By Mark McConville
MEET THE couple who packed up their life into a van to travel but are now on a mission to live sustainably and help other people do the same.
Dustin, from Lake Charles, Lousiana, USA and Noami Grevemberg, from Trinidad, (both 36), sold most of their possessions and bought a 1985 Volswagen Vanagon to live and travel in three years ago.
They were on the road one month after purchasing the van and have so far travelled throughout the USA and Mexico including: Colorado, Utah, Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and down America’s West Coast traveling extensively from the northern tip of the USA in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, down through Oregon and California, all the way to the southern tip of Baja, Mexico.
The adventurous pair are conscious of their consumption habits and waste production. They currently live plastic free and low waste with zero waste being their ultimate goal.
“Living this way on the road has been trial and error, but these choices have significantly reduced our footprint and created space in our van for the important things,” they said.
“We are more intentional with our consumption and the products we bring into our van. Overall, we are healthier because we opt for less processed and more whole foods. It’s been easier on our wallet as well.
“We shop in the bulk sections for our dry goods and at farmers’ markets or roadside stands for our produce – sometimes we go straight to the farms. It’s been a wonderful journey to learn so much about the food we eat and the people growing it. It’s been an adventure and I only wish we had done it sooner.
“In our van we’ve created the “Irie to Aurora Waste Management System.” It consists of a canvas military sack we found at an army surplus store, inside we added a heavy duty dry bag to collect waste we send to the landfill, then we have a sack we collect our recycling and a repurposed basmati rice bag (made of burlap) that a friend gave us for collecting food scraps for composting.
“It’s nothing fancy, but it works for us and we feel good about it. Although finding composting facilities on the road requires a lot of intention but we’re happy to do it. It feels good knowing we’re not sending food scraps to the landfill.
“Another very important mission of ours is practicing ‘Leave No Trace’. As we mentioned earlier, the outdoors is our home, and practicing LNT is crucial for leaving wild spaces wild for generations to come. We live in a time where outdoor recreation is exploding and it’s a great thing, but it can also lead to problems if we don’t practice and promote environmental stewardship in the outdoors.
“On too many occasions, we’ve seen the human impacts in places we love. The majority of these impacts occurred due to lack of knowledge about LNT. Which is why this year we have committed ourselves to Environmental Advocacy of the outdoors. It’s just another aspect of how we live more sustainably.”
The couple left their van, Irie, behind for six months as they bought a van in Australia and road tripped there for one month before spending the next five months backpacking through Southeast Asia.
They plan to continue travelling and exploring America but will also be hosting a series of sustainability and Leave No Trace workshops across the country and the first vanlife gathering in New Orleans, LA, which is where their vanlife journey started.
“Living more sustainably can seem overwhelming when you look at all the issues at hand,” added The Grevembergs.
“Which is why we encourage individuals to pick one or two things that are doable for them and practice them daily. Whether it’s foregoing single use water bottles, or learning how to properly recycle and compost, or advocating for public lands.
“The most important thing is to do your best. We believe that living more sustainably doesn’t mean living without luxuries, but rather being aware of your resource consumption and reducing unnecessary waste.
“We love the challenge that comes with travel. It keeps us present and on our toes. Everyday there’s a new experience and challenge to be had. It pushes us outside of our comfort zones and we’ve learned how resourceful and adaptable we are. We’ve learned so many new skills.
“Living this way has opened our minds and helped us to realize there’s no one way to live. Truth is, you can’t imagine how different life is in another place until you see it for yourself. Allowing ourselves to be exposed to new places, people and cultures, has helped us develop a wider world view. That’s the greatest reward.
“And having our home with us at all times gives us the ability to go wherever we want and stay as long as we want. That’s the fun part.”