We absolutely love to travel with our kids - our cross country road trip last summer is a testament to that! One of my biggest pet peeves with travel is the amount of waste generated with eating out. When we did our road trip we brought along a kitchen box with a Vitamix, a couple of pots and pans, a cutting board, chef's knife and induction burner hot plate. We found these items invaluable for making meals on the road - but there were often days when we were driving long distances and did not have the facilities available during the day to make our own meals. After watching Bag It with our kids a couple of years ago, we made it a family policy to eliminate consumption of throw away plastic bags, bottled water and to go coffee cups - and set the intention to try and eliminate our waste generation as much as possible. Thankfully there are many reusable products that help us achieve our goal while on the road. Here is a breakdown of some of our favourite eco friendly options for both short and long distance travel:
We have several options we love to use for hot and cold drinks - and soup, in a pinch! One of those options is the lifefactory glass water bottle. It comes encased in a silicone sleeve, which helps alleviate breakage when dropped. This is not foolproof - my son broke his last year, but we were able to order a glass bottle replacement and re-use the silicone sleeve. The bottles come in various sizes, we had our kids pick their favourite colour and all ordered the 16oz format. There are a few different places you can purchase them in Canada - online or in person at The Good Planet in Victoria, at Planet Organic in various locations across Canada, and online at Upaya Naturals. If you happen to live in the US you can order directly from the company here.
Another great water bottle option is the S'well stainless steel bottle. Available in a variety of different sizes and colours, the S'well bottle works well for both hot and cold beverages. It is a great option for little ones (like my son!) who are more prone to drop a glass bottle. These bottles are available at Mother Nature's Market, The Good Planet store in Victoria, as well as several online retailers such as S'well.
For hot beverages, my husband and I love the Contigo West Loop Travel Mug. They also come in a variety of sizes and colours (we went again with the 16oz option) and are available at Amazon.ca and The Bay here in Canada, or via the company website in the US. Costco frequently carries their mugs in store as well. I love that they include a lock that allows you to put the mug in your bag without fear of spillage. Another option for the West Loop model that the tea drinker in me absolutely loves is the tea infuser. The top seals shut, and it comes with a drip cup, which means you can steep your tea without having tea leaves spill into your mug, and can reserve the leaves for a second steep once your first cup is done. The steeping cup also alleviates spills and drips, either at home or on the road. I have tried many different mugs over the years, and this is by far my favourite!
Utensils, Straws, Tableware & Napkins
Throw away plastic cutlery makes me crazy. Whenever I see a plastic fork the image that pops into my head is this same fork sitting in a landfill for years, following a short lived usage time of maybe a half hour tops. I was so thrilled to find an eco-friendly alternative care of To-GoWare at The Good Planet store here in Victoria, also available online via Amazon.ca. Made of bamboo, the sets include a spoon, fork, knife AND a set of chopsticks, which is perfect for our family as we love Asian cuisine. The utensil set comes in a recycled PET plastic carrier bag, with a small caribiner hook which makes it easy to locate in a large bag. We each have a set, and bring them with us wherever we go.
We have almost completely eliminated our use of plastic straws, thanks to some fabulous metal and glass alternatives. While a glass straw may not seem all that travel friendly, most companies (Strawsome for example!) offer the option of a plastic case for travel. Yes, the case is plastic, but it is a multi use item that eliminates the need for plastic straws so at the end of the day I think it is more than worth it. You can find metal and glass straws at various stores around Victoria (Ingredients Market, The Good Planet) or online care of LifeWithoutPlastic and Upaya Naturals.
We purchased a couple of sets of stainless steel plates and bowls when our kids were small and had a tendency to throw things off their high chair. We now find them perfect for meals on the road. The cups we have we ordered via an EWG Christmas fundraiser, but you can find something similar, along with bowls and plates on lifewithoutplastic.
I have a couple of cloth napkins that I love to bring on trips, along with a set of reusable cloth towels that are the perfect alternative to paper towels, both at home and away. The cloth napkins we purchased come care of ECOlunchbox and I ordered the cloth "paper towels" on etsy here. They are super absorbent, and work well on the road too!
We have found many different food storage containers over the years, using metal, fabric and glass. A few of our favourites are as follows:
One of my favourite storage containers are mason jars. We use them to store all of our dry goods, as well as any leftovers we might have at home. They can be used as drink containers, and Be Love and Cafe Bliss here in Victoria use them for take out drinks (with a discount if you bring your mason jar back for your next take out order). I love that companies are now taking this initiative! Mason jars are a great option for food storage, at around $13-$16 dollars per dozen.
Lunchbots have put out wonderful stainless steel containers, perfect for lunch on the go. They offer a few different sizes and options for separate compartments, for snacks like hummus and veg or crackers. They are a wonderful option for work or school lunches, and can be found on Amazon.ca.
Sanctus Mundo makes wonderful stainless steel containers in a variety of sizes. I love the large format for ordering lunches out (location permitting) and for picnics with friends. Smaller formats are perfect for dressings or sauces either at home or away. You can find them online in Canada here.
I love all of the glass storage containers now available. Anchor makes a good product, in a variety of different shapes and sizes. You can find them at Canadian Tire, in store or online. Costco also carries Glasslock products, which are another great option.
Reusable Shopping, Snack and Produce Bags
My favourite company for eco friendly shopping bags is Envirosax. Their bags are durable, fold down to a small, easily transportable size (perfect for a purse of diaper bag) and come in a variety of funky prints. The compact nature of these bags has saved me from a run back to the car mid grocery shop and/or carrying epic piles of groceries in my arms thanks to having forgotten my bundle of reusable bags in the car. You can find them in many eco friendly stores, or online with shipping to Canada here or in the US via the company website.
My favourite produce and dried goods (beans, grains etc.) bags are carebags . They can be found at the Market on Yates in Victoria, or online here. While companies like The Bulk Barn insist on using their own plastic bags, many grocery stores and independent markets are happy to have you use these for bulk items instead. They are our go-to for produce items as well. As an extra added benefit these bags can be used to strain nut or seed milk in a pinch! Definitely a win-win scenario.
I love lined cloth snack bags with a Velcro or zipper seal for trail mix, sandwiches or crackers on the go. You can purchase them on etsy care of mamamade (convenient if you have decided to try the cloth towels as well) or via companies like KeepLeaf or Colibri. I see variations on this theme at a lot of the farmer's markets I frequent, which is wonderful as you can't get more local than that!
The price point for a lot of these items is high, however their durability and ability to re-use them over time brings the lifetime cost down considerably. The positive environmental impact, and reduction of plastics being sent to the landfill are also important considerations to take into account.
What are your favourite re-usable containers and eco-fiendly travel options?