Summer is here in full swing, and there are trips to the beach, the park, and the zoo to take.
Camping comes along for many, as well as trips to vacation resorts and theme parks. The amount of chemicals and plastic you could easily consume or use within a week can be overwhelming.
But, it doesn’t have to be. With some careful planning in advance, you can have an eco-friendly summer!
While many of these tips can be followed year-round, the summer is one of the best times of the year to start living more sustainably.
After all, you can spend more time outdoors and less time inside on your phone or watching television. There are plenty of ways to stay entertained when the weather is nice!
Here are some tips for an eco-friendly summer.
Go On Day Trips – to the Zoo, Park, Beach
Plan ahead and pack a cooler with water in glass bottles, snacks, and sunscreen. Go as early in the morning as you can to avoid the heat or later in the evening, after the heat of the day. Wear light colored clothing to stay cooler. Forego the chemicals in regular sunscreen and make your own! Here’s the recipe I used recently:
For me, this was just another place to cook, wash dishes, hang clothes and towels to dry and generally do “mom” stuff.
But, I get to do it away from home and away from all the conveniences I would normally have, like comfortable seating, hot water from a faucet, etc.
I still enjoy a good camping trip with my family, however, and we have learned much over our years of hitting the campgrounds how to do it with less trash and chemicals. We plan ahead and take our own food, in our own containers.
Granola is what we normally pack for breakfast each day, along with some eggs from our backyard flock. We purchase a cow each year, and it’s packaged in it’s separate packages, so we still have that trash, but we bring hamburgers to cook, salad mixes from the garden and many times we will camp at a spot where we can eat the fish we catch.
If that’s not an option for you, totally understood! Just bring as much homemade food along as you can. Crackers, cheese from a cut up block, etc., will go a long way toward not having trash to deal with.
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We also have a special camping set of dishes (available here) that are just for camping, and our emergency box as well, so we don’t have paper plates or plastic tableware to deal with, either.
Add in a mason jar for each member of the family to drink from and you are nearly trash free while camping! Of course, packing enough water to drink each day has always been a difficult thing for us…we never seem to have enough!
Last time, I had 10 gallons of water along, and we still needed to get more! We had those 5 gallon refillable bottles, so we were able to take those in and refill them.
Tips for Going to Theme Parks
Ummmm…this one is honestly the hardest for me, because the one time our family did indulge in a theme park visit, we just went all out, and didn’t “care” about our trash. Looking back, however, here are some things we would have done differently.
Call the park ahead of time, and see if coolers are allowed. Most will, but don’t allow glass…I know, right? But, safety of everyone involved, I can see why. If you are not allowed to bring coolers, bring a stainless steel bottle (available here) for water fill ups along the way.
We made sure to eat a good breakfast before heading into the park, and I had some granola bars tucked into my purse as well.
We had splurged on lunch at the park, and snacked on granola bars later that afternoon…but to be honest, we were so busy, we didn’t really care about eating. That is, until we left to rest at the hotel.
At the hotel, we had food in the fridge, but that was more snacky stuff. So, we ate out nearly every meal those three days. Once in a while, you just gotta roll with the punches.
Let There Be Light
When you’re at home in the summertime, don’t waste energy by turning on lights when you don’t need to.
The sun is shining almost constantly in the summer months – and even when it’s cloudy, the light is likely more intense at this time of the year than it is during others.
Open up those blinds and let the light in! You’d be amazed at how much your electric bill goes down.
The exception? You may want to leave your blinds closed when it’s super hot outside. When it’s warm out, about three-quarters of all sunlight that falls on a standard double-pane window will enter the home to become heat.
Therefore, keeping the blinds shut when it’s extremely warm can help reduce solar heat – and reduce your reliance on air conditioning and fans.
Rethink What You Grow
If you follow this blog, there’s a good chance that you love to garden. That’s great – gardening in any way, shape, or form is great for the planet.
You may want to give some second though not what you’re growing. Again, while any type of plant is great for the environment, native plants offer a variety of eco-friendly benefits.
They can attract beneficial wildlife and pollinators and, of course, need less water than imported species.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables is another great way to improve your family’s progression toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
You can feed yourself and your family (and have an eco-friendly hobby) while also helping to recycle nutrients from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air.
Head Over to the Farmer’s Market
If you live in many parts of the country, going to the farmer’s market is only an option during the warmer months of the year.
Take advantage of that! Head on over to the farmer’s market and sell your homegrown produce or buy someone else’s for sale.
You never know what you might find – and it’s not just produce, either. It’s also easy to find baked goods, meats, cheese, and even crafts for sale at the farmer’s market.
Buying locally, no matter what it is, is always the most eco-friendly option. When products don’t have to be shipped halfway around the country to get to you, it’s a win-win.
Eat at Home
Another way to eat local and help the planet? Eat at home. The more you make your own meals and eat foods that aren’t processed, the better it is for your health – and for the environment.
Grilling is one cooking method you can take advantage of during the summer. It’s healthy and delicious!
On Road Trips, Drive Wisely
Although taking a long car trip probably isn’t the best thing for the planet, it’s sometimes just what the doctor ordered! And summer is a great time to hit the road.
You can go about it in a more eco-friendly way, though. Whenever you’re driving, be it on a road trip or just across town for groceries, slow down a bit.
Another good tip? Stop idling. You can turn the car back on when you’re ready to go again, but you’d be amazed at how much gas you can save by doing this.
Whenever possible, don’t drive – check out public transportation options or walk or ride your bike. It’s a great way to enjoy the gorgeous summer weather – and it will help you save money, too.
Take Your Chores Outside
Stop using your clothes dryer in the summer! The fresh breeze will make your clothes smell much nicer – and it’s an eco-friendly way to get your laundry done, too.
For the chores that can’t be done in a more natural way, consider doing them at night. From cooking to vacuuming, dishes to washing clothes, it’s usually less expensive to do your energy-heavy chores off-peak hours (in other words, in the evening).
Consider a Stay-Cation
If you can’t afford to get away for your summer vacation, consider staying at home. There are all sorts of things you can do to relax and unwind on your very own homestead – you don’t need to travel halfway across the country in order to get a vacation in!
You can even set up camp in your own backyard. Pitch a tent and let the kids camp out all summer long – they’ll love being able to express their more wild sides out there!
Avoid Plastic Plates
Summer is a great time for barbeques and potlucks – basically any kind of social gathering that involves food and gets people outside! However, these events are also known for their prolific use of plastic cookware and plates – if you can, skip them.
Not only are these sorts of things not so great for your health, but they’re also incredibly wasteful. Instead of using disposable plastic or paper plates, cutlery, cups, or napkins, use reusable alternatives.
Disposables consume way too many resources and can only be used once. Just by using reusable utensils once, you’ll put a huge dent in your carbon footprint.
Shop Secondhand (or Ethically)
Many of the fun activities you have lined up for the summer will require new clothes, so if you can, buy all of your items at thrift stores, yard sales, or other secondhand avenues.
This is an eco-friendly option because it allows you to breathe new life into clothing that may have reached the end of the line for their previous owners.
This is an especially helpful tip if you have young kids who outgrow their clothes quickly!
And if you’re not a fan of thrift stores or yard sales, choose ethical brands. It has a longer shelf-life and while it might be more expensive the first time you buy, you’ll likely find that you recoup the costs (and then some) later on.
Reduce Your Air Conditioning
There’s no doubt about it – that summer heat can get intense! However, try to avoid the urge to crank the air conditioner.
Air conditioners use a ton of energy and also release hydrofluorocarbons. Instead, use the AC only intermittently, instead using a fan to cool the house as you give your AC a break.
Pro-tip – you can increase the efficacy of your fan by putting a bowl of ice in front of it. Your fan will blow the cold icy air around!
Summer is a great time to volunteer. You might be less busy at work and the weather is nice, so why not volunteer for a community clean-up program? You’ll be able to get some fresh air while also making your community a nicer place.
As it gets hotter, you need to work harder to stay hydrated. However, it’s important that you ditch the disposable plastic bottle.
Not only are these things quite expensive, but they can also take a toll on the environment. Instead, buy a multi-use stainless steel or glass water bottle. It’s better for your health, too!
Start a Compost Pile
Did you know that more than a third of what we toss into the trash can actually be composted – instead of going to the landfill?
When you compost things like yard waste and food scraps, it enriches the soil and can improve the health of your garden.
You can compost year-round, but summer is the best time to start your compost pile since the high temperatures will make it easier for the pile to get nice and hot.
Get Creative About How You Save Water
There are all kinds of ways you can save water, from fixing a leaky faucet to taking shorter showers.
However, there are a few out-of-the-box methods you might want to consider, too. When you rinse vegetables and fruits or cook pasta, save the water. You can use it to water your plants!
Whether it’s a cool mixed drink on ice or a refreshing glass of lemonade, rethink that plastic straw. Consider using a reusable straw made out of an alternative material like bamboo, glass, silicone, and more.
Or you could always kick it old school and drink right from the glass!
Choose Eco-Friendly Sunglasses
No matter how much you pay for a pair of sunglasses, know that not all are environmentally friendly. Many are made out of materials like plastic that are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle.
Instead, choose options made out of recycled materials, like ocean plastic or old fishing nets.
Grill With Propane
Charcoal tastes great, but it’s not the most eco-friendly. Liquid propane or gas grills are more energy-efficient than charcoal grills. Pellet grills are even better!
Try Natural Products
Rather than reaching for that stick of deodorant or an aerosol can of humidity-resistant hairspray, consider if there are natural alternatives you can use.
Many deodorants sprays contain hydrocarbons and compressed gases – both of which can harm the ozone layer.
Use Solar Chargers
There’s no better time of the year to give solar charging a try than in the summer! You’ll have plenty of juice for all of your gear and appliances.
Unplug and Get Outside!
If you’re reading this article on your phone and it’s July, I give you permission to stop reading now (you’re almost done with the post, anyway).
Enjoy the few days of summer that we have – don’t waste them by sitting inside on your device. Whatever it is you like to do, be it relaxing in the pool, going for a hike, or simply lounging in your own backyard, do it!
There’s nothing better for your health than some time spent in nature, so take advantage of the summer days before the bitter cold sets in.
Year-Round Eco-Friendliness Starts Now!
An eco-friendly lifestyle can be started and pursued at any time of the year, but you may find that your motivation to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle starts in the summer months.
After all, the weather is warm, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping – could there possibly be a better time to rediscover your connection to the natural world?
Follow these tips, and you can. What would you have on your eco-friendly summer list?
last updated by Rebekah Pierce on Nov 11th 2021
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.