5 Sustainability hacks of the Freeride van-lifer, Ariane Goulet | Freeride World Tour Skip to main content

5 Sustainability hacks of the Freeride van-lifer, Ariane Goulet

Dear Freeriders, we need to talk.

Just like you, I’m dreaming for the competition season to properly start; I am crossing fingers for ski resorts to open across countries that kept them closed so far and I wish for snow in other countries and mountains where it’s still warm and wet. I also profoundly miss travelling, chasing snowstorms and above all, hugging my freeride friends.

So here we are, in a time where we need to rethink our sport, our travels, our lifestyle; more than ever before. Seems like the world stopped turning, and gave us a moment to ask ourselves : why are we actually doing what we’re doing?

I encourage you to just pause here and reflect on this with me. On my side of the world, I live in a converted short school bus and this question quickly turned into : is the way I live truly sustainable? Let’s be honest here; driving around a 5000kg vehicle chasing freeride competitions around the continent is not the most eco-friendly means of getting around.

I give you that. But here’s the thing : if vanlifers agree on anything it’s that the typical way of doing things just doesn’t work for us. What we live for is to create a life that’s more sustainable – both for our own time, happiness, and sanity, and for our overall impact on the environment. Vanlife gives you the opportunity to refocus and live in favour of minimalism, simplicity, adventure, and reassessing what truly matters.

I’ve seen a lot of you rippin’ your rigs in the parking lots of the mountains around North America last year and that was incredible! Full time living or just for a weekend saving on hotel rooms; you know what I am talking about here. In the end, vanlife is about leaning into your fear of the unknown in order to pursue what makes you feel alive. Is that not what we are all doing on these mountains?

Let’s be real, I am not here to convince you to sell everything, hit the road and live the #vanlife. I am here to point out how it changed my perception on many aspects of my lifestyle and how these little green tricks have naturally become habits. So freeriders, we need to talk; about how these could be applied to your lifestyle, wherever you might be based of. On land or on wheels, what can you do differently from now on?

Let’s get back to it. From a sustainability perspective, living in a giant gaz-guzzling vehicle is not ideal, but here are 5 ways how the vanlife lifestyle has a much lower carbon footprint than the average person and how you can adapt these into your home!

 

1 | CONSUME LESS

Let’s get back to it. From a sustainability perspective, living in a giant gaz-guzzling vehicle is not ideal, but here are 5 ways how the vanlife lifestyle has a much lower carbon footprint than the average person and how you can adapt these into your home!

  • SAVE SPACE - You are forced to downsize your whole life to what fits in your van. That third snowboard probably fits, but not that second pair of shoes ; we call those priorities. You re-evaluate what you really need and value every little corner of extra storage space. Seriously, minimalism is known to be good for your mental health - maybe we all need that big clean-up of our stuff these days!

  • SAVE MONEY - Make your purchases count, buy less but valuable stuff. I recently got stuck with this sentence from Zita Cobb : “Why do we allow so many anonymous things in our lives?". Why do we share our space and money for things that we don’t profoundly love and value? Think before you buy; do you really need it? If you do, can you find it used? “Buying used extends a garment’s life by about two years, which cuts its combined carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%.” (Wornwear Patagonia)



 

2 | LEAVE NO TRACE - Especially you, mountain lovers

  • FOLLOW THE 7 PRINCIPLES HERE - and leave the places you visit even better than you found them. It allows us to use these spaces. It’s true for my parking spots just as much as the trails we use. Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t realize how their actions impact the environment and it’s our role, avid outdoors enthusiasts, to show the best example to these new adepts. Let’s keep our beloved mountain accessible.

  • GO ZERO-WASTE - There’s just no space for trash anyway! Our Single-Use, throwaway culture is a huge problem and the best way to produce less waste is to prevent things that generate trash to enter the van in the first place. In the end, the least sustainable product is the disposable one. So follow the 3 R’s and Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (in this order!). Rock these reusable bags and containers and shop bulk! Buying in bulk is often cheaper, more organic, and just more efficient for vanlife. Plus, you literally have no excuse to use plastic bags because you “forgot your reusables at home”. Your car is your house.

     

3 | BE SELF-SUFFICIENT - At least, aim for it!

  • GO SOLAR - A huge chunk of carbon emissions in America comes from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. On top of reducing considerably your energy consumption, most vanlifers do not use any grid-generated electricity by running mainly on solar panels. Have you considered solar for your home?

  • HEAT NATURAL - Smaller house footprint = smaller carbon footprint. With only a tiny space to warm up, it takes a lot less to get it hot. I personally run on wood, which is the most sustainable option for winter vanlife. A wood stove provides super dry heat too, which is perfect to dry out these smelly ski boots. To do even better, bring a friend; split that footprint in half and treat yourself an all natural personal heater!

4 | SAVE WATER

Water is so easy to waste until you have to be mindful of it. In the US, the average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day. Let me tell you - I could go months with that amount of water! Water becomes luxury and conserving it becomes one of your main issues.

  • OWN YOUR DIRTBAG-NESS - People already think you’re a dirty hippie, so embrace the persona! Living out of your car means spending a lot of time outside and learning to be a little dirty. Your body gets used to it; less showering is somewhat healthy for your skin and saves tons of water! It’s an essential vanlife skill and art (a small wet wipe can go a long way!).

  • FORGET LAUNDRY - If you’re dirty, your clothes don’t need to be extra clean. Get more wear between washes; save water and electricity and lengthens the life of your clothes. They don’t like to be washed either; they’ll thank you!

  • JUST NOTICE - Seriously, you don’t have to go crazy, but try to notice the amount of water you use and cut wherever you can (get a low-flow shower-head or skip a flush on the toilet!).

     

5 | PLAN AHEAD

No way around it, driving is the biggest contributor to my carbon footprint. Fortunately, there are still ways to reduce its impacts, strategize my route and develop more sustainable driving habits.

  • DRIVE SLOW - I can guarantee that you are not driving fast with this big yellow thing! On top of the safety speed blocked at 105km/h, your skibum budget doesn’t allow you to spend more gas than you need. Save it, drive slow, enjoy the ride.

  • STAY LONGER - I’ve been travelling to comps across America, from one to the other, visiting on the way; no round trips, no flights. It was a lot of driving - and still less than the average American does as a regular commuter. It says a lot to me. From switching electric to biking shorter commutes, from travelling local, longer, better; let’s all rethink our travels and means of transportation. We can do better.

  • MAINTAIN YOUR RIG - Choose a used vehicle, love it and make its maintenance a priority. Tire pressure, proper gear use and regular checkup; you're on the right track to reduce its emissions.

What I’d like you to remember from this is that sustainability is not about doing it all perfectly. It’s about noticing where we can improve; it’s about making small meaningful changes in our lifestyle and habits. It’s about asking ourselves if we can do with a little life editing.

Oh and before I forget; yes, this Climate crisis is huge, way bigger than one of us can tackle. Sustainability is a beautiful concept, but also a really fantasized one. We all need to take our little part of responsibility and own it. Corporations, governments and each one of us, to change our habits, demand and provoke change.

That’s exactly why I am writing you today; because I need you to jump in. We all need each other to join in this quest for change; in this quest for a more sustainable future. A future where we can all still hope to ski.

There is no “end of the road”. It’s a lifelong journey and I hope we cross paths soon, somewhere where it’s a little more green, somewhere where we all joined our forces to protect our winters.

xoxo

Ariane