Friday, April 22, 2011

Celebrating Earth Day & being more Earth-friendly when traveling

Traveling, especially by plane but also by car, can't really be classified as environmentally friendly: too much fuel spent and resources used up I suppose. Still, I think traveling can be good for people and the environment in other ways. Every traveler can learn a lot about the world, about the Earth, about different places, different environments, about animals and people, and maybe all those experiences can spark some interest in protecting and taking care of the world.

To celebrate Earth Day, here is a list of some "Earth friendly" activities to do with children, and some tips on how to make traveling more environmentally friendly.

4 things to do with your kids to celebrate Earth Day
On the SeaBus, between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver.
1. Travel by transit - Of course lots of families use transit every single day, but for many kids traveling by train, bus or subway can be exciting. So park the car for the day and go on a Transit Adventure. I'm thinking of taking my kids on the Big Transit Trip here in Vancouver, riding the Skytrain to downtown, and then going across to North Vancouver by SeaBus. The kids love it, and it's certainly a lot more fun than driving the same route!

2. Go for hike or a bike ride - My kids love hiking, both walking around the Sea Wall in Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver, or going for a long walk in the woods somewhere, for example in Lynn Canyon or Lynn Headwaters. If we go for a bike ride, we'll probably cruise around the neighborhood for a while until my 4 year old daughter decides it's time to head home (she's usually the one who gets tired first, no surprise). 

Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver.
3. Hang out at the beach - Yes! My favorite place to take the kids can also be considered quite environmentally friendly as a destination. No energy consuming devices necessary (just a car to get us there...), and then we can eat a picnic lunch, veg out and look at the ocean, build a town out of sticks and rocks, collect shells, or maybe even fly a kite. Doesn't get much better than that, unless you're on a tropical beach.

Scholastic Root-Vue FarmSet/2 Buzzy Kids Windowsill Seed Kit - Tomato/Sunflower

4. Plant something - Planting a flower, some vegetables, a tree, a shrub, or some bulbs in the garden or just in a pot on the windowsill is a great activity for kids. There are lots of gardening kits for kids that look like lots of fun, or you can just grab some pots, some soil and some seeds, make a mess, and watch your kids enjoy themselves.

7 ways to be more Earth friendly when traveling

Nalgene BPA Free Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle, 32 Oz, GreenCARS Trucks STAINLESS STEEL eco kids blue boys WATER bottle

1. Drink from reusable water bottles - If you're in a country where the tap water isn't safe to drink, you have to buy bottled water of course. But a lot of the time we could just bring an empty water bottle with us whether we're traveling by car, plane, train, bike or on foot, rather than buy bottle after bottle of water. For one thing, I'm hoping the airport refilling station idea catches on at more airports!

(And hey, if you're into fizzy water, you could always get one of these: Sodastream Fountain Jet Soda Maker Starter Kit. I have one and I think it's improved my quality of life. Or at least made it a lot fizzier.)

LunchSkins Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags Set - 3 Pack - Berry Flower, Green Bud, Berry DotsKids Konserve Stainless Steel Mini Food Containers, Set of 3

2. Bring reusable containers for snacks and foods - I'm so into this. Buying individually wrapped snacks and foods (cheese, crackers, cookies, and so on) just produces a lot of garbage (and most individually wrapped snacks seem to be quite expensive). Less packaging = good in my books. I bring my reusable containers (with snacks) on planes, in cars, and on hikes. Also, my children usually get their lunches and snacks for school and preschool in reusable containers too.

Litterless Juice BoxRubbermaid 3117RDSPA Litterless Juice Boxes
3. Use litter-less juice-boxes - I'm like a preacher for these items, but it's only because I find them so amazingly practical for children to use on airplanes and elsewhere. They're good for juice, water, any kind of drink. I often make my children home-made drinkable yogurt smoothies that go in these containers too.

Just put 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/2 cup strawberries, peaches, blueberries or other fruits and berries in a blender or food processor. Process it until smooth and pour into a juice-box.

4. Eat locally produced food - Eating local food is a great idea both at home and when you're on the road or on vacation. Locally made bread and cheese, locally grown vegetables and fruits, locally raised or caught meat, fish, seafood... it's all usually very tasty and often also a good deal price-wise.

My kids loved the mangoes and pineapple in Hawaii. They've eaten locally caught fish in Sweden (some of it they even caught themselves!). Last year we gorged on locally grown strawberries in June, and later on in summer we pigged out on local corn on the cob. And if we're in the Okanagan in summer, we always get some peaches and other fruit because that stuff is just so darn good when you buy it tree-ripened.

Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Custom Travel Bottle SetHumangear GoToob 3 Ounce (3 pack) Travel Bottle, Clear/Blue/Green, Large (3 oz)

5. Use refillable containers for shampoo, soap and more -Instead of buying travel sized toiletry products, or using the tiny pieces of soap, and tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion you find at hotels, bring your own stuff. Just squirt of the shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. that you use at home into some travel-sized containers and bring them along. If you have kids with sensitive skin (like I do), an added benefit is that you know what you're using won't give them an itchy rash.

6. Buy clothes for your trip (and everyday life) at a second-hand store - When you have kids who grow out of everything in a few months, buying "gently used" clothing makes a lot of sense. It's cheaper, and in some used-clothing places you can find lots of items that look new, or even have the store-tags on them!

I've bought ski-pants, jackets, rain gear, boots, and all sorts of great clothing at Talize, a second-hand store close to where we live. Sure, some of the stuff on the rack there is worn (or sometimes just in need of a wash), but you pick through what there is and buy what you like. You can find some real quality clothing in very good condition at second-hand stores.

7. Stay at a "green" hotel - Hotels and resorts can do a lot of things to be more Earth friendly.
  • These days many hotels have installed a main switch by the door where you turn the power on and off in your room by inserting or removing your key-card. It's a great system and a good way to save electricity. (Kind of wish I could put in a similar easy-to-use system in our house, but I guess running around and switching off all the lights and appliances works too...)
  • Many hotels also seem to be changing from the "always change all the towels and sheets every day" policy, to "change the towels and sheets when the customer wants you to change them". I can only imagine how much electricity and water this saves. At the hotel we stayed in on our recent trip to the Canary Islands, we simply put any towels and sheets we thought needed changing in a laundry basket. Simple!
  • Also, many hotels these days have soap and shampoo dispensers in the bathroom, rather than the tiny little bottles. I think that's a good, Earth-friendly move.
There are many websites that can help you compare the environmental policies of various hotels. is one of them.

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