Planning a long-term trip, or a life on the road, with your children, is an exciting time for everyone involved. It won’t just be a time for them to see new places and experience different ways of life, it will also mean the chance for you to teach them life skills and responsibilities that you might not get the opportunity to explore when living in a fixed home environment.
If traveling in a mobile home, it’s unlikely that you’ll have access to a washing machine, let alone a dryer. If living on a boat, you’re bound to have to deal with toilet waste in a safe and responsible manner. If backpacking your way across the world, you’re unlikely to want to leave space in your bags for supermarket cleaning products, particularly as they could also end up causing environmental damage to the places you travel through.
Basic household cleaners from natural ingredients
An eco-friendly way of life doesn’t only an educational experience for your children, but it also provides practical solutions to staying clean and takes care of the environment at the same time. So, how should you go about it?
With just a few basic ingredients, you can keep most things spanking clean and germ-free when traveling long-term or living on the road. Lemons, vinegar, olive oil and bicarbonate of soda are the four main ingredients that can be used to clean anything from cooking equipment to worktop surfaces, without damaging the environment and without putting your family’s health at risk.
Lemons and vinegar
Lemons are incredibly versatile and are good for cleaning wooden cutting boards, polishing copper, freshening waste in rubbish bins and cleaning plastic containers. If backpacking with children, you’re likely to reap the benefits of a set of tupperware pots. Making sure they’re germ-free is important and if you can teach your children how to clean without using toxic chemicals at the same time, even better.
You might be surprised to learn that there are over 95 known ways in which vinegar can help you clean. If you’re traveling with children at sea or living on a boat, vinegar can be used to unclog drains, clean wood panels, brighten up stainless steel and disinfect toilets. Just like lemons, vinegar is a natural cleaning solution that doesn’t expose us to dangerous chemicals. As such, there’s no risk to marine or river wildlife by choosing to clean your boat with vinegar.
Olive oil and bicarbonate of soda
When on the road for lengthy periods of time, it’s not just cooking equipment and toilets we might have to keep clean. We also need to find ways of maintaining personal hygiene standards. If we’re intent on trying to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle while traveling, olive oil could prove highly useful. It can be used for shaving, as a natural exfoliate for face and hands, to take soften skin when taking a bath, remove make-up, treat head lice and to cure nappy rash.
Even when you’re taking the kids on a relatively short trip (maybe a couple of months), eco-friendly cleaning ideas can really come in handy. We’ve all been there: cheap and cheerful hostels with disastrous kitchens. A small packet of bicarbonate of soda won’t take up much room in your backpack, but it can be a lifesaver when you need to give a dirty kitchen and dirty kitchen utensils a quick clean before preparing dinner.
When living in a fixed abode, it’s easy to put recycling habits into action. We can separate our paper from the plastic and leave it in the appropriate container for the recycling service to pass by and collect, usually on a weekly basis. However, when traveling long-term or when living on the road, teaching kids good recycling habits can be a little more challenging, particularly as not all countries have the same recycling laws or services in place.
It’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t dump anything unless we know that it’s going to be properly dealt with. Otherwise we’re just becoming part of the problem, adding waste to areas that already suffer from waste disposal issues. One way of making sure that our rubbish is take care of is to carry it with us until we get home or until we find an adequate place to leave it. If you’re going to be on the road for a year or more, you’ll need to develop a waste storage system and do everything you can to reduce the amount of space your waste occupies. If you’re traveling in a mobile home, you might choose to invest in a shredder, for example.
If you’re traveling for a long period of time and your children outgrow their shoes and clothing, you could donate what they’ll no longer use to local communities before investing in new purchases. You’ll be saving on space and teaching your children the benefits of recycling and donations at the same time.
If traveling long-term by boat or in a mobile home, you’ll also have toilet waste to deal with on a regular basis. You’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of eco-friendly ways of taking care of your waste. If you want to go as eco-friendly as they come, you might want to try your hand at composting. That’s right. Using toilet waste to create the best fertilizer human bodies can create. If you’re on the road for long enough, you may even be able to use your compost to feed a small, indoor herb garden.
Another idea, for the innovative among us, could be to go as high-tech as they come and invest in a solar-powered toilet that actually converts human waste into energy, like the one developed by Michael Hoffmann of the California Institute of Technology.
The dangers of standard chemical cleaners
Apart from the responsibilities we have to the environment, an eco-friendly approach to cleaning while on the road can protect our family against the dangers of chemicals used to make standard cleaning products. Research reveals that more than 150 chemicals commonly used to clean our homes have been scientifically associated with allergies, cancer, psychological disorders and birth defects. Common household cleaners are also known for causing up to 95% of childhood poisoning incidents.
So, in addition to taking care of the environment and of teaching our kids about the alternatives available with regards to eco-friendly cleaning, the decisions we make can also help to keep them safe and healthy. Something that every parent wants for their child, without a doubt.