You may think that traveling with an infant is already a challenge and that trying to incorporate any green elements will only make it harder. But Earth Day is looming and the truth is, you can do a lot for the environment with some simple changes to how you travel and what you bring with you. Here’s a list of the top 5 things you can do to be a little greener with a baby.
1) Be informed. Know what impact your choices have on the environment. That way, regardless of how you end up traveling, you’ll know when a green option makes sense for you and when it doesn’t.
2) Try to avoid traveling via cruise ship. With the exclusion of a couple of green lines, cruise ships are about the least environmentally friendly way of traveling out there. According to The International Council on Clean Transportation, not only do they emit more CO2 than an airplane, they also produce more than a quarter of all nitrogen oxide ommissions (another green-house gas) of the port cities they dock in. It’s a virtually unchecked industry with no standards, so it’s not surprising a typical one-week voyage generates more than 50 tons of garbage and a million tons of gray (waste) water, 210,000 gallons of sewage and 35,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water. And all those 24/7 buffets have their cost: on average, passengers on a cruise ship each account for 7.7 lbs of trash daily – compared with the 1.8 lbs each generated by local people on shore (United Nations Environment Program). And then there’s the damage they can often do to coral reefs with their anchors and sewage (Source: Ocean Planet).
3) Take mass transit when you can. Aside from walking and biking, trains, subways and green buses are the best way to get around your destination. So look to travel to cities like Boston or Munich that have convenient and abundant public transportation. When traveling with an infant, make life easy for yourself and leave the stroller at home or in the hotel, just use a cloth carrier like a Moby or Kari-me.
4) Eat locally and eat less meat. Not only will eating locally, instead of at the resort hotel, give you more of a sense of the local community and people, but you’re also likely to get a more authentic meal. Usually the ingredients at a local restaurant come from the area, so you’re supporting a food source that puts less of a burden on the environment (less CO2 from carting the food from one place to another). Also try visiting a local market to get fresh food that you can then prepare in your room or ask the chef of your hotel in advance if she’d be willing to prepare you something if you brought her some ingredients. And you’re likely to have heard it before, but meat is an incredibly resource intensive food source. According to a UN report “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” So forgo the meat and explore the grains, vegetables and legumes of the region in their purest form.
5) Reduce your waste. Unfortunately, what’s most convenient for moms is really not very good for the environment: the disposable diaper. Not only are diapers the third most prevalent type of waste in landfills, or 4% percent of U.S. garbage, but the process of making them is incredibly toxic to the environment. Most diapers are bleached and use some pretty nifty and caustic ingredients to keep your baby dry all of which result in a sludge of dioxins, solvents and heavy metals in waste water from manufacturing. Biodegradable diapers are a good idea, but to really be minimally impactful to the environment, you need to compost them yourself (landfills are air-tight and not designed to allow for composting) or find a brand like G-diapers, that is flushable. Cloth diapers are certainly a better choice if you want to reduce landfill impact, but because of the laundering needs, may have an impact on water resources (you can find laundering services when on the road). The best option is to go diaper-free (or elimination communication), and although that’s not something you learn the day before you leave on a trip, it is what most of the world does and isn’t as hard as you may think.
So no matter where you travel and whether with an infant or not, think about your waste. Be conscious of buying too many disposable, travel-size products. Don’t order more food than you can eat and bring extra cloth bags so that when you’re traveling you don’t have to use plastic bags.