If you’re into camper vans, sustainability, and healthy living, this is the post for you!

Many of us recognize the importance of putting healthy food in our bodies and healthy products on our skin, but we don’t stop to consider the health of our homes. Most standard building materials contain known carcinogens including formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flame retardants, and polyvinyl chloride (PVCs).

The indoor air quality of your tiny home on wheels is even more important because your space is so tiny. If you’re building your DIY camper van from the wheelbase up, this is an amazing opportunity to build it as healthy as possible!

Whether you’re converting a Mercedes Benz 4×4 Sprinter, a Ford Transit, Nissan NV (like Freebird!), a vintage RV, or a Skoolie, this is the eco-friendly non-toxic van products guide will help you make your camper conversion as healthy as possible! Please leave a comment if you have any questions or sustainable vanlife building tips to share with the community!

Insulation

black mountain wool insulation

Over the past couple years, I’ve unexpectedly become the vanlife advocate for wool insulation! I used Black Mountain sheep wool in my van, Freebird. Check out the how-to guide for insulating your camper van and learn why you shouldn’t install a radiant barrier in your camper van!

Structural

Lumber

When selecting lumber, look for CARB 2 FSC-certified wood. Wood naturally has some formaldehyde, but you want to find no-formaldehyde-added lumber. Smaller lumber suppliers sometimes source this (if you’re in the Austin area, check out Fine Lumber) and Home Depot has some products as well. For Freebird’s camper paneling, the walls and ceiling are covered in tongue and groove cedar from Home Depot.

Cabinets

The camper cabinets have door faces are tongue and groove reclaimed flooring from the Texas hill country. It’s not the easiest material to work with, but it adds so much character and upcycling materials is the most sustainable way to build!

safecoat hardseal

Definitely use this safecoat non-toxic wood sealer to completely seal the wood– you don’t want any old lead paint to off-gas in your home– that would not be good!!

The cabinetry was installed with concealed soft-close hinges, which were installed using this Kreg jig. I recommend adding gas struts to keep the doors open for easy access to inside the up-swinging cabinets.

Flooring

Cork

The floor has small amounts of wool insulation rolled up underneath one thin layer of 1/4″ cork underlayment. This helps with insulation and sound deadening and creates a flat surface for your final flooring material.

Linoleum

The flooring is Forbo Marmoleum linoleum, a renewable resource that is water-resistant, non-toxic and super thin. Check out the flooring installation blog post for more details on this great product for a camper van conversion!

Paint

The cabinetry and walls are painted with Valspar Low-VOC interior eggshell paint in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, which has creamy undertones that warm up a small space. While the paint says “Zero VOC technology,” please not that this does NOT mean there are no VOCs in the product. The color tiny in most traditional paints have some VOCs. If you want a truly no-VOC paint, buy special no-VOC paint from a green building supplier.

Ventilation

Windows

Operable windows (ones that open) are an essential tool in the sustainable building toolkit. I highly recommend designing your windows for cross-ventilation, particularly near your bed. I bought my windows from CR Lawrence but a friend recently turned me onto Van Windows Direct, which has windows for all the top cargo van camper conversions with quick shipping.

Here are the windows I added to Freebird:

  • 2 15″ x 15″ slider windows in the rear of the van
  • 1 15″ x 30″ slider in the kitchen
  • 1 fixed factory-sized window for the top portion of the Nissan sliding door (I recommend a vertically-opening window instead of a fixed window, so you could have a window open even if it’s raining)

NOTE: The more windows, the less temperature control you have in the van, regardless of the type of insulation you use. Keep this in mind– windows are awesome but heat/cool will go right through them, so try to moderate the number of windows you add in your conversion.

Vent fan

Freebird has the Fantastic Vent Fan, which is a vanlife standard and found in many different conversions. This fan works great, especially if you have two windows open for full-home air circulation.

If I were to do another conversion, though, I’d buy the Maxx Air Fan. It’s more expensive but the vent is in the back instead of on top of the van, so you can keep it over even if it’s raining. The Fantastic vent fan just lets rain in.

Air Conditioner

If you know you’ll be in hot weather, you may want to consider a ceiling AC unit. Freebird has the Dometic Penguin II, but she needs to be plugged into shore power to use it. So far, I have been able to drive away from the heat, but if you’re not able to do that, this could be a great fit for you.

Electrical & Solar

Solar

Solar is everything. Without solar, you have no freedom. You absolutely must get solar– it’s the key to boondocking and the most sustainable way to power your camper van! I am not the expert in solar calculations, but these guys are so check out their info to figure out how much you need. I have one 240-watt solar panel. I highly recommend Renogy’s solar There are so many blogs that detail exactly how much solar you need, so I will not do that here. For a simple, clear breakdown of your solar needs, check out Van.There’s post and if the nitty gritty details are your jam, go give Far Our Ride’s calculation guide some love.

You’ll likely want to get at least 200 watts solar– this is a good system from Renogy. I have 240 watts solar and I run my Dometic fridge no problem for weeks on end. I typically see between 200-400 watts solar on most van conversions. If you have a ton of stuff going on, maybe opt for 300 watts. If you plan your roof real estate correctly, you can always add more solar later (side note–plan your roof layout in detail before you start your build!).

Inverter & Batteries

Just in case you need to connect to shore power, I’d wire for that and get a 30-AMP RV hook-up cord and dog bone electrical adaptor.

Outlets

The most efficient way to power appliances and charge your devices is via 12 volt outlets. Add a USB adapter and you’re all set to charge your cell phone, speakers, and camera gear.

Lighting

These small, warm LED 12v puck lights are great and hardly use any energy. If you can buy a dimmer, go for it because overhead lighting is often just a little too harsh for such a small space.  Freebird has 3 overhead lights and one light above the kitchen sink installed underneath the upper kitchen cabinetry, which provides great task lighting.  The warmer the light, the better– warm light mimics nature and it best for your eyes.

For more muted accent lighting, this LED under cabinet strip lighting from IKEA is along the walls in the back of the van for accent and work lighting.

Bathroom

Toilet

The best sustainable vanlife toilet for your camper van conversion is the Nature’s Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet.

Full disclosure: this is not actually the toilet I have, but this is the toilet I wish I had and will definitely put in my future van conversions.

I have the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet, which waterless and chemical-free, but it uses plastic cartridges and causes waste. I bought this because the company claimed to be coming out with compostable bags within the year, but that hasn’t happened yet. Either of these toilets is arguably more sustainable than a regular toilet, which uses between 1.6-3.6 gallons per flush. Now that I live in a van and intricately know how much water I use, I realize flush toilets use an ABSURD amount of water. Whenever I do my next conversion, I’m going with the Nature’s Head for sure!

Shower

This is a good option for an efficient showerhead because you can turn it on and off at the handle to conserve water. I have this affordable solar shower— it warms up pretty quickly and definitely the most sustainable way to get clean on the road! Honestly though, I typically just shower whenever I’m close to gym where I have a membership.

Kitchen

Dedicated Trash & Recycling

When I rented a camper van in Europe, there was no place to put trash or recycling, which caused a total mess.  Allocating the right amount of space for both trash and recycling is essential to staying sustainable on the road.  My van has two of these IKEA pull-outs with one 8-gallon bin for trash and one 8-gallon bin for recycling.  This takes up a lot of cabinetry space, but it’s worth it because it helps keep the rest of the van trash-free.

Fridge

This is my Dometic Fridge and I LOVE it.

It fits perfectly  between the two front seats of my Nissan NV2500, which opened up so much cabinetry space in the rest of the van!

There’s space for plenty of food and you can easily fit two gallon containers of coconut milk plus a six-pack of a delicious local IPA. The height works perfectly as an arm rest too, which is great because you have to remove the armrests to make it fit! Dometic fridges run super efficiently as 12-volt appliances and are hands down the best vanlife fridges.

Water Tanks

Healthy water on the road is a big challenge! I LOVE this 5-gallon stainless steel tank. Whenever I’m lucky enough to find filtered or natural spring water, I fill this baby up and I know I’m drinking water that isn’t being contaminated with plastic.

Healthy water on the road is a big challenge! I LOVE this 5-gallon stainless steel tank. Whenever I’m lucky enough to find filtered or natural spring water, I fill this baby up and I know I’m drinking water that isn’t being contaminated with plastic.

Check out my tour of Freebird on my YouTube Channel and subscribe for more vanlife videos!

Bedroom & Living Area

Cushions

My mattress cushions are made from this 100% latex foam queen mattress topper. Check out my cushion tutorial for how to make your own custom cushions for a bed/bench van conversion. Some mattress material has flame retardants, due to stupid legislation that was allegedly meant to protect against fire damage, but has been shown to not only not prevent fires, but also is a known carcinogen. Be careful when buying furniture or couches to make sure there are no flame retardants!

Cushion covers

I upcycled IKEA cotton velvet curtains I had laying around from a previous design project. Details on how to make these cushions are here. The amount of material you get for the price is more affordable than buying regular velvet fabric, so this was a sustainable and economical choice!

What are your favorite sustainable van life products?  Comment below!

- Vacay Vans
Vacay Vans author Vacay Vans
Vacay Vans is the complete guide to all things vanlife! Whether you're a vanlifer, in the thick of building out your DIY camper van, or even if you're just a little "van curious" want to learn about the lifestyle, Vacay Vans has all the resources and information you need! Ditch the 9-5 and embrace the open road!

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2 thoughts on “The Best Non-Toxic Van Products for your Cargo Van to Camper Conversion

  1. Hi Lisa – I think it is so inspiring what you are doing and I’m looking forward to doing the same. I’ve been looking at many van conversions and you’re is what I really like and want to build the same. By any chance you would be willing to share the dimensions of your built (e.g., cabinets, beds ….).
    Happy living in the moment and living life to the fullest!
    Namaste,
    Dee

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