Utne Blogs > Environment

RV Industry Goes Green—Just Kidding!

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, recreational vehicles, RVs,

RVsIt’s hard to think of a consumer-product industry that’s less green than the one that makes recreational vehicles. Its very existence is predicated on using large amounts of fossil fuel to lug around small numbers of people and lots of luxuries, and signs of environmental enlightenment are scarce: Living simply and living large are inherently incompatible.

So I was intrigued to find a reference to “going green” on the industry website RVeNews. What could this mean? Had the manufacturers that gave us the Weekend Warrior, the Land Yacht, and the Tsunami suddenly seen the light? Perhaps they were ready to downsize their models, incorporate solar panels and worm composters in their designs, and pay reparations to Pachamama for past misdeeds?

Well, not exactly. Here’s how RVeNews blog contributor Carl Sconnely sets it up:

I’m sure everyone has noticed how many companies over the last five years have been jumping on the “Going Green” advertisement bandwagon. They change out a few light bulbs, drop a couple recycling bins around the office, and eliminate most of their paper use. 

Recently, however, appeal within the United States to “Go Green” has paled as concerns have shifted more toward economic stability. In a recent poll by Pew Research Center, only 41 percent of respondents considered protecting the environment to be a top-level issue, in comparison to 56 percent last year.

If “Going Green” isn’t making as big of a marketing statement as it once did, why should your dealership bother?

If you’re thinking that the answer is something like, “Because our great-grandchildren would want us to,” “Because there won’t be any scenery left for RV travelers to enjoy if we don’t,” or simply, “Because it’s the right thing to do,” you’ll be sorely disappointed. It turns out that Mr. Sconnely has a different sort of agenda. He’s the president of a firm that sells software to help RV dealers save money by reducing their paper use—a noble goal, no doubt, but hardly the sea change that this dinosaur of an industry needs.

How about you? Can you think of good reasons why the RV industry should go green, and what that might entail?

Source: RVeNews

Image by Ildar Sagdejev, licensed under Wikimedia Commons.

eugenedean
4/3/2015 7:31:53 AM

Going green will be difficult for RV manufacturers, but at least they are trying. As electric motors improve, maybe that will become an option for some models. Of course, it will be impossible to find a power outlet in some of the places that RV owners like to take their vehicles. http://www.rvnorthwest.com


joseph_4
4/28/2010 11:19:51 PM

Hi We turn off all our utilities at our house in California (where we are a one-car family) and trade it in for two months in a 350-square foot RV. Contrary to what Mr. Goetzmann writes, while it may be living comfortably, it is not "living large." Given the limited space, conservation in all its forms is a way of life on the road, and we take that lesson home with us. joseph http://www.caravanmarket.com.aul=


brad herzog
7/30/2009 10:54:36 PM

I am an author whose latest children's book is about protecting the environment ("S is for Save the Planet: A How-to-be Green Alphabet.") For the past ten years, I have also been a spokesperson for the RV Industry Association (RVIA), traveling cross-country in an RV for two months each summer with my wife and two young sons. And I DO NOT find the two aspects of my life incompatible. Short-sighted critics tend to focus on fuel consumption, but that is a small part of the big picture. In fact, I find that traveling in a house on wheels allows me to teach myriad eco-friendly lessons to my sons. We turn off all our utilities at our house in California (where we are a one-car family) and trade it in for two months in a 350-square foot RV. Contrary to what Mr. Goetzmann writes, while it may be living comfortably, it is not "living large." Given the limited space, conservation in all its forms is a way of life on the road, and we take that lesson home with us. We eat locally often (i.e. farmers' markets). We visit natural wonders and teach our kids to appreciate them. We have room to save our recyclable materials until we find a place for them. And we drive fewer total miles than the typical family commuting to work and baseball games all summer. Studies (by international travel experts PFK Consulting) have shown that the typical airline-hotel-rental car vacation leaves roughtly twice the carbon footrpint of an RV journey to the same place over the same period of time. And for several years now, the industry has been incorporating more eco-friendly technologies -- lightweight towable vehicles (which make up about three-fourths of the RV market), motorhomes that get improved gas mileage (some get 14-19 mpg, comparable to SUVs), energy-efficient appliances, solar and wind power kits that one can adapt to the RV, eco-friendly chemical and cleaning products, etc. etc. And this year my family is driving a hybrid RV, a concept vehicle


r cree
7/28/2009 5:10:40 PM

I am one of the owners of a company that sells components to the RV industry. For years my company has sold RV box kits to New Zealand and Australia to produce RVs on the Dodge Sprinter chasis with a small turbo diesel and a similar Ford vehicle that gets about 22 miles to the gallon carrying 4-6 people around to the various camp grounds down under. When the box of these RVs get worn out from almost continuous use after 7-8 years, our customers down under reuse the vehicle chasis and put a whole new RV box on recycling any components that still have sufficient service life. After a 2nd cycle of use, our customers sell the unit to a consumer for personal use which probably brings the unit in at 25-30 years of use minimum. It is not that the RV can not be green--the U.S. RV industry just has not had the incentive as of yet. With our new light-weight plastic composites components coming to the RV industry, even more fuel savings and lower emissions are possible for the RV industry. Green is coming to the RV industry soon!


keith goetzman
7/22/2009 4:39:27 PM

Laiyla, To my mind, this type of argument goes only so far. U.S. auto manufacturers made lots of gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups because that's what customers wanted--and look where it got them. All industries need to push environmental innovation if they want to survive and thrive, and given the seriousness of the climate crisis it will take more than baby steps at this point. You left out one option for prospective buyers who find greener options too expensive: They could simply not buy an RV and instead choose a less wasteful way to vacation. They might even experience a bit more of the outdoors. Keith Goetzman


laiylam
7/22/2009 2:05:11 PM

There are, in fact, RVs with solar panels and renewable technologies. They just aren’t in high demand by buyers. RV Manufacturers, like other manufacturers, produce what the end consumer wants - if they didn’t, they’d be out of business. Although the demand for earth-friendly technology is growing, mainstream Americans currently aren’t willing to spend thousands of extra dollars to outfit their RVs or houses and help the cause. Ask any person on the street: Do they want to preserve the environment? Of course! But are they willing to spend thousands out of their own pocket to do so? Well…. probably not. Businesses catering to the average consumer have to listen to that - otherwise, none of us have jobs. Until “going green” becomes a full-blown mainstream revolution, you can’t expect every RV that comes off the line to contain the latest renewable energy sources. Sure, that might be disappointing to environmentalists who want the big changes now, but you have to keep in mind that every big revolution starts out as something small. The only way to get the mainstream public and industrial sector to truly care about their impact on the environment and wholeheartedly embrace the “green” movement is through baby steps and encouragement. That being said, printing less paper is just one of those baby steps that businesses and consumers alike can take to help save the approximately 5 billion trees that are cut down each year. Yes, it’s a small advancement, but maybe once we get that down pat, you can shine some light for us on the next little move toward the true meaning of “going green.”