Almost 75 million dogs have been adopted into homes that already owned at least one dog. Multi-dog homes are often good for families with kids. There are other dogs to play with so a dog is not expecting constant attention from your children, or you, all the time, and there is always another dog to play with when the family …
Almost 75 million dogs have been adopted into homes that already owned at least one dog. Multi-dog homes are often good for families with kids. There are other dogs to play with so a dog is not expecting constant attention from your children, or you, all the time, and there is always another dog to play with when the family …
The early weeks of May begin the age of green pastels. The soft greenery of foliage pokes its way out of the gray smudge of the canopy, and the pastures are thickly verdant in the revived grass.
This age of green pastels is the harbinger to the age of photosynthesis, high summer, when the days steam long and hot and all living things in this temperate zone play out the business of growing, reproducing, and laying store for that long winter darkness that will return someday– but not soon.
This is the time of the cottontail doe kindling her kits in a bowl nest made from weaving the fur plucked from her belly with the furrows at the bases of the rising orchard grass. This is the time of the resplendent red cardinal cockbirds and their wild singing to ward off their rivals from the best nesting grounds. Testosterone rushes in them hard, as it does with all those of the avian kingdom, who are now at that season when procreation is the main consideration.
Just as the spring turns the “redbirds” into their state of lustful madness, the wild turkeys turn their attention to these same carnal pursuits. Not pair-bonded in the way that most birds are, the big toms woo the hens with their gobbling and fanning and turning their light blue heads deep warrior red. The spurs get thrown on occasion, especially for those foolish jakes who try to sneak a tryst with a hen in the undergrowth.
This time of green pastels is also a time when the shotguns go blasting. Most other game beasts are left to alone in the spring time, but the wild turkey is one species where the hunt comes now. The camouflaged hunters, armed with their turkey calls and 12 and 20 gauges, braved the early spring snow squalls and bagged a few jakes and naive lustful toms.
But this big tom has survived the slinging of lead wads. Most of his rivals now reside in freezers or have already been fried as a fine repast.
The big bird has the hens mostly to himself, and when he hears the kelp-kelping of a hens on a distant ridge on a May morning, he lets loose a few loud gobbles.
“Come, my beauties! Behold me as your lover and protector!”
And the gormless hens kelp-kelp and wander in all directions, searching with their exquisite eyes for the big tom’s fanning form among the undergrowth.
The naive toms and young jakes will often go charging towards their calling, but the turkey hunter uses these exact same sounds to toll in the quarry. The naive ones come in, and the shotguns have their number.
The big tom has seen his comrades dropped so many times that he hangs back and listens. He gobbles back every ten minutes or so. He walks in the opposite direction for about 20 yards then gobbles at the hens.
They kelp-kelp and meander around, but eventually, they line themselves on the right trail and wander over to meet the big tom. He fans for his girls, but none crouches before him for a bit of mating. They are just here to check the old boy out.
But sooner or later, they mate in the spring sun, and the hens will wandered to their nests in the undergrowth and tall grass. They will lay speckled eggs, which will hatch into speckled poults, which will carry the big tom’s genes into the next age of green pastels.
Someday, a skilled turkey hunter will work the old boy over with the hen calls in just the right way, and he will stand before the hunter’s shotgun blast. He will be taken to town and shown off to all the local guys, the ones who shoot jakes in the early days of the hunting season.
He will be a testament to the hunter’s skills, for real hunting is always an intellectual pursuit. It is partly an understanding of biology and animal behavior, but it is also about the skillfulness at concealment and mimicry.
21 pounds of tom bird will be a trophy for the hunter, but they will also be the story of a bird who outwitted the guns for four good years and whose genes course through the ancestry of the young jakes gobbling and fanning in his absence.
A century ago, there were no wild turkeys in the Allegheny Plateau, but conservation organizations funded by hunters brought them back.
In the heat of July, the hens will move in trios and quartets into the tall summer grass of the pastures. They will be followed with great parades of poults, who will be charging and diving along at the rising swarms of grasshoppers and locusts. They will grow big an strong in the summer.
And someday, a few may become big old toms that will gobble on the high ridges, calling out to the hens to come and see them in their fine fanning.
And so the sun casts upon the land in the spring and summer, bringing forth the lustful pursuits among the greenery, even as mankind turns his back on the natural world more and more each year.
And fewer and fewer will feel sweet joy that one hears when a big tom gobbles in the early May rain that falls among the land dotted in green pastels.
If you have been reading this blog for a long time, I used to post historical and indigenous accounts of wolves, coyotes, and dingoes being used as working animals. I also would post accounts different breeders of domestic dogs crossing their stock with wolves to improve their strains.
I have long been critical of the Raymond Coppinger model of dog domestication, which posits that wolves scavenging from Neolithic dumps created the dog as an obligate scavenger that then became selectively bred for human uses. In this model, the tropical village dog is the ancestral form of all canines, a position that has emboldened the “Dogs are not wolves” theorists to suggest some tropical Asian Canis x is the actual ancestor of the domestic dog.
This model also posits that all dogs are just obligate scavengers, and unfortunately, this obligate scavenger designation means that what could be otherwise good books and research on dogs essentially denies their predatory behavior.
Last year, I kept hearing about a book that took on Coppinger’s model head-on. This book took Coppinger’s task for having distinct Eurocentric biases and that Coppinger essentially ignored vast amounts anthropological data on how different human societies relate to wild and semi-domestic canids.
So I finally ordered a copy of this book, which is called The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved by Raymond Pierotti and Brandy Fogg. I do recommend this book, but I readily admit that I don’t agree with quite a bit of it. I agree with it more than Coppinger, though, because they rather clearly show massive holes in Coppinger’s model.
Pierotti and Fogg have produced a model that relies heavily upon humans and wolves encountering and then benefiting from a hunting mutualism. Humans have a long history as scavengers, and even today, there are people who follow large predators, including lions, to rob them of their kills. Dholes are targeted by certain people as well, and it is very likely that humans entering Eurasia would have done the same with wolves.
The difference between the lions and the dholes and ancient wolves is that the lions and dholes resent having humans come near their kills. The ancient wolves, however, came to work with people to bring down more prey. These wolves and humans came to be the dominant predators in Eurasia.
Pierotti and Fogg’s model posits the domestication process as beginning with ancient hunter-gather societies. It relies upon the wolf’s predatory nature as an important catalyst in allowing this partnership to thrive.
Further, the authors are rather clear in that our Eurocentric understanding of a clear delineation between wolves and dogs is a rather recent creation. Most cultures who have existed where there are wolves and dogs have a much more plastic understanding of the differences that separate the two or they have no separation of all.
The most compelling analogies in the work are the discussions about the relationships among hunters in Siberia, their laikas, and wild wolves and the relationships between indigenous Australians and dingoes.
In the Siberian laika culture, the dogs have extensively exchanged genes with wild wolves, enough that laikas and wolves do share mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. The laikas (or laiki, as they are known in Russia) do hunt the sable and other small game. They also protect the camps from bears, and in some areas, the laikas are used as not particularly specialized livestock guardian dogs. The authors see these dogs a very good analogy to describe how the earliest people and dogs would have lived. These dogs would have been cultured to humans, but they would still be getting an influx of wild genes as they lived in the wild.
In the dingo example, the authors discuss how these hunter-gather cultures would keep dingo pups and treat them almost exactly as we would our own domestic dogs. They also would use the dingoes to hunt kangaroos, but during mating season, they would allow their companions to leave the camps or stay. They often would leave, but some would go off for a time in the bush and return. This suggests that early humans might not have forced their socialized wolves to stay in camp and that relationship could have been a lot more libertarian than we might have assumed.
These relationships are very different from the scavenging village dogs that Coppinger contends were like the original dogs. These animals are not obligate scavengers. They are hunters, and what’s more, it is their hunting prowess that makes the relationship work.
Further, the authors make a convincing argument that we can no longer use the scientific name Canis familiaris, because many cultures have relied upon wolf-like dogs and dog-like wolves for survival. These animals are virtually impossible to distinguish from each other, and therefore, it would make sense that we would have to allow dogs to be part of Canis lupus.
The authors contend, though I think rather weakly, that dogs derive from multiple domestication events from different wolves. I remain fully agnostic to this question, but I will say that full-genome comparisons of wolves and three dogs that represent three distinct dog lineages suggest that dogs represent a clade. They are still very closely related to extant Canis lupus, especially Eurasian ones, and still must be regarded as part of Canis lupus. Therefore, one does not need multiple origins for domestic dogs from wolves to make the case that they are a subspecies of Canis lupus.
I am, however, quite glad to see that the authors reject this Canis familiaris classification, even if I think the reasoning is better explained through an analysis that shows how dogs fit within a clade called Canis lupus than one that relies upon multiple origins.
Also, one should be aware that every argument that one can make that says dogs are wolves can be applied to coyotes to suggest that they are wolves. Wolves and dogs do have a significant gene flow across Eurasia, but coyotes and wolves have a similar gene flow across North America. The most recent ancestor between wolves and coyotes lived 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, which is far more recent than the proposed divergence between Old World and North America red foxes and the divergence between Qinling and other giant pandas.
I really have no problem thinking of coyotes as being a form of Canis lupus in that a pug is a form of Canis lupus. All the acceptance of this classification does is allow for a positing that this species Canis lupus has thrived because it possesses both phenotypical and behavioral plasticity.
The authors, however, would have a problem with my classification. They make regular reference to red wolves, which have clearly been shown to be hybrids between coyotes and wolves, which themselves are probably better regarded as divergent forms of a phenotypically plastic species. They also contend that coyotes and people have never formed relationships like people have formed with wolves, because coyotes are too aggressive.
However, I have shown on this space that coyotes have been trained to do many of the things dogs have, including pointing behavior. They also have ignored the enigmatic Hare Indian dog, which may have been a domesticated coyote or coydog.
But that said, I think the authors have clearly shown in their text that dogs and wolves are part of the same species.
The authors also make some controversial arguments about dog paleontology and archaeology. One argument they rely upon heavily is that wolves could have become behaviorally very much like dogs without developing all the morphological changes that are associated with most domestic dogs. Some merit certainly does exist with these arguments, but it also puts paleontology and archaeology in a position that makes it impossible to tell if a wolf-like canid found near human camps is a truly wild animal or creature on its way to domestication.
This argument does have some merit, but it still will have problems in those fields of study, because it becomes impossible to tell semi-domesticated wolves from wild ones in the fossil and subfossil record.
However, the authors do make a good case, which I have also made, that argues that the original wolf population had no reason to show fear or aggression towards people. The best analogous population of wolves to these original ones are those found on the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Northern Canada. These large arctic wolves have never experienced persecution, so they are quite curious and tolerant of the humans they encounter. Wolves like these could have easily been the basis for a mutualism that would eventually lead to domestication.
The authors also contend that the reason wolves in Europe are reviled is the result of the Western church’s propaganda that was working against traditional totemic animals of the pagans. Wolves were among those totems, and the church taught that wolves were of the devil.
However, I think this argument is a bit faulty, because Europeans are not the only people who hate wolves. Many pastoralist people in Asia are not big fans of wolves, and their hatred of wolves has nothing to do with the church. The traditional religions of the Navajo and Hopi also do not hold the wolf in very high regard, and these two cultures have been in the sheep business for centuries.
Further, we have very well-documented cases of wolves hunting and killing people in Europe. These wolf attacks were a major problem in France, where notorious man-eating wolves were often named, and they were not unknown in other parts of Europe as well.
The authors focus heavily on the benign relationship between wolves and people, including the wolf that hunted bison calves and deer to feed survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre, but they ignore the stories that do not posit the wolf in a good light.
The reason wolves in Eurasia have sometimes taking to hunting people is really quite simple: Eurasia is a land where people focused much more on domesticating species to create animal agriculture. Agriculture has a tendency to reduce biodiversity in a region, and when people kill off all the deer in an area to make room for sheep, the wolves turn to hunting sheep. If you live in a society in which people do not have ready access to weapons, then the wolves start targeting people. Feudal societies in Europe would have been open target for wolves living in such ecosystems. By contrast, the indigenous people of North America, did not domesticate hoofed animals for agriculture. Instead, they managed the land, often with the use of fire, to create biodiversity of which they could hunt.
The authors do show that dogs and wolves are intricately linked animals. They show that dogs and wolves are the same species. They use many wonderful anecdotes of captive wolves and wolfdogs to make their case, and in making this case, they have made the case clear that dogs are the produce of hunter-gatherer societies and still are conspecific with the wolf.
I do, however, have some quibbles with some of the sources they use in the text. For example, when they discuss Queen Elizabeth Islands wolves, they focus on an account of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas on Baffin Island. She was on Baffin Island for one summer and observed one wolf pack. She is a fine observer of animals, but much of her analysis about dog and wolf behavior is still controversial. The authors also regularly make reference to Cesar Millan as a dog expert, when virtually no credentialed dog behavior expert thinks he is, and to the notorious dogsbite.org website, which is of even more contentious. These authors are making serious and well-reasoned arguments about dog and wolf behavior and relying upon these sources detracted from the work. I would have liked if they had referred to L. David Mech’s wolf observations on Ellesmere or to John Bradshaw as an expert on dog behavior.
I also had some issues with their contention that the Ainu people of Japan are Turkic or Altaic. No one knows exactly who these people are, but they are interesting in their relationship with wolves. Traditional Japanese society, distinct from the Ainu, was actually quite similar to the Siberian cultures that have produced laika dogs that still interbreed with wolves. However, I don’t think anyone still thinks that the Ainu are Turkic or Altaic.
Finally, the authors do make a good case against Coppinger’s model, but they go on to accept Coppinger’s fixed motor pattern dependence model to describe breed specialization. It is certainly true that Coppinger was Eurocentric in his understanding of dog domestication, but both Coppinger and the authors are Anglocentric in their understanding of dog hunting and herding behavior. The authors think this is Coppinger’s strongest argument. I think this is among his weakest. This model states that pointing, herding, and retrieving are all just arrested development of a full predatory sequence. A dog that can point just stalks. It never learns to use its jaws to kill. A border collie stalks but also engages is a type of chasing behavior. It will also never learn to kill. A retriever will run out and grab, but it lacks the killing bite.
The biggest problem with this model is that everyone knows of border collies that have learned to hunt, kill, and eat sheep. I had a hard-driven golden retriever that would retrieve all day, but she would kill rabbits and even fawns.
The Anglo-American concept of specialized gun dogs affected Coppinger’s understanding of their behavior. He never really looked into continental HPRs. For example, Deutsch-Drathaars, the original German variant of the German wirehair, are bred to retrieve, point, track, and dispatch game. Such an animal makes no sense in this model, for it would suggests that an animal that would point would only ever be stuck in that stalking behavior. It would never be able to retrieve, and it certainly would never use its jaws to kill.
A better model says that dogs are born with a tendency to show behaviors, such as exaggerated stalking behavior that can be turned into pointing through training. There are countless stories of pointing dogs that suddenly lost their pointing behavior after running with hard-driving flushing dog. The dog may have been born with that exaggerated stalking behavior, but the behavior was lost when it entered into social interaction. Indeed, much of these specialized hunting behaviors are developed through training, so that what actually happens is the dog’s motor patterns are refined through training rather than being solely the result of being arrested in full. This is why all the old retriever books from England tell the sportsman never to allow his dog to go ratting. As soon as that dog learns to use its jaws to kill, it is very likely that this dog will start using its jaws on the game it is sent to retrieve.
Despite my quibbles and reservations, Pierotti and Fogg have made a convincing case for the hunting mutualism between wolves and humans as the basis for the domestication of dogs. I was particularly impressed with their use of ethnography and non-Western histories to make their case. I do recommend this book for a good case that we do need a new model for dog domestication, and the questions they raise about taxonomy should be within our field of discussion.
I was talking with a childhood friend recently about the paths we took after college. She reminded me how I packed up my little car the day after I graduated from University of Wisconsin and moved, by myself, to a mountain town in Colorado where I knew no one, and soon after started an eco-friendly clothing business that I ended up running for 14 years. I laughed and told her that while I have no regrets (I am genuinely glad for every choice I’ve made in my life, good or bad), I admittedly would never do anything like that these days. My exact words for V “I’m so boring now.” And her words in response (bless her heart) were “You made bold choices then in outwardly bigger ways, but I see you continue to make bold choices these days as a work at home mom, and that’s just as cool.”
It made me feel really good that my friend said something so kind, of course, but it also got me thinking. And I realized that bold choices can come in many forms – whether moving across the country alone or starting your day with the boldest coffee around (more on that in a minute).
In my younger, pre-kids life, bold choices meant taking risks in my life and business. It meant buying a 1978 RV and traveling throughout America during entire summers for several years. It meant moving to a Buddhist center on a whim and living and volunteering there for three years. It meant taking trips (on relatively short notice) to Australia and Europe. It meant moving to new cities and new states, often sight unseen. It meant starting an eco-friendly clothing line with $ 200 and a sewing machine set up on a cardboard box that ultimately led to showing at several fashion weeks, exhibiting at Chicago’s Museum of Modern Art, and being featured in prominent fashion publications like WWD. It meant excitement and uncertainty and lots of leaps before looking. It was great.
These days, making bold choices means something much different. But it’s still great. Making bold choices in this stage of my life means closing my clothing company and taking the leap to work from home – as a blogger – in order to be with my kids. It means leaving parent meeting with my mama girlfriends to go drink peach margaritas. It means finding new adventures with my little ones that involve things like choosing to take hidden paths deep in forest preserves off the trail, or choosing to drive an hour when it’s already almost bed time to get the best ice creams, or deciding on a Friday morning to take a four hour road trip to Indianapolis that afternoon. Sometimes it just means making the choice to stay in our pajamas for an entire Saturday or to have last night’s pizza for breakfast or to decide last minute to spend an afternoon building tile towers instead of doing “responsible things” like cleaning the house or finishing work. And your know what? These “less exciting” bold choices can be pretty profound, in all honesty.
Another bold choice I make these days is to start my day with the boldest coffee around – 1850 Brand Coffee, a new premium coffee from the makers of Folgers. Yep, coffee. This delicious blend of ground coffee delivers bold yet smooth taste – it helps me start my day on a positive note, and inspires me to make bold choices throughout it. And it’s so good. 1850 Brand Coffee beans are fire-roasted and ground to help bring out its rich taste and aroma. The second I smell it brewing I feel motivated. The story behind is really inspiring too. Back in 1850 (hence the name!), J.A. Folger started something new and innovative to help the prospectors as they sought their fortunes. And the Folgers company believes that there’s still no better way to get going than with a bold-yet-smooth cup of coffee. Out of this philosophy, 1850 Brand Coffee was born – and they have declared it the official coffee of “bold people fueling original ideas, new commitments, and brave endeavors.” In their words, it’s ”more than a coffee; it’s ally to the hustle.” I agree.
Bold choices are a part of who I am, and I do solemnly swear to continue to make them for the rest of my life. I swear to continue to respect and acknowledge all bold choices – from last minute around-the-world trips to staying in our pajamas all day to starting my mornings with the boldest coffee around. Speaking of which, if you want to try 1850 Brand Coffee for yourself (and you should), visit Meijer from 5/6 – 6/2 and take $ 1 off any 1850 Brand Coffee Product with the mPerk digital coupon (while supplies last).
This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and The J.M. Smucker Company, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #1850Coffee #1850CoffeeatMeijer http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV
Thank you Village Harvest for sponsoring this post. Every day Village Harvest is planting seeds of change and growing possibilities, one bag of goodness at a time.
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There is little in this world I enjoy eating more than Thai food. (Okay, tacos too, but you’ve seen enough recipes here involving those.) And when it comes to Thai food, I almost always go for curries. (Side note: red curry was the first dinner I ever made for my now husband, almost 12 years ago. Awww.) Lucky for me, everyone in my family (even the 2 year old) loves Thai curry dishes too. Not so lucky for me, these dishes usually require quite a bit of time and ingredients to prepare. You guys know me – I do not enjoy extravagant, time consuming recipes. So sadly, red curry was, for a long time, something I only made on special occasions (and never on weeknights). Recently though, I found a way to make a truly delicious version of vegetarian Thai red curry that only requires a handful of ingredients and takes about 20 minutes to prepare. It’s so easy and so good that it’s become a regular weeknight dinner around here. If you like curry dishes, I think you’ll love it as much as we do.
Easy Vegetarian Thai Red Curry
1 cup Village Harvest Origins Collection Organic Coconut Tumeric Brown Jasmine Rice
package extra firm tofu, cubed*
1 can coconut milk
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 cups broccoli florets (you can also use cauliflower, or really any veggie you have on hand)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons. garlic powder
lime (for juice)
basil (for topping)
hot sauce or red pepper flakes (optional)
(I’ll preface the instructions by saying that you can easily prepare your tofu right before you eat this, but I like doing it in advance. In fact, I usually buy a couple of packages, prepare them, and keep them covered in the fridge. Then when I make this red curry, I just throw them in the sauce which makes the entire dish take about 10 minutes to make.)
Begin by pressing the water out of the tofu block and cutting into cubes. (Or, if you really want to save time, buy it already cubed like I do.) Heat some coconut oil or olive oil in a large skillet (enough to coat the tofu without being too greasy) and pan fry the tofu over medium high heat until brown on all sides, adding a little salt as you go. Once tofu is read, either place into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until you use it, or continue to the next step while the tofu is cooking. In a medium saucepan, bring coconut milk to a low simmer. Add red curry paste, brown sugar, and garlic powder and stir until combined. Add broccoli florets and tofu and simmer for about 8-10 minutes. While this is cooking, heat the Village Harvest Organic Coconut Tumeric Brown Jasmine Rice in the microwave for 90 seconds. Pour rice into bowls, top with curry sauce, squeeze a little lime on top each bowl and top with basil (or Thai basil). Enjoy!
This red curry is super simple and so fast to make, but incredibly delicious. And that’s why it’s truly the perfect quick weeknight meal to prepare for my family. Preparing the tofu in advance and keeping it in the fridge eliminates so much time for me, but the real time-saver is the Coconut Turmeric Brown Jasmine Rice from Village Harvest’s new Origins Collection. This collection features authentic recipes from India and Thailand that can be served alone or prepared in endless ways, and that are all organic and non-GMO, 100% whole grain, and gluten free. And they’re not just rice – they’re recipes. So you can serve them alone as tasty side dishes, or as part of recipes like this one. Best of all, they’re microwavable and ready in 90 seconds. (This is huge!) My favorite for curry dishes if the Coconut Tumeric (Thailand), but I genuinely love all of the other varieties they offer as well: Basmati & Lentil (India), Lemon Rice (India), Tikka Masala (India), and Thai Green Curry (Thailand). Village Harvest Origins is truly a smart and simple meal solution that you can bring to life in 90 seconds. If you’re anything like me and love delicious Thai (and India!) dishes but don’t have the time to prepare them on the regular, I highly suggest giving this collection a try. And let me know what you think.
Any other red (or yellow, or green – I love them all) curry fans out there? What’s your favorite type of Thai food?
Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Anybody besides me remember the children’s book called “I’ll Love You Forever”. I always thought it was kind of creepy because this lady sneaks into her adult son’s bedroom at night to sing her little bedtime song. Somehow, when it’s a pet, it’s not creepy at all! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
Halo is proud to be part of this year’s Cat Camp, a cat advocacy event held in Manhattan on May 5th and 6th hosted by Jackson Galaxy. Halo, Freekibble.com and GreaterGood.org are donating 20,000 bowls of food to rescues participating in the event. Jackson Galaxy is a board member of GreaterGood.org, which runs the Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive High Five program, sponsored by Halo.
Cat Camp will host speakers and panelist sharing their knowledge on topics ranging from learning about how to care for community cats, saving orphan kittens and how to run a nonprofit.
There is also an opportunity to have a Meet & Greet with Halo spokes pet, Lil BUB. You can meet, pet and take a photo with BUB, with 100% of the proceeds from the ticket price benefiting homeless cats. The event takes place on Saturday from 12:30pm to 1:30pm and Sunday from 2-3pm. Plus, Lil BUB’s Dude, Mike Bridavsky, will be doing a panel discussion called, “The Story of Lil BUB: Caring for a Special Needs Cat from Space.”
Purchase your Cat Camp tickets now.
Very interesting concepts:
This post is in partnership with Samsonsite but all opinions are my own.
Traveling has been an important part of my life since I was in college, and while both my husband and I worried that we’d have to stop once we had kids, we’ve managed to continue to take trips with our babes several times a year. In fact, both of our kids (now 4 and 2) have been traveling with us – by car and by plane – since they were newborns. That said, traveling with little ones is quite different than traveling on your own (just ask my husband, who works for a band and flies at least twice a week, about the stark contrasts between when he travels for work and with our family!). One difference I’ve consistently noticed is how much more challenging it is to make eco-conscious choices when traveling with kids. When you’ve got children with you (especially little ones), there are more messes, more requests for quick food, more stops, more garbage, and just general excess that ultimately isn’t very good for the earth. When we flew to California a few weeks ago, we really made an effort to make the trip more eco-friendly. And it worked. As we near the end of Earth Month, I thought today would be the perfect day to share some of my tips in hopes that it will help those of you with little ones who would like to make your travel more earth conscious as well.
1. Take reusable water bottles. It’s no secret that disposable water bottles are terrible for the environment, but they’re everywhere, and when you’re traveling with kids, they’re admittedly quite convenient. We always bring one of our own reusable bottles for each of us though, whether we’re driving or flying. We fill them up in the drinking fountains at the airport, and if we’re traveling by car, we either fill them at stops along the way or bring a big water jug along with us.
2. Pack snacks from home. We fill reusable containers with snacks for both air and land travel, and for road trips we also bring fruit and sandwiches we make at home. The packaging alone from airport snack shops and/or fast food restaurants is incredible wasteful, and you’ll say some money too.
3. Bring a stroller. Obviously this will only work with little ones, but the great thing about strollers (especially double strollers, like we have) is that you can walk farther and longer than if you’re trying to go on foot with toddlers or preschoolers. And walking is always the best mode of transportation to explore your destination when you’re trying to be eco-conscious. If you have a baby or toddler, a carrier or sling works too. And along the same lines, if your kids are old enough, you can rent (or bring) bicycles as a family and get around that way.
4. Choose eco-friendly luggage. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve been listening to me rave about our Samsonite ECO-Nu suitcase (we have the 25″ Expandable Spinner in Granite/Midnight Black) for over a month, and for good reason. This is hands down the best piece of luggage I’ve ever owned, and it’s perfect for trips with kids because it’s super lightweight but, thanks to its big pockets and Hidden-Expansion System (which keeps the expansion zipper discreetly tucked beneath the main zipper), fits a seriously impressive amount of stuff. It’s also incredibly easy to transport (which any of you with kids know is key for travel when you’re trying to wrangle a million things at once), thanks to its awesome four wheel Saguro Wheel System. Best of all though, its fabric, including the lining, is made completely from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. All of it. Bottles are melted down into a liquid polymer, then purified into filament yarn, and finally woven into the high quality, durable fabric that is used to make the ECO-Nu. How cool is that? Our Samsonite ECO-Nu has also been a great way to teach our kids the importance of making green choices when purchases travel supplies. I really love how the line is so clearly designed with both the traveler (whether with kids or alone) and the earth in mind. In fact, we’ve already decided that once the other pieces of luggage we own are no longer usable, we’ll be replacing all of them with ECO-Nu pieces.
5. Turn off the lights and down the thermostat. We are so good about this at home, but I’ve noticed that when we stay at hotels, we are more forgetful about doing these things when we get out. We’ve started to make it a game with the kids, where whoever remembers to turn out the lights and down the thermostat first is the winner. It’s actually a great way to get them in the habit of doing it wherever they are. (Bonus hotel tip: reuse linens and don’t request the sheets to be washed nightly.)
6. Visit natural places. Sure, my kids love loud, fancy mega kiddie/family fun center type places, but they honestly love forest preserves and state/national parks (which are infinitely less wasteful) just as much (if not more). We took my daughter to the Grand Canyon when she was 16 months old and she still regularly asks to see pictures from it! Even if we’re just taking a day trip to another town, we get outside and explore nature and other unique characteristics of where we are. It’s amazing what you can find and all of the ways you can teach your kids about the environment that way. (The fox sculpture you see in some of these photos was made entirely from recycled bicycles. So cool!) I remember reading that people tend to care more about issues if they have personal connection to them, so this is an ideal way to encourage your little ones to care about the earth from an early age.
7. Choose local. Shop locally. Eat locally (especially at places like farmer’s market and food trucks, or farm-to-table and/or organic restaurants). On top of the fact that choosing local is almost always better for the environment because the carbon emissions are much less than products that have to travel far to reach you, your kids will be excited to visit places that are different than familiar chains or that they’re used to frequenting at home.
8. Camp. Full disclosure: we have not yet been camping with our kids, so I can’t say this is a tip I have tried myself. But so many of our friends with older children have camped with them and absolutely loved it, and we’re looking forward to our first family camping experience this summer. Camping uses less energy and less water, and it’s an incredible way to help your kids connect with and develop a respect for the earth.
These are all simple, easy ways that can add up to truly make an impact on the state of the earth. If you have any ways that you make travel with kids more eco-friendly, I’d love to hear them!