7 Sustainable Practices for Digital Nomad Parents + Travelers: seems impossible, but it’s actually easier than it seems!
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We spent years wanting to become digital nomads, and now that we’ve accomplished it we have another hurdle to overcome. We’re about to be parents and one of our main concerns is sustainability. We want to make sure our child knows and loves the world the same way we do. However, since we got pregnant it occurred to us we’ll be leaving this planet way before our child. This can be a scary thought, but one that is more pressing right now, is knowing that our lifestyle might contribute to some of our child’s worry.
The health of our planet is now in a more fragile state than ever. As parents to be, we feel it is our duty not just to educate and raise an eco conscious person, but to do as large a part as we can to ensure our footprint is light.
With traveling being our biggest passion and way of living, we know we are already creating a huge footprint. Traveling full time is, simply put, not very eco friendly. However, we think there are some changes we can make, that help offset our traveling without compromising on our way of living.
Here are 7 sustainable practices to help decrease your footprint as a digital nomad parent (or traveler) as much as possible without compromising on traveling.
Sustainable Practice #1 – Reusable shopping bags
My favorite one of the 7 Sustainable Practices for Digital Nomad Parents + Traveler is the use of reusable shopping bags. I remember when people were first asked to carry their shopping bags in the grocery store. Many were upset, and a large percentage of us would always forget. Today, I am so happy to see so many people walking into supermarkets and shops with their own shopping bags.
Aside from the obvious benefit of having your reusable bag be made sustainably, I love knowing I have a bag with me that can help me carry everything.
My main issue with reusable bags has always been that having different types and sizes, I never know which one is the right one for my errand. This is why I love the Market Bundle from Sol + Spirit. I know with this bundle I have enough bags for my loose fruits and veggies, a whole array of available bulk foods bags, and large and versatile enough shopping bags to fit the rest of my groceries. It wasn’t until I found this company that I finally found my perfect match.
Ways I use our Sol + Spirit reusable bags:
- grocery shopping
- shopping ( I refuse bags at retail stores )
- extra bags for souvenirs
- cute tote bags for carrying small things
- extra bag to carry anything we shop or find on the way…. it happens a lot when you have kids
I absolutely love this Light Market Bundle from Sol + Spirit and I love what the company stands for too.
Their bags are sustainably made, 100% organic cotton, and super cute. I personally like my bags to match and look good, and in case I need to use the bag for a picnic or errand it helps that the large market bag is actually so pretty. What’s more, it has so many compartments inside you never have to worry that your liquids, dry goods or anything else might get mixed inside.
We take these bags everywhere. They can be folded into a very small bundle, which fits even in the smallest of backpacks. If we travel by car, they come filled with things. If we travel by plane, they come stored in our luggage for day bags at our destination. And if we go to the market, they come back filled with fresh fruits and veggies! What a difference it makes placing your loose produce in their produce bags vs those flimsy plastic ones you always end up throwing away.
BONUS: If you’d like to snatch one of their amazing reusable bags, you can use code BFT15 for 15% off your entire order.
Sustainable Practice #2 – Cloth diapers
I grew up in Cuba, and was raised on cloth diapering. When I told my mother I was planning on doing the same with our child she almost collapsed. She remembered days of banging cloth against concrete to try to remove stains. The truth is, cloth diapering has evolved. Today, not only do we have many options for cloth diapering, but most of them are so easy it’s hardly any different than conventional disposable diapering.
We made the choice to do cloth diapering because of the environmental impact disposable diapers have on the planet. Diapers are made with toxic chemicals and plastic, and take a very long time to biodegrade. As travelers, we understand carrying a bag filled with poo stained cloth is not the most ideal of scenarios. But leaving a planet filled with pollution is far less appealing.
We’ve made a compromise of 90-10. We will cloth diaper 90% of the time, and have resorted to extremely eco conscious disposable diapers for the occasional outing. This way, if we encounter ourselves in a situation where we definitely don’t want to carry poop around, we can use bamboo diapers.
Sustainable Practice #3 – Re-purpose your glass containers
When we are home based for a while we always end up buying things to make ourselves more comfortable. This is probably the weirdest one of our 7 Sustainable Practices for Digital Nomad Parents + Travelers but one we couldn’t leave out. We strive to purchase glass containers versus plastic, as these tend to keep things better. It occurred to me, that there must be a better use for all those glass containers.
For a few years now, we’ve been reusing our glass containers. We’ve saved ourselves lots of headaches, money and spared the planet a bit of pollution while at it.
Anything that comes in a glass container is usually pricier than its plastic counterpart. However, if you consider that you can re use such container, it actually ends up being more economical. Glass containers can be reused endlessly (unless you break them of course).
Ways we repurpose our glass containers:
- water bottles
- smoothie + juice containers (jars with lids work great for this)
- to go containers for picnic etc
- food storage (especially leftovers)
- bulk foods storage (if you’re abroad and don’t have canisters for your bulk goods such as coffee or rice etc)
- anything that needs to be reheated (throw a glass jar in the microwave (or stove in a pot of water) and your food is warm and toxic free)
- soap & cleaner containers
- vases (use an old jar instead of having to buy a vase)
Sustainable Practice # 4- Shop second hand
We know this is not for everyone. So many people are against buying second hand. However, we have found so many good purchases in second hand stores I have to recommend this. Aside from buying sustainably, second hand purchases are the best solution to start doing your part for the environment.
Many complain that sustainably made clothing and goods are on the pricier side. This is because fair wages are being paid to the makers, and the materials and ways of sourcing these are actually priced fairly. But if you think buying organic is expensive, try this alternative.
7 Reasons buying second hand is a great sustainable practice for travelers and digital nomad parents!
- reduces demand for non sustainable products
- helps locals generate income from selling the stuff they no longer need
- saves you $$ for items you might not need for long
- you can sometimes find amazing items which are discontinued
- you can actually make some of your money back by reselling when done
- You can wear local fashion for a portion of the price
Since we travel for short periods of time at a time, we seldom need the same clothing or goods in one place as we do in the other. Also, since we leave a destination after a short few months, we cannot carry all of the things we acquire with us. Buying second hand allows us to not break our bank, not create a demand for poorly crafted products, and all while still having the comforts we desire.
We usually join local facebook groups and local shopping apps. This way we shop second hand from locals (helping the local economy) and then resell these when we leave. We have saved thousands of dollars doing this all over the world.
Sustainable Practice # 5 – Use public transportation
Another favorite of the 7 Sustainable Practices for Digital Nomad Parents + Travelers is the use of public transport!
Sometimes taking the bus is a pain, especially if you’re in a foreign destination and carrying a little one. Public transportation is, however, a great way to cut your carbon footprint.
We try to rent our long stay homes close to public transport, as this allows for easier mobility. It’s also a great way to get to know a place from a local’s perspective, and even to make new friends. I have made friends on trains and buses in Europe that I’m still in contact with. Once, on a bus in the alps, I found out about a great ski and snowboard gear sale that only locals know about. It saved me thousands on snowboarding gear for the season.
Aside from all this, public transport is also an economical alternative to taking taxis or renting a car. Especially in more remote locations, it can get pricy trying to run everyday errands relying solely on taxi/uber.
As an added bonus, when you take public transport, it usually involves walking a little. I like to think this adds to my daily exercise activity. I find that I stay much healthier when I have to walk around, and this usually involves less effort than having to dedicate an hour or workout at the gym. Besides I much rather walk around a new location for 20 minutes or so than running on the treadmill inside a gym.
Sustainable Practice # 5 – Soap Nuts
Sapindus Mukorossi is a plant in the lychee family that produces nut like berries which are great for cleaning. Obviously they are all natural, odorless, and hypoallergenic since they contain no chemicals.
One of the reasons this tree gets a big tick of approval is that the soap nut tree contributes to combating the greenhouse gas effect by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen so by planting and growing these trees not only do we eliminate chemicals from regular laundry detergent but the actual tree itself cleans out air.
We’ve been using soap nuts to wash our clothing for years. Even when we travel for long periods of time, carrying a small pouch of virtually weightless nuts is much more comfortable than carrying a heavy bottle of liquid detergent which might explode in your bag. I personally have found my clothes to always be clean and fresh after using the soap nuts. The only care they need is to make sure you don’t dry them in the dryer.
My husband loves laundry that smells nice, he grew up with that tradition so it’s something that to him symbolizes clean clothes. To remedy the soap nuts. being odorless, I put a few drops of essential oils in our whole drying balls, and it makes the laundry come out smelling great! This is a super easy sustainable practice any digital nomad parent or traveler can implement.
Sustainable Practice # 7 – Slow Travel
This took us a while to understand but not long to see why it works. When we first started traveling, the thrill of visiting a new country was what we chased the most. As we learned how and what we enjoyed most in each destination, it became clear that most trips were not long enough. The truth is that when you enjoy traveling for the sake of experience, a week or two just won’t do. It’s also really hard to fully understand a culture and country by just visiting one or two cities in it.
We first started looking at slow travel as a way to spend more time in a destination. We did not just want to visit the resorts and beaches, but to spend time getting lost with the locals and seeing how life unravelled in these places.
Then one day while looking at the consequences of full time travel I learned that slow travel can make a huge difference. As digital nomads, moving from place to place every few days can be not just exhausting but impossible to upkeep. We started looking into more sustainable ways of traveling a few years back, and once we found the benefits of this lifestyle we decided it was for us.
Now, we spend 1-6 months in any destination. This allows us enough time to see the surrounding area, get to know the locals, and simply enjoy life. We are not so much tourists but travelers. When we desire to see something new, we sometimes take small trips within our trip. It’s worth noting that it’s always more sustainable to take trains or buses while traveling short distances, as this cuts a lot of the carbon footprint.
Overall, this is better for ourselves as this allows us to have routines. It’s certainly more comfortable, and our dogs seem to enjoy it a lot more as well.
A sustainable compromise
Traveling full time is a dream for many of us. For some, it’s also a lifestyle.
Caring about sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but our responsibility. You don’t have to do it all or have all the answers, and by implementing small steps, you can really make a large impact.
These 7 Sustainable Practices for Digital Nomad Parents + Travelers are not all you can do, but they certainly will help!
What do you think of our practices? Would you incorporate any of them into your routine? Or do you have any other ones you can share with us? We love learning new ways to stay sustainable!