picked up at thrift stores. These storage options have been the ultimate zero-waste switch for our kitchen. ~ 2. @khalacompany beeswax & vegan wraps – We buy loaves of bread and cheese directly into them. Wrap half an avocado or an onion and they last much longer than with regular plastic wrap. On days when we’ll be driving long distances, we wrap sandwiches with them. They make good to-go wraps for leftover pizza when we eat out, and store our trail mix on backpacking trips. Plus they’re real conversation starters at the grocery store. And they’re easy to clean (just treat it like a dish) and they’re compostable. What can I say, sky’s the limit with these gorgeous wraps. ~ 3. @stasherbag – Reusable, resealable food storage bags have taken our zero-waste game up many notches. We use them to store snacks on backcountry trips, leftovers in the van, and we buy bulk food items into them. They’re one of the best eco-alternatives over plastic baggies. ~ 4. Cloth napkins – In an effort to unpaper our van kitchen, we switched to cloth napkins. We bought a set of 6 linen napkins for $2 at a thrift store. We use them until they’re dirty and throw them in the wash. For cleaning up floor spills we tear up old t-shirts and we have reusable towels for wiping up around the kitchen. Cheap, simple and no waste. ~ I’m always looking for new ways to keep it low waste in here, so share your tips👇🏾
6. How would you describe your low-waste journey to someone who has never heard of such a thing?
Our low-waste journey started with a challenge to cut out single-use plastics. It has since evolved to finding new and creative ways to reduce our waste at every turn. We shop in bulk with reusable bulk bags and containers. We say NO to single-use plastics and products with extra packaging. We eat more whole foods which don’t require packaging. We reuse as much as possible. We make most of the day-to-day products we use – toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, shampoo & conditioner, etc.
7. Would you say Wild Planet Foods aligns with your values of sustainability? If yes, how so?
We choose to support companies that take responsibility for protecting the environment and empowering local communities. Wild Planet Foods does this by providing high-quality foods produced in the most sustainable ways possible and placing human and environmental health as the company’s core priorities.
8. What is the most challenging thing about your lifestyle? How do you overcome those challenges?
The breakdowns. We live and travel in a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon. She’s nearly as old as we are, so breakdowns are inevitable. Living this way has taught us to be patient. We’ve learned that we are resilient and, no matter what happens, we will overcome it. We recently installed a new engine, so we’re hoping that breakdowns will be much less frequent. And the best part is, we could actually pass the California emissions test if we had to. Woohoo!
9. What advice would you give to others who are looking to live a more minimal and sustainable lifestyle?
Start small. Pick one or two things that are doable for you. Know that it’s a continuous journey, and it will get easier. Have fun with it! Living sustainably doesn’t have to be a chore. The more you learn and grow, the more enjoyable it will be.
We hope this inspires you to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable life! Would you ever decide to live in a van? Comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!