Low waste living in a world that promotes excess isn't a simple thing. Adding kids into the mix can make it seem even more impossible. Luckily, if there's one thing that this "against the grain" lifestyle has taught me, it's that kids don't have to slow you down on your eco-friendly mission. In fact, with a little planning and foresight, they can even make it easier on you.
Whether you're a frequent traveler or prefer the comfort of your own home, traveling with kids in tow can mean a lot more waste than you typically would at home. Between snack stops, keeping kids preoccupied during long commutes, and the inevitable unforeseen hiccups that happen along the way, travel with kids can be filled with single-use plastics and disposables that you never planned on using.
Although you shouldn't beat yourself up when things don't go as planned, it's completely possible to prevent waste while on the road, even with your kids along for the ride. For my family, it seems the vast amount of our waste occurs when we fail to plan ahead. Although a day trip is short, there are countless circumstances throughout the day that you'll need to think through if you're hoping to prevent waste along the way. It’s not always easy, but don't worry, soon you'll get into a routine and these steps will become second nature. Next time you have a day-trip planned, try these tips for a zero-waste day trip with kids!
1. Pack snacks and plan ahead for meals
Kids eat. A lot. To save yourself from stopping at the most convenient (but wasteful and often unhealthy) fast food restaurant or takeaway store, pack enough snacks for everyone before you leave your house. To further decrease waste, pack them in reusable containers that you can simply toss back in your bag and wash when you get home. Things like cut up fruit/veggies, easy sandwiches (wrapped in a cloth napkin for easy clean up), crackers and hummus...etc. all make amazing on-the-go snacks that will keep your children's bellies happy and your eco-conscious clean.
When snacks won't cut it, you may need to pack a full meal or two. If packing that much food isn't realistic, do some research on where you're traveling and look up restaurants ahead of time. When you have a plan for where/what to eat, you'll be less tempted to opt for the most convenient (and usually wasteful) place. Try to dine in if you can and order just enough for everyone so you don't have leftovers to deal with.
2. Keep boredom at bay
Aside from hunger, boredom is probably the other leading cause of creating waste on trips. Save yourself unnecessary and wasteful purchases of games/toys/entertainment by planning ahead with some games you can all enjoy together.
Check our Pinterest board for easy road trip games for kids (and feel free to add to it!) or keep it simple with an alphabet game or eye-spy. These things will typically occupy kids for longer than you expect. You can bring a backpack with coloring supplies for the car or train ride, pack a few activity books or books for your kids of reading age, or if you’d prefer, bring an iPad with books or games preloaded to keep them happy. When your kids have something to do you’ll hear less “are we there yet??” and require fewer snack breaks and unplanned stops.
3. Check the weather
This may seem obvious, but it bears mentioning: make sure to be aware of the day’s forecast before you leave. There’s nothing worse than planning for a warm and relaxing day away and being met with rain and clouds. A simple weather-check will tell you what extras you need to bring. Be sure everyone has a raincoat/jacket just in case and bring an umbrella or two to save you from buying something you won’t need at home while you’re out. If it’s set to be sunny, pack sunscreen and hats. This small step of planning ahead can save you money and unnecessary waste while you’re gone.
4. Give everyone a "job" to do
To save yourself from overwhelm (and an increased likelihood of creating unnecessary trash), plan the “jobs” for the trip with your family and assign roles to each family member. You can ensure everyone has their own backpack or tote to lighten the load — packing snacks/books/clothes can get bulky! For example, have one kiddo in charge of carrying the snacks, another in charge of games, and keep the extras in your bag. You can let older kids handle researching restaurants and even parks for picnics or other activities.
5. Pack water bottles and clean-up supplies
One of the easiest things to overlook is one of the most important. Make sure everyone has their own water bottle (that can go in their respective backpack) to prevent the need for buying plastic ones. Additionally, plan ahead for sticky fingers and messes with a few cloth napkins or DIY wet wipes. These small steps will save you from needing single-use alternatives.
Have you had a successful low-waste day-trip with your kids? What zero-waste essentials did you bring along?