There are certain times – like when you are trying to lug home a week’s worth of groceries, or when it’s -20 out – that making use of alternate means of transportation like biking, walking, or taking the bus with a small child can be a bit of a challenge. But there are other times when choosing these environmentally friendly alternatives make for a better commute — and a better life — parent and child alike.

Here are 3 ways eco-friendly transportation options can save your sanity. Buckle up lads….

Baby in sling
Image courtesy of Hobo Mama.

1. Eating on the run

Anyone who has ever driven down the highway with a infant hungrily screaming their hearts out from their car seat knows that nothing gets stress levels higher, faster. It’s a high-stakes battle between an unbelievably primal instinct to meet your child’s needs, and the modern realities of schedules, traffic, and the dangers of pulling over onto the the narrow shoulder with semis whizzing by to pop in a bottle (or a breast).

Now imagine you were walking instead — you can easily nurse a child in a sling or a carrier, and a baby in a stroller can be given a bottle in a flash. Similarly, nursing on public transportation is a snap, and you don’t have to choose between getting to your destination on time and filling your baby’s belly.

2. Sensory stimulation

There’s a reason that people buy all of those dangling toys, jiggling doodads and and car activities — because staring at the interior of a Camry for hours every day is just boring. No wonder so many kids hate their car seats! Contrast that to the experience of riding on a parent’s bike, sitting up in a stroller, or walking alongside you, and there’s simply no contest.

Taking eco-friendly modes of transportation means that our children are constantly exposed to new sights, smells, and experiences, and they are able to more fully interact with these stimuli rather than just passively waiting for the journey to be over. There are countless opportunities to enhance verbal skills by describing the world around you and asking them questions about what they see, or interacting with new people on the bus each day.

Mother's Day Run and Walk
Mother’s Day Run and Walk. Image courtesy of Sangudo.

3. Fresh air and exercise

For us, and for them! I mean we all know we should be fitting some gym time into our daily schedule, but between work, taking care of kids, errands, cooking and Facebook, who has time? If getting active ceases to be an entirely separate activity, however, and starts being part of your daily life instead — by biking to the morning preschool run instead of driving — then you don’t have to worry about carving out that gym time anymore.

The world is your gym! Plus I’d bet that those toddlers you’re hauling in a bike trailer could give you a better workout than any spin class, especially when they start shrieking “I have to pee!” If the distance is reasonable, walking provides an amazing way to get those little bodies working and, an as added bonus, the fresh air and exercise will tucker them out enough that bedtimes become a breeze. (Well, if not a breeze, at least a little less screamy. Maybe?)

Who knew? Choosing eco-friendly options that promise to save the environment might just end up saving your sanity, too! And remember that making changes like this never has to be an all or nothing proposition — even designating one or two days a week to be car-free means you are reducing your vehicle use by 14 to 29 percent. That’s huge! Now sing it with me, friends, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…”

Feature image courtesy of Tom Page 

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.