Looking to furnish or decorate your new van but don’t want to buy crappy plastic products? We have the perfect list of eco-friendly van life essentials for you!
When Paul and I bought our van, we knew we wanted to keep the style minimal and eco. As much as possible, we set out to purchase only eco-friendly materials and items we needed.
Our hunt for the best sustainable van accessories ending up being a huge run-around… Turns out, it’s way harder to shop for eco-friendly van essentials than we thought!!
To save you from making the same mistakes, here is our quick list of what we consider to be our top 10 eco-friendly van life essentials.
10 Awesome Eco-Friendly Van Life Essentials
We are still finding new brands that offer eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products (plastic-free, ethically made, etc.), so bear with us as we add to this list over the next few months!
But so far, these are our favorite eco-friendly items that we use every single day in our 1990 Roadtrek van (except for the solar shower!).
Check them out!
1. Organic Pillows + Organic Linen Duvet Cover
The right pillows and set of sheets make the van feel cozy and homey. But we didn’t want to buy plastic polyester pillows or cheap bed sheets.
Moreover, we didn’t want to just toss out the items we already had like the quilt that came with the van! Sometimes being eco-friendly means keeping and repurposing what you already have, rather than buying new. You can do that once the item wears out and then buy an eco replacement.
Finding eco-friendly bedding for our van was super important for us! After searching both online and in all types of stores, we ended up finding both organic cotton pillows and an organic linen duvet cover at Target.
The organic linen duvet cover by Magnolia Homes set us back at least $75 (Queen size), twice the price compared to the non-organic version.
Finding organic alternatives sometimes mean paying a higher price tag. Other times the price is about the same – like our organic pillows for example!
2. Bamboo Bowls + Cutlery + Cutting Board
Van lifers recommended buying lightweight, unbreakable plastic dishware since things tend to fall and move around while on the road. But we hate to buy plastic if we can avoid it.
So we went on the longest goose chase to find a sliver of an “eco-friendly” plate, bowl, and cutlery. We ended up finding glazed ceramic plates and mugs in Wal-Mart and large bamboo bowls at IKEA.
As Paul and I say, if you can’t buy 100% eco-friendly, at least buy better!
We didn’t have the time to ship this eco-friendly dinnerware on Amazon to our address before starting our van life travels. If we had, we probably would’ve chosen those!
As for cutlery, we kept the stainless steel knives, forks, and spoons we already had but made sure to buy bamboo kitchen utensils instead of plastic ones.
We also found a bamboo cutting board to complete our organic bamboo kitchen set.
3. Reusable Cotton Mesh Bag/Hanger
A fun bonus eco-friendly van life essential which saves us space (and looks cute too) is our reusable cotton mesh hanging bag.
We picked these up in IKEA and they’re made from natural cotton – not organic from what I understand, but it’s better than plastic alternatives.
These hangers are great for storing our rolling produce – aka our fruits!
The cotton mesh bags give an earthy touch to the van which I love. Plus, we can always see if we have fruit left without having to dig through our cupboards or fridge! 🙂
4. 4Ocean Reusable Water Bottle
I was given a 4Ocean reusable water bottle for Christmas last year and I take it everywhere I go.
Most people have a reusable water bottle nowadays, but the cool thing about 4Ocean is that your purchase goes toward helping remove 1 pound of plastic from the oceans.
You might have already heard of the brand as their recycled conservation bracelets are quite popular!
5. Dr. Bronners + Biodegradable Wipes
Using biodegradable soap for all of our uses – body + hair washing, dishwashing, cleaning, etc., – is really important if you take on the van life.
Chances are you are going to shower outside at least once (if not regularly) and it’s important to use eco-friendly soap for that! When we do not have the opportunity to “shower” outside, we wash up in our sink.
We then dump that sink water in the dump stations at campgrounds. Even though this water goes into a specific tank underground, it’s important to use biodegradable soap nonetheless. It’s more eco-friendly and it is healthier for your skin, too.
6. Organic Cotton Bath Towel + Wash Cloths
Sure, you can easily find bath towels in practically every department store. But finding organic cotton towels? Now that’s extra special!
In our mission to only buy organic for the van, we luckily came upon our organic cotton bath towels in Bed Bath & Beyond. Again, since we couldn’t shop from eco-friendly online stores, we had to go to the commercial stores. And as you know, these massive stores usually don’t stock eco-friendly products. So we were stoked to find these organic cotton towels for the van at the last minute.
Most van lifers usually recommend getting microfibre towels as these save lots of space. But Paul and I decided hey, we’re already living in a van, let’s take luxury where we can find it.
And by luxury, I mean a large, fluffy bath towel that we don’t have to feel so guilty about buying because it’s organic. 🙂
7. Jute/Bamboo Placemats
My favorite eco-friendly van accessories we bought are our natural table placemats and storage baskets.
As part of our low-key DIY van conversion, we ripped out the white cupboards to achieve a more open aesthetic. Not only is it more convenient for us to grab or find something, the openness definitely adds to the coziness of the van.
We found eco-friendly jute placemats at Pier 21 and then found bamboo placements at IKEA a week later. We ended up with both!
8. Natural Storage Baskets!
As for our eco-friendly storage baskets, these were much harder to come across.
We ended up finding the closest thing we could find to natural/eco-friendly at TJ Maxx – a secondary department store where they resale unsold items from all sorts of brand names. Turns out, their basket section was just what we needed!
We ended up buying several natural woven straw baskets to store our food, bath stuff, and personal items.
8. Handmade Yarn Rug
A special van life accessory that we bought last-minute was a handmade rug locally made in my small hometown in North Carolina.
The yarn is no doubt just normal yarn, nothing organic or especially eco-friendly I guess, but the fact that we supported a local business also has a larger impact on mindful consumerism.
If you get the chance to find something to decorate your van that was locally-made, get it! Not only do you support small businesses, but you also add lots of unique character to your van’s interior.
Our rug is a warm welcome for our cold feet in the mornings!
10. Portable Solar Shower
No eco-friendly van life essential list is complete with a solar shower! Or solar device of some sort.
When we set out to go for van life, we had these huge plans to be all about solar. We wanted to install solar panels, have a solar heater, solar chargers, solar batteries, everything solar!
Unfortunately, not only did we run out of time but we also ran out of money!
In the end, the only solar van accessory we bought was our solar shower. The only problem? We need warm weather to use it outside!
Eco-Friendly Van Life Essentials BONUS! – Allbirds Shoes
Do you own a pair of Allbirds eco-friendly trail runners yet? If not, you need to look into this company!
The company sustainably sources eucalyptus fiber, castor oil, and Merino wool to craft the world’s most comfy shoe.
Both Paul and I have a pair of Allbirds. I use mine every day (even without socks) for hiking, walking, or just relaxing in the van. Paul uses his as slippers in the morning when the floor is cold!
What Are Your Top Eco-Friendly Van Life Essentials?
I hope you found this list of our eco-friendly van life essentials useful!
Personally we felt it quite frustrating to never find a list of sustainable items that are both eco-friendly AND useful for living in the van.
We religiously use all of the products I list above – with the exception of the solar shower because right now it’s cold where we’re traveling (we’ll no doubt be using the solar shower outside of the van way more once we make it back down to Mexico!).
So, would you take away or add anything from this list of sustainable van life essentials? Drop me your thoughts, suggestions, or questions in the comments below!