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Discussion Starter #1
Starting at the very beginning with my Transit 250 High Roof conversion and would like to make the most sustainable/eco-friendly choices when putting together the build. Would love any recommendations - for anything!
 

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Reducing consumption is the only way to increase sustainability, so keep an eye on the free section of Craigslist for free lumber. Put in saved search alerts for 1x1, 1x2, and 2x4

Pallet wood can also be good to build with.

Keep an eye out at construction site dumpsters etc for materials you can repurpose.
 

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Yes, the best way to be eco-friendly is to buy something and keep it for a very, very long time. Even if the materials are NOT eco-green-friendly certified and pedigreed, the fact that a person is not buying MORE stuff to replace something perfectly good, and then throwing that perfectly good thing in the dump reduces resource extraction, transportation, manufacturing emissions, and landfill size.

For a double merit badge, using bamboo panels and boards that are eco-certified instead of construction grade plywood and boards would help, as would certain types of recycled material insulation (which has it's faults, but everything does).

But recycle/repurpose/reuse is the best route to go. As Truck mentioned, there are all kinds of free things on Craigslist that can be repurposed and no one would know the difference. Many Ikea cabinets and furniture parts can be easily adapted to use as campervan components. Or other furniture. That old teak armoire someone dragged out to the curb? Scribe the back to sit against the van wall at the height and depth you want, add some mechanical latches to the doors and drawers and you have a very nice kitchen, much better than the ones most DIY people try to build from scratch.
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You're completely right, thanks! I'll definitely put up those search alerts, that's a great idea. Will also look into bamboo panels. I found a mini-fridge on Craigslist already but I'll look for other pieces like cabinetry.

Could you advise a bit further for insulation options? I did a little research (7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home) but am stuck as far as which option intersects the most closely at eco-friendly and space-saving.
 

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Insulation that works in a vehicle under constant vibration and movement as well as extreme temp fluctuations and moisture may not be what is eco-available for use in a home. There are SO MANY threads about insulation that I don't want to get the ball rolling again. But if it were me, I'd use a combination of polyiso panels (polystyrene) and polyester batting (like in sleeping bags). Both are durable enough to last the life of the van, and won't soak up moisture or smell. "Natural fibers" like cotton, wool and plant materials often smell, degrade quickly, and don't have the structural integrity to last in a vehicle. A failed insulation that requires replacement every few years, and possible rot and rust of other components that will need replacement, is not eco-friendly compared to something that will last a lifetime. That's the hidden non-eco-friendly aspect of many "green" materials. Things can fit in the intersection of eco-logical and eco-nomical, though.

Also, a "dorm" refrigerator designed to be used in a home sometimes won't function well in a vehicle. Something to do with the compressor design and the embedded coils. The vibration of a moving vehicle messes things up, and coils are not exposed to open air so they are not efficient. However, there are several people rocking a dorm fridge running off an inverter. Best bet is to get the expensive Dometic, Engel or other DC refrigerators designed to be used in a vehicle.
 

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Agree with Surly Bill that a dorm fridge may not last and have a high energy demand. It's not clear for what you are going to use the van, live, major trips or occasional camping which also determines some of the choices. An occasional camping trip is easily done with a cooler and camping stove. If you keep all the electrical needs modest, it avoids a whole lot of expense on batteries, charge controllers, solar etc. For lights a small solar charged camping lantern is often enough and easy to move around. Some fancy flooring left overs and cabinets can also be found at some of the recycling stores of Habitat and others. I've seen some vans using old toolbox -drawer cabinets. They are sturdy and often have great ball bearing rails. Good luck with your build.
 

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As surly Bill points out, lots of info about insulation but what is good for a house is not often that good for a van. I think as important as eco-friendly Is health considerations. I did not want any products that out gas like most spray insulation and many other kinds of building insulation. The one place that I used a product that most van conversions don't is the flooring. I used cork flooring, sustainable and eco-friendly, healthy, a fire retardant, and very rugged. The pics below, putting the floor in and the finished job. Polyiso is cut to fit the channels in the floor to provide a flat surface for the cork.

I also second the thought to get an expensive cooler/refrigerator. The slide drawer on the left in the lower photo is for a Dometic Freezer/cooler.


Floor 1.JPG



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I am currently making plans for my second van build. I am also concerned with choosing materials that are both environmentally friendly and safe for me and my family. My choices have been mostly made by the process of elimination. Common materials that I see referenced that I absolutely do not want to use are vinyl flooring, adhesives that contain VOCs, synthetic or foam (spray or rigid) insulation, and plywood potentially containing formaldehyde. I plan to use rigid cork and wool batting to insulate my new van. I used rigid cork in my first van and it was great and an excellent alternative to polyiso in my opinion, although it doesn't insulate quite as well. But after three years in the floor of the van it was as good as new. I used wool batting in my house and I think it's great as well. Naturally antimicrobial and water/fire resistant, it's an excellent alternative to synthetic insulation. We will be using marmoleum/linoleum for our floor. That's a risk as I'm not sure how it will do when exposed to extreme heat/cold but I absolutely won't do vinyl and I'm not sure cork is durable enough to withstand our three dogs. I am going to try to source formaldehyde free plywood for our subfloor, or even possibly use magnesium oxide board if I can get my hands on it. So those are some materials I recommend looking into. Rigid cork panels, wool batt insulation, linoleum, formaldehyde free plywood, and magnesium oxide board (MGO board, ExtremeGreen is one brand).

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I’m also looking to fix a high roof transit for living in. I’ve been eying cork for the floors, and maybe walls? Definitely a few trips to ReStore (Habitat) cuz ya never know what you will find there! I have lots of alpaca fiber that I thought I might loosely felt for insulation. It’s 4x more thermally efficient than wool, and doesn’t absorb moisture. Dometic fridge/freezer chest seems to be a winner, and definitely a compostable toilet!
 

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I picked up a lot of aluminum sheet, angle, tube and pipe for my build at the local junk yard. Is that eco-friendly or just thrifty?
 
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