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Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family’s World Travels

As a mama who loves the outdoors, I am very concerned about protecting the environment and the natural places where we love to play and where I am rejuvenated. I am also worried about the future of the planet for my daughter’s generation and all those that will follow. I often feel at a loss for how to make a difference when I see so much that needs to change to make our world more sustainable. Thinking about the impacts of climate change and the urgency with which we need to act can be overwhelming. So what is a mama to do?

In our family we take individual actions to minimize our environmental impact and carbon footprint when we can. We recycle and take public transportation. We are vegetarians and we compost.

But what does this look like when we are traveling or on an adventure?

Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family's World Travels by Meaghann Beer for Adventure Mamas (image is a row of garbage and recycling cans in Barcelona)
Sorted recycling and composting bins line the streets in Barcelona, Spain.

It can be much harder, for example, to avoid single-use plastics on the road. How do we make sure that we are leaving no trace in the backcountry, and reducing, reusing, and recycling in the front country? What about our gear? What do we really need? How do we make sure we are responsible consumers? Where can we stay that operates sustainably? These questions and more have come up for me as my family and I have embarked on our latest adventure.

Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family's World Travels by Meaghann Beer for Adventure Mamas (image is a woman and young girl standing by the tide pools in Scotland)
AMI board president Meghann Beer and her daughter exploring waterways in Scotland as they travel the globe for a year, documenting sustainability efforts abroad.

In June, my husband, four-year-old daughter, and I packed up our house into storage and left on a year-long adventure around the world. Our last five months have included running on the beach in Scotland, hiking in the Dolomites, exploring museums in Spain, wandering through markets in Morocco, and feeding giraffes in Kenya. It has been amazing and exhausting, beautiful and challenging, all at once.

One thing we have noticed while talking to people in every country we have traveled to is that people are feeling the impacts of climate change. Even if they don’t know the science behind what is causing it, they are seeing changes in  weather patterns, droughts, melting glaciers, loss of wildlife, and an increase in environmental activism. This journey has made me reflect on my own environmental impact. It has also given me the opportunity to see many amazing natural places that we need to protect, and to witness sustainability efforts trying to have a positive impact around the world.

Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family's World Travels by Meaghann Beer for Adventure Mamas (image is a woman and young girl crouching by an alpine lake)
Meghann and her daughter hiking in Italy as they travel the globe for a year, documenting sustainability efforts abroad.

Downsizing from our two-bedroom apartment to two pieces of luggage for a year has made us realize what we can live without, and how little we actually need. Traveling light has also made us very conscious of how much we consume and has limited how much we buy. Now we all know that we need to buy things for our adventures and our daily lives, but how do we make responsible choices?

Sustainable Ideas to Consider Prior to Purchase

  • Do I really need it?
  • Can I borrow it or get it second hand?
  • How were the materials sourced?
  • How is it packaged?
  • Can it be repaired?
  • What will happen to it once I am finished with it? Can it be reused, upcycled, or recycled?
Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family's World Travels by Meaghann Beer for Adventure Mamas (image is a mother and daughter feeing a reindeer)
Meghann and her daughter feeding reindeer in Scotland.

Sometimes the Choices are Overwhelming

I know that is a lot to consider and it can be overwhelming especially if you just realized your daughter’s rain coat doesn’t fit anymore and you are leaving for an around-the-world trip next week! Being busy moms, it can be hard to research every product to make the most sustainable choice. Sometimes the most eco-friendly option can be cost prohibitive.

I have found it really helpful to identify companies that prioritize environmental sustainability in their operations and to purchase what I need from them so that I don’t get lost in hours of Google searching for the best option every time I need something. Finding companies that are transparent about their environmental impact and sustainability efforts, like B-Corps or those that pledge 1% for the Planet, can help you make better choices more easily. AMI’s sustainable holiday gift guide compiles a bunch of companies that prioritize sustainability and woman-owned.

Let’s face it though, even if you buy the most environmentally sustainable gear, minimizing your environmental impact while traveling can be hard. At home it is easier to know where to go to get our favorite eco-friendly products and we have our routines for where to recycle and compost our waste. But, when we are traveling, disposable cups and take away containers abound. Even when we try to avoid them sometimes we are given them anyway. Some places around the world are better at having easily accessible recycling than others.

Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family's World Travels by Meaghann Beer for Adventure Mamas (image is a mother and daughter reading a book together in a hotel bed)

Gear We Love that Reduces Waste

  • We have a super easy to use SteriPen Ultra water purifier and metal water bottles to avoid buying single use plastic water bottles. This works in both the backcountry and where it isn’t safe to drink the tap water.
  • We each also have a kit that includes reusable bamboo utensils, a metal straw, and a cloth napkin.
  • We have a few reusable snack bags too.
  • We also travel with shampoo and soap bars from REDBUDSUDS that work great, are biodegradable, and have no plastic packaging.
  • One of our favorite pieces of gear is our LuminAID solar lantern. We charge it in the sun during the day and inflate it at night. The lantern makes a great night light for a tent or a hotel room and uses renewable energy.
Meghann’s daughter makes new friends while they stay in Morocco.

Sustainable travel options

One of the biggest challenges for us of traveling or setting out on any adventure is the use of fossil fuels every time we fly or drive. We try to take trains and buses or other public transportation, but that isn’t always possible. We really value cross-cultural connections and experiencing other parts of the world. So, what do we do?

Meghann and her family seek out environmentally friendly accommodations as they travel. When staying in Agra, India, they choose an LEED certified hotel.

It is not the perfect solution, and until there are more renewable energy options for travel, we choose to offset our carbon emissions by supporting sustainable development projects. After doing our research we decided to use Gold Standard to financially support projects that do things like planting trees in the Amazon and supporting solar power projects in India. Organizations like this make it easy to calculate your carbon footprint and select projects that have been shown to have positive impacts on the environment and communities. We also try to connect with local environmental organizations and initiatives in the places we visit. Recently during our time in Nairobi, Kenya, we visited Karura Forest and helped plant native trees.

Meghann’s daughter helps plant trees in Karura Forest, an urban forest in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sustainable Holiday Giving

As the holidays approach we are also faced with the question on what to do about presents. This year as we travel around the world our family is really focusing on experiences over things. But you can focus on sharing experiences outdoors with your friends and family wherever you are. If you are looking for a gift that is not another thing and that will help positively contribute to the planet you can support nonprofits like One Tree Planted and plant trees in honor of your friends and family. You can also support environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. You could offset your friends’ and family’s carbon emissions. Or you could support AMI in honor of your favorite badass mama and help promote maternal wellness in the outdoors, because let’s be real, this all can be overwhelming and getting outside and taking care of ourselves is mission critical!

Meghann and her daughter create signs for the Global Climate Strike in Barcelona, Spain.

At the end of the day our individual choices, no matter how intentionally sustainable, can only make so much of a difference. We know we need systemic change to bring about a more sustainable and just world. Our family takes actions to help change the systems that perpetuate climate change and environmental destruction like participating in climate change protests around the world, supporting environmental organizations, and voting for candidates who prioritize environmental issues.

The other thing that I have started to do on my travels is to document inspiring sustainability efforts and things that inspire me to live more sustainably. I know this alone won’t solve the environmental problems we face, but it helps me keep educating myself about the issues and focus on the positive actions I see. Hopefully it will be a positive resource for you and others also. Check it out on Instagram @inspiringsustainabilty and follow our adventure @go_the_long_way_around.

2 thoughts on “Inspiring Sustainable Adventures: One Family’s World Travels

  1. Lovely reflection of traveling in two piece luggage for an year. Enjoy your journey around the earth. Bring all the tips and share as much good as you see while you are there. I know every part of this world is doing something unique to make as small of an impact it can. Every bit counts.


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