Bébé Voyage community member and Gatwick mom Rebecca Redfern writes about how the community can help the planet while having fun by traveling consciously.
I had been a member of Club Bébe Voyage for a while when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a discussion that we could be having. So, a little while back I posted a question on the Club Bébe Voyage Facebook group. I did not realize that I would be asked to write an article as a result.
When Juliet asked me to write an article on traveling consciously, I thought she must have got the wrong mum! Whilst I am passionate about trying to minimize my footprint and to travel in a greener way, I can’t profess to be an expert. This article is therefore designed to stimulate a discussion so that we can learn from each other!
My name is Rebecca and I currently live in the countryside, just south of Gatwick. We escaped the rat race of London 5 years back. However, I still work there and we visit regularly with the children. My French husband and I have two children, a 3 years old girl and a 4 months old little boy. We travel a huge amount (mostly on the continent) but also to the States where both my daughter’s godmother lives and my godson.
We are also beginning to plan a trip to Australia to visit my son’s godmother who lives in Sydney. This article is not going to debate the merits of car vs train vs plane as it really might be best for the planet for us to all stop traveling – but do we actually want to?
After all, there are so many amazing places to see! We just need to give some thought to how we can travel in a more conscious way. How can we get rid of, for want of a better word, all the disposable rubbish that surrounds the travel industry? Realistically, apart from a few key pieces, you really do NOT need to buy anything special for traveling!
I have broken the discussion into 5 key points below which are important to me. However, there are hundreds more we could talk about.
1. Buy the best quality travel covers/suitcases etc you can afford
This one is hugely important. Whilst there are bag wrapping services and disposable bags available in most international airports, these plastic bags are good for one journey only, and then what happens to them? Car seat manufacturers say that you should travel with a car seat in its box in the hold, but this is an unrealistic expectation! The boxes break and often don’t even fit in the hire car. Therefore, buy the best and most robust car seat/pushchair protective bag you can, and it will last you through not only your travels but those of the person you pass it on to after you stop needing it!
A little tip for putting car seats in the hold is to wrap your towels around the outside of them and pack the bag with nappies or other soft items for added protection and the bonus of having more space in your suitcase! Likewise, if you buy the best quality suitcase, this will last you for decades of intensive travel rather than going to the skip after a couple of journeys– a false economy. For car seats, I recommend the iSafe Universal Car Seat Travel Bag.
2. Reusable drink containers
Single-use drinks containers are one of the most wasteful parts of traveling, as often when out and about there are very few recycling points. It has been proven that more than 90% of the world’s plastic is actually not recycled with the majority going into the landfill. Takeaway coffee cups, unless made of compostable biomaterial, are not recyclable.
In many countries you do not want to drink the drinking water – I understand this, and even in France it is not recommended for the elderly or babies – so what can you do? Buy big, as big as you can! Buy a gigantic water flagon from the supermarket and refill your water bottles each day. If the countries water is potable, fill your water bottle up at every opportunity – most restaurants/hotels would be only too happy to help.
My family all have different versions of the Klean Kanteen range. I even take some of their reusable straws with me for use in restaurants/at our lodgings.
There is also a purifying water bottle on the market. I haven’t tried this yet, but it is definitely something on my list to try! It was originally made for people in developing countries so that they could have safe water. If you have used one, please do let me know!
Coffee: Coffee is part of many of our daily lives, and for me tasting the coffee of another country is part of the experience. I, therefore, travel with my Stojo coffee cup as it collapses and can go in my pocket or bag without taking up too much space.
My friend @mummyandmehols, however, swears by her Bodum Travel French Press and doesn’t go on holiday without it! Her perfect cup of coffee everywhere.
3. Biodegradable wipes
Both wet wipes and disinfectant wipes are problematic. Over the past few years, even the best biodegradable wipes contained some plastic, but that isn’t the case now. Mum and You (a UK company but also available in the States by the same name) have developed a fully plastic free wipe which is not only biodegradable in 15 days in landfill (own marketing) but also home compostable (have tried and tested this!). If you can’t take your reusable wipes with you, or don’t use them, this is a fantastic option! They also do nappies.
Disinfectant wipes – the large majority of these are NOT biodegradable but some are. I recommend Milton Wipes which can also be used for sterilizing dummies & toys for babies (please be aware of the time you need to keep contact with the object for). These are not flushable, but then, no wipe is – even if they say it is!
If you don’t have children who need dummies and other toys sterilized, then for the destination, why not take a reusable cloth with you, an empty spray bottle and a multipurpose ocean saver pod. Obviously, you can’t use them on the plane as it isn’t fair to anyone to use a spray!
There are so many toys aimed at the travel market, but really you don’t need anything special. Remember there are a lot that can only be used once and then have to be thrown away. These are not sustainable (e.g. post-it notes, decorators tape, wrapping paper). Reuse what you have at home.
My favorites are:
This makes a fantastic travel toy – it can be used on the plane, in the bath, in the sand, pretty much anywhere. It is so easy to clean – just put in a mesh bag in the top rack of a dishwasher and it is clean and sterilized or on holiday dump in the bath!
Reusable stickers such as Melissa and Doug’s keep going for years and can be used everywhere. They’re a fantastic small investment that is not only for travel!
Again, these are a wonderful interactive toy which can be passed down from generation to generation. I got mine from eBay secondhand but there are plenty for sale on Amazon, for example.
Stacking cups – for our smallest travelers.
These are like Duplo – so incredibly versatile!
Obviously, the list is endless and will be personal to your child. A bag of cars, a favorite doll, puzzle books, etc.
5. Bring your own
When traveling even the most basic of accommodations will often give you small bottles of shampoo, body wash, and conditioner. Whilst it might seem luxurious to use them, it creates a huge amount of plastic waste. If you use liquid shampoos you can get various sizes of refillable bottles which are also excellent for bringing clothes handwashing liquid.
This provides the added bonus of always having your favorite shampoo/conditioner etc with you! You could also try a solid shampoo bar. These are brilliant as no liquids are allowed for your hand luggage! There are so many brands out there but I recommend Beauty Kubes shampoo/body wash and conditioner. They work great for my very thick and long dry hair.
As a member of this wonderful community, I think we are all in agreement that traveling is a wonderful adventure. It’s also something we want to share with our children. So if we’re not about to stop traveling then let’s start a discussion about how we can minimize our impact. It’s definitely necessary so that our children and our children’s children can also experience this wonderful planet.