With the warm weather fully unfurled, you've got some free time and some hot days before you. That means time off to spend at the beach, with the kids, away on vacation, whatever... You've got backyard BBQs, ballgames, trips to the local zoo, and a whole lot more to squeeze in, but you're not so certain how to make sure your summer vacation is looking and feelings its greenest. So let's lotion up, put some beer on ice, and get down to business.
1. Steppin' light
Find local activities with low environmental impacts like a trip to the local park, woods, zoo, ballgame, or beach with friends to relax. Time spent with friends and family can be a great way to catch up and have fun. Picking up that new book you've been meaning to read while lounging on the deck is another great way to pass the time and leave a smaller footprint behind. The Deathly Hallows ought to keep you busy for a little while. Once you've gotten out of the city, check out our guide on How to Green Your Outdoor Sports.
2. Cool and easy
Air conditioning can offer much-needed respite from the heat and can make sweaty nights bearable, but be sensitive to overuse. Turning up the thermostat a few degrees on your AC is a great way to save tons of cash while making the planet a cooler place at the same time.
3. Up in your grill
Love to BBQ? Propane burns much cleaner than either wood or charcoal briquettes. If you can't resist charcoal, try a natural product like those produced by Cowboy Charcoal--much cleaner than your traditional briquettes. Of course, when you're done grilling, use natural cleaning products such as SoyClean organic grill cleaner to keep your summer as chemical-free as possible. Tests show it's just as tough on grime as traditional cleaners, but won't leave that chemical residue behind to leach into your next burger or grilled tomato. Plus, if you want to give your neighbors something to gossip about, try a solar over from a company like Solar Cookers International. How to Green Your Meals has some tasty advise, as well.
4. The local roundup
Buy food locally. Farmers markets are great places to shop, and ensure that the veggies you're eating hot off the grill or mixed in a salad haven't traveled thousands of miles just to reach your plate. That cuts down on the use of fossil fuels, which leads to significantly reduced levels of pollution and resource depletion over your typical tomato bought at the local supermarket. Websites like Local Harvest can help you find one in your area, even if you've never seen one in your life.
5. The green plate special
Use reusable dishes rather than plastics or Styrofoam. If you absolutely must use disposables, make sure to pick up compostable varieties beforehand to put in the compost bin when you're through. For more, check out Where to Get This Stuff below.
6. Greenie bikini
You don't have to go so far as wearing a biodegradable or solar bikini to make your summer accoutrements more sustainable. Look for eco-friendly products like clothing, swimsuits, sandals, towels, and skin care. Each of them is a step in the right direction, and you might just fall in love with a product or style you never knew existed. Lots more to learn at How to Green Your Wardrobe.
Pick up a solar backpack or device like the Freeloader or the Solio to take with you on day trips. That way, whether you're at the beach or on the go you'll be able to run and recharge a wide range of portable devices on solar energy. Save a buck by cutting out the electric company and giving your rechargeables the solar power they deserve. More green power tips and a roundup of solar chargers and other products can be found here.
8. No poison, please
Remember those carefree days of running alongside the DDT truck as it sprayed the happy townspeople and iced all the bugs? Well, we're a little smarter now, so use products like garlic barrier to ward off mosquitoes. Traditional products certainly do the job, but they can end up turning your backyard into a deathtrap for every other kind of living thing that drops by for a visit. That means birds, butterflies, ladybugs, and even the family dog gets an unhealthy dose. Not to mention yourself, the kids, the neighbors' kids, and even your bratty nephew who lives down the block. Make sure to apply it when you think it won't rain for several days, and the garlic alternative should treat you right. Planting rosemary is a natural and low-tech way to block skeeters. Then there are always the big guns like the Mosquito Magnet.
9. Wet and wise
Water usage levels are a big deal throughout much of the U.S. and the summer drought season can really make things tough. Be certain to watch what you use, water plants only when necessary, and take a few minutes to install a low-flow showerhead. They're simple steps that can make a big difference. For more, check out How to Green Your Water.
10. The greener road
Have to travel long distances to arrive at your dream destination this summer? Consider making it by road or rail rather than by plane, but be sure to offset your carbon emissions no matter what mode of transportation you choose. Companies and non-profit groups like Terrapass, Climate Care, MyClimate, Native Energy, and American Forests all offer ways to offset the damage done when you pick up and travel to places unknown. How to Green Your Carbon Offsets is a great launch pad.