Inspired by a summer living off-grid with her boyfriend, an environmental policy student decided to convert and live inside her OLD van in order to reduce her carbon footprint. Caroline Winslow, 22, from Colorado, spent a summer turning her Ram Promaster into a cosy home, at a cost of around $7,000, which is the amount she received from her school as an off-campus living stipend. These pictures show the building process as Caroline refurbished the van showing her amazing kitchen, living space – and even a swing. Caroline came to the decision to live off-grid in a van after enjoying summer adventures in one with her boyfriend.
‘I realised that I could combine my love of life in the van, with my goal of living off-grid,’ she explained. ‘Being an environmentalist and studying environmental policy, I often felt as though my daily life didn’t align with my beliefs and goals. ‘Therefore, in order to live more self-sustained and reduce my carbon footprint, I sold my previous car, purchased a Ram Promaster, and spent this past summer converting it into a cosy off-grid home.’
Caroline named the van Roxi, as a nod to her previous van Rocky that started it all. Then, over the summer, she spent three months converting the van with the help of her boyfriend Luke. ‘I aimed at using all non-toxic and/or repurposed materials. For example, my insulation is natural sheep’s wool, my countertop is made of repurposed plywood from a dorm on campus, and my sealants and paint are Zero VOC. The steps were taken to try and reduce toxicity and waste often associated with traditional building. Additionally, the van has a 600W solar array on the roof with a 480ah battery bank inside. ‘The goal of this project/new lifestyle is to reduce my carbon emissions via utilizing solar power and to also become more aware of my daily energy and resource demands,’ she explained.
Caroline hopes to graduate from university this year in May and go on to find a job working in renewable energy, sustainable development, or ocean conservation. She is also pursuing a Senior Honour’s Thesis in which she will quantify her carbon footprint, and compare it to other existing senior living arrangements in colleges to identify ways in which students can reduce their carbon emissions and learn to live more sustainably. ‘Life is amazing living in Roxi,’ said Caroline. ‘Although it is an incredibly small space, I have made sure to take advantage of all of the small nooks and crannies for storage. ‘As of now, I have my entire kitchen, closet, schoolwork/desk items, plus climbing and ski gear packed into Roxi. Paring down to fit all of my necessities into the van was somewhat challenging; however, when it comes to daily life in the van, the transition has not been incredibly drastic.’ But the student explained that it was helpful that she had spent time living in a van for two previous summers.
‘I still wake up every morning and head to class or the library, where I spend most of my day until I head back to Roxi in the evening to make dinner and head to bed.’ She hopes by living in Roxi she can encourage others to think critically about their lifestyles and maybe reduce their own carbon footprint. ‘I do not expect many people to sell their car and move into a van; however, I think it is important for people to question the current status quo,’ added Caroline. ‘Many people questioned my ability to convert the vehicle myself and live comfortably off-grid. Others suggested that I wait until graduation to pursue such a project. ‘Yet, my desire to protect the incredible natural landscapes around me made it impossible to wait any longer. I also hope to encourage people to tune in and become aware of their daily energy and resource needs. ‘In doing so, I believe that people may become more motivated to make small changes in their life to lessen these resource and energy demands.’