RV Camping: Memories, toxic concerns, and good news

RV Camping: Memories, toxic concerns, and good news

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Camping green and my exploration of RV camping, tent camping and campers continues. Let me first begin by filling you in on my greatest childhood memory. I’m sure you can guess, it involves camping. My mother was a single mother with two young children and so was her best friend. These two young women took their four kids and a pop up camper to Totem Pole Park. I couldn’t tell you how long we camped but I will tell you that my childhood memories tell me it was forever.

That’s how long I wanted it to last.

We played all day at the beach and swam. We played tag, built forts, tried to fish, caught fire flies at night, went on long walks and met a lot of new people. I fondly remember my mother in a pink bathing suit sitting at the beach watching us play. I remember going for walks in the woods and trying to find trolls. We were told if we shook our troll catchers (pop bottles and rocks) one might pop out and we could grab it with the garbage bag. It sounds silly and why we wanted a troll is beyond me but it kept us busy for hours and hours.

I can tell you what I don’t remember, the camper. I don’t remember sleeping or how I took a shower or bath. I don’t remember what I ate. Regardless of what a person uses to camp and enjoy the outdoors, the memories of the outdoors and the experience is the important part. The RV, tent, camper or just a sleeping bag and the stars can be frivolous to a child but to the adult, it is a matter of convenience and preference. I’m assuming that my mother and her best friend wanted some conveniences, they wanted to be able to make us grilled cheese and macaroni conveniently. I’m also guessing they wanted to not sleep on the ground and liked the idea of the camper door locking. They choose convenience while still allowing us to enjoy the outdoors and thankfully give me some very fond and enduring childhood memories.

Many concerns about campers comes from the materials that make the RV’s and campers and the use of formaldehyde for disposal of toxic human waste. With over 8 million U.S. Households owning an RV, this is a major concern. First I’ll explore the toxic waste but luckily for you this won’t stink! Formaldehyde and ammonia used (past tense) to be commonly used to break down the odor and bacteria of the waste when it was disposed at the camp grounds septic system. This was (past tense) an ecological concern but now there are earth friendly non-toxic options. RV Digest is one product that is non-toxic, biodegradable and after much research I have found camp grounds throughout the United States recommend this product, including a camping green awareness program. This same concern about chemicals and the environment applies to the home just as much as it does camping. Chemicals, regardless of where they are used are harmful to the environment if not handled, used or disposed of properly. Programs like the camping green awareness program are helpful in educating campers but many camp grounds prohibit the dumping of RV tanks that have been chemically treated.

As for toxic RV’s and the use of formaldehyde for the building of the RV’s, yes there is an uproar about toxic trailers and people getting sick because of the RV’s and campers. MSNBC published an informative article that sheds some light on this issue and what the Sierra Club and FEMA is doing to combat the issue. It indeed points to RV’s and campers being made with composite wood, having unsafe ventilation and high formaldehyde and other V.O.C. levels. In other words, are these toxic tin cans? Possibly if you are going to live in them everyday of the year but remember, camping is supposed to be mostly about the outdoors. The real issue here is that indoor pollution has no regulation but thankfully the RV industry is making amends to green their RV’s and make them safer, this is a good thing! Just take a look at the new Pilgrim International recently introduced the first formaldehyde free camper that is V.O.C free.

The RV industry is indeed going green and having a Green Fleet Conference to introduce new Eco products, a green fleet of RV’s and ways to RV and camp green. The conference will be held only a few short weeks from now so if RVing is your thing or it might be something you want to explore in the future, it could be worth checking out. Just looking at the agenda can show a naysayer that there are some great initiatives out there by the industry to help reduce emissions, reduce waste, build non-toxic green fleets and more.

Keep in mind, I am in no way advocating for VOC or formaldehyde laden campers but my childhood camping certainly wasn’t spent in the camper and it surely wasn’t non-toxic!  If a family can afford and chooses to RV I’d recommend a Eco-friendly camper that is indeed non-toxic but for many families this either isn’t an option or they already own a camper or RV. So what should you do if you own one?  I think you have to remember that moderation is the key and if you camp occasionally and the family doesn’t spend much time inside the camper, then I wouldn’t freak out. I’d be saving for a newer one but if you tested the inside of your home for indoor pollution, it probably isn’t very safe either.  We have to remember to not go over board. Encourage the industry to make safer campers and try to buy one if you can but it is a new trend for the industry. There is some legislation taking place and people demanding change, rightfully so.  It might be worth checking into a few sources and asking some questions before buying a used RV. In my case with an asthmatic daughter we will be leaning toward a safer, formaldehyde V.O.C. camper.

I know many greenies are wondering about emissions, gas milage and thinking this is a big issue and so tomorrow’s post will tackle this environmental RV/Camper issue, along with some solutions and options for the camper going green. Later this week I will explore the differences between tent camping, RV camping and pull along camping and give some tips on just how to green your camping regardless of what you use. I’ll also go over why I want an RV or camper and some options I am considering.  With 8 million U.S. families having RV’s I would say this is a pretty important “green” topic.

Hi, I’m Sommer (@greenmom) and I’ve been calling this my blogging home for 9 years. I’m a juggler of life, a protective mama bear and I enjoy travel, wine, sunshine and good books. I’m passionate about inspiring others to live a little healthier and greener each day. I’m many things but above all I’m a believer in karma and the good in people. I’m a children’s book author, public speaker and consultant. My full-time gig is working as a Marketing Manager for Freshbaby.com and helping to encourage everyone to eat healthier. Check out my about me page for more details.

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  • martha

    Do you have a list of RV’s that are VOC free on the inside? I am very concerned about any toxic exposure on the inside. I know you say spend most of your time outside but you still have to sleep and sometimes cook. I would really appreciate any help/advice you might have on which Brands of Rv’s to consider. Thanks, mt

  • i admit camping is one of the best memory you will have during your childhood…

  • that is such a great scenery…

  • The material to watch for are essentially formaldehyde in the plywood, the glues and the fabric, the carpet, the V.O.C. in practically everything plastic, especially from China, the finish, fire-retardant products and the linoleum. Most of us have those symptoms from prescribed meds nowadays and find it very hard to think you will escape them when full-timing.