Check out these nifty camper vans

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Camper van enthusiasts = fossil fuel enthusiasts.
The current trend for refurbished school busses etc is like releasing a locust swarm of tiny unregulated cruise ships, by which I mean the extra CO2 emitted as you not only transport yourself, like you would on a flight or train ride, but also your bed, bathroom, kitchen, sports equipment etc.

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That particular camper, with its 660 cc gasoline engine is hardly a cruise ship. In Europe most campers are based on commercial vans with relatively efficient turbo diesel motors in the 2 - 3 litre range. And generally, those type of campers cover very low annual mileages.

Admittedly, US style RVs are a different species.

As for those people who choose to live in converted US school buses, their lifestyle is somewhat offset by not running furnaces and air-conditioning found in regular US houses.

Also, not everyone who lives in a camper van wants to be living in a camper van. Some are forced into the lifestyle by economic necessity.

And finally, so called camper van enthusiasts are early adopters of solar technologies and some VW camper enthusiasts are early adopters of electric conversions.

If you really want to get a visceral understanding of energy management, Watts, Volts and Amps, try living in a camper for a while.


I prefer my pollution to be manifested as strip mining and sludge.
Go electric vehicles!:


Solar does wonders for teaching one about a power budget. I mean, I learned Ohm’s Law in high school. But that doesn’t mean I had any intuitive sense of just how much air you can move with 80 watts. All our super-cheap energy (both electric and gasoline) has completely blinded us to the scale of power involved in day to day life.


Depends on what activity you’re comparing it to. A person who takes a flight across the Atlantic to vacation in a hotel generally has a much higher carbon impact than a person who drives around in a camper van for a week or so.


Wow great find. I subscribed to his channel.
Thanks, MF.

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Maybe. I want to see the numbers though.

Sure, traveling by plane is generally way more wasteful than by road. But we’re comparing transporting person+suitcase there and back once, versus person+LOTS OF STUFF and continuously moving about willy nilly for weeks. Not sure the camper van community still wins out.

Good news, you can easily compare these activities at this website:

You can enter whatever scenarios you like, but, for example, this calculator shows that traveling 2000 miles in a VW camper van would lead to a carbon footprint of 1.11 metric tons. (Maybe a bit more depending on how much extra luggage you bring, but not that much more.) Then you divide that by the number of people in the van.

A single economy class seat round trip flight from California to Paris is 5.12 metric tons. A flight from LA to Nashville is .81 metric tons per person, but if you were traveling with a family of 4 people it would be much less total carbon to do an RV trip. And most RV trips keep much closer to home.


I get different numbers though. When I use the website, the return trip LAX to CDG comes out as 2.57?

Anyway, I am going to calculate a scenario I am much more familiar with. A retired German couple drive in their camper van from Berlin to Bodø in northern Scandinavia to see the midnight sun. There are tons of these guys descending on vulnerable arctic nature every summer. For comparison, a couple of hipster kids from Bodø fly to Berlin to party for a week or two.

The website you suggested gives me the following comparison:

Berlin to Bodø and back (ca 4500 km) a Average Diesel van (Class II) = 0.82 tonnes

Hipster kids:
2 x Economy class direct return flight from BER to BOO = 0.94 tonnes

If the retirees do lots of detours to admire the landscape, or if their van is filled to the brim with food and equipment, they will probably come out worse in the calculation. But if the hipster kids change flights in Copenhagen they will of course come out the worse. In any case, very comparable scenarios.

My point stands though. Flights are far from OK, and we should all fly less. But flying can be taxed and regulated (eventually). Head over to Wendover Production’s Youtube Channel for a documentary about European bans on short distance flights (in favour of high speed train) and the emergence of electric planes for shorter distances. While the increase in camper vans moving about willy nilly with no oversight is still, in my opinion, a locust swarm of tiny cruise ships.

Did you include the carbon footprint of the lodgings the hipsters are renting, or are they couch surfing?

I’m sincerely curious. I sometimes daydream about the nomadic lifestyle, but haven’t yet done any environmental reckoning.

Sweet tool, @Otherbrother , thanks for that!


No I haven’t. These numbers are just the mode of transport.
It would be great to have actual CO2 cost of their stay, but in the mean time I would assume that the impact of hotel vs camper van (in summer) could be quite comparable. The sheer mass of a hotel means the CO2 cost of building the structure will have been much bigger than constructing a van, but then again its life span is ten-fold longer which works to offset the cost of building it. I would assume CO2 cost of heating, cooking, warm water etc for a couple of week’s vacation to be modest in both instances.

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Hold me closer…

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Thankyou for broadening my musical horizons

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