School’s almost out — and the sun already is. Nearly time to slip on your favorite sandals, soak up the heat, cool off at the beach, and settle in by the bonfire, right? But with so much to do during summer, it’s easy to forget about the environmental impact of our activities. After all, summer is the season to enjoy everything the planet offers, so why not show it some kindness in return?
By making eco-friendly choices, you can do everything you love — from camping to cookouts — while ensuring the great outdoors remain just that way for many future summers to come. With the Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer in the U.S., here are 10 tips for a sustainable summer — from the best ways to get to your vacation destination to what kinds of sunscreen you should slather on under a blazing blue sky.
Choose eco-friendly transportation
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy a more sustainable summer is to opt for eco-friendly transportation. Instead of hopping in the car constantly, consider walking, biking, or taking public transportation. If you’re traveling longer, think about skipping planes for trains or automobiles. Trains, especially, are more energy-efficient than planes and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, research shows that the aviation industry contributes between four to nine percent of humanity’s total climate change impact. So, for shorter durations, we always recommend anything but booking a flight. Fun fact! May is National Bike Month, so kick off Memorial Day weekend by embracing the adventure of exploring or getting around on a bike. Read all about how you can bike toward a greener world here.
Pack light and sustainably
About to embark on your summer adventure? Try to pack lightly and sustainably. Packing light means you carry less weight, reducing the fuel required to transport your luggage. In turn, this reduces carbon emissions, regardless of how you are getting there. So, be conscious of what you bring to avoid overpacking your suitcase. You can plan your outfits in advance and overlap pieces to create a capsule wardrobe and be more sustainable this summer.
Once you arrive at your destination, avoid buying plastic water bottles while out sightseeing. Instead, bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at your accommodation or water fountains. Bring a tote bag for picking up groceries or souvenirs to avoid single-use plastic bags. And if you plan on eating on the go, pack a reusable straw and cutlery.
Planning to wash your clothes on the go? Pack eco-friendly laundry sheets for a convenient and space-saving way to do laundry while traveling. Just slip them into a suitcase pocket or your backpack. The slim, lightweight packaging means you’ll barely notice they are there. Once it’s time to do a wash, place one of the pre-measured sheets in the detergent drawer — or simply throw it in with your clothes. Our coconut-based formula ensures the strips dissolve quickly and entirely in hot and cold water, regardless of your machine’s setting.
Support local and sustainable businesses
Part of the beauty of traveling is experiencing unique and localized places. So, whether you are traveling or relaxing on a staycation, try to support local and eco-friendly businesses for a sustainable summer. Look for restaurants and cafes that use locally-sourced ingredients and eco-friendly practices. Shop the farmer’s market and local stores instead of big-box retailers. When booking accommodations, look for eco-friendly hotels or home-sharing services prioritizing sustainability. Do your research to ensure these practices are being met.
Even if you’re away from home, sustainable practices still apply. Turn off the lights and air conditioning when you leave, unplug electronics when they are not in use, and open a window before turning on the AC. Simple acts all make the planet a more sustainable place to call home.
Leave it like you found it
When you’re outdoors, there’s nothing worse than hitting the trails only to discover crumpled plastic wrappers and empty soda cans lining your path. After all, why would you leave a beautiful spot in worse condition than you found it? So, pick up all your trash and dispose of it properly. Ditch the single-use plastics and opt for reusable containers and utensils instead. If you do bring single-use, pack it up and carry it with you until you access a trash can or recycling bin. Approach nature remembering you are the guest. The wildlife all call it home. So, be mindful not to feed animals, pick flowers, or disturb any habitats along your route. And stay on the designated trails to keep erosion at bay. You can even consider sweeping up the litter left behind by less-considerate visitors. A little effort will make the outdoors lovelier for humans and safer for the creatures who call it home.
Put on eco-friendly sunscreen
Be kind to your skin — and the planet. Obviously, sunscreen is a must to protect yourself from UV rays. However, many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals. Oxybenzone and octinoxate — two chemicals Hawaii banned in 2018 — can damage and even kill coral. Other ingredients to watch out for include para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and parabens. Instead, look for an eco-friendly sunscreen that uses natural ingredients.
Employ eco-friendly bug spray
A smack of the hand remains the most eco-friendly tactic in dealing with bugs. Beyond that, be wary of insect repellents when trying to keep bugs at bay. Many contain harmful chemicals that can harm the environment and wildlife. Instead, consider using eco-friendly bug sprays with natural ingredients such as citronella or peppermint oil. It will help you guard against insects — some of which can even carry diseases — while being kind to the planet.
Don’t waste water
It’s easy to forget about this resource when you’re trying to cool off after a hot day in the sun. But it’s essential to be mindful of how much you use. Simple ways to reduce your use include opting for shorter showers, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, and fixing leaks. Water evaporates quickly in the heat, so water your lawn and garden in the early morning or late evening — before or after the sun’s peak.
Get your hands dirty
Summer is about appreciating Mother Nature’s beauty, so why not contribute? Get out there and plant some flowers, seasonal produce, or even a tree! Flowers and many fruits and vegetables provide resources for pollinators, like bees, essential to our planet’s well-being. So, be a true tree hugger and create a sustainable space for bees to thrive this summer.
Read more books
Many of us have extra free time during the summer months. Whether you’re lounging by the pool or relaxing at home, summertime is an awesome time to educate yourself. Read up on climate change, nature, gardening, or sustainable living topics. The more we know, the more we can grow and share with friends and family!
Try Meatless Mondays
Summer is practically synonymous with grilling out, so why not combine it with Meatless Mondays for eco-friendly deliciousness? Cutting down on meat consumption is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. But you don’t have to go full-on vegan to make a difference. Even swapping out one meat-based meal per week with a plant-based option can have an impact. Of course, the less meat, the better — but we all have to start somewhere. And the best part? It’s an excuse to get creative! Whip up a batch of veggie burgers on the grill, try your hand at vegan tacos, or throw together a colorful salad with all the fixings. You’ll be amazed at how delicious and satisfying plant-based meals can be. Even your guests will be impressed!
Whether you’re enjoying the great outdoors or experimenting with Meatless Mondays, following these sustainable summer tips will help you do your part to preserve our planet. Have a fantastic, eco-friendly sunny season!