Between moving to the hot, muggy Southeast and having children, I find myself spending a lot of time at the pool and the beach. And after awhile I found myself getting into a rut: Buying cheap plastic beach toys at the drugstore, stocking up on packaging-heavy, individually-wrapped snacks and juice boxes for the kids, choosing the cheapest sunscreen without checking the label for environmentally-questionable chemicals… the list goes on!
This summer, however, I’ve decided to overhaul my family’s swimming routine to make it a little more considerate of the environment, not to mention of our own personal health. Want to join me in making swimming season more eco-friendly? Here are some tips:
- Shop for eco-friendly sunscreen. The news surrounding sunscreens can be confusing and troubling when it comes to your health — for instance, some sunscreen ingredients contain a form of Vitamin A (look for retinal palmitate on the label) that some scientists say can lead to skin tumors and lesions when used in sunlight, while other ingredients can cause still more damage when absorbed into the skin — and what’s more, the runoff from chemical sunscreens has been known to harm marine life, too. The best bet? Take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s annual sunscreen guide and choose one with a review that makes you most comfortable.
- Pack smarter snacks. Pack your snacks or lunch in lightweight, reusable plastic containers so that you won’t have a lot of trash. We like cubed watermelon with a squeeze of lime, whole apples, popcorn, and almond butter and jelly sandwiches. Toting adult beverages? Opt for canned beer: The aluminum in cans is more easily recyclable and helps reduce fuel used during shipping, as it’s lightweight and more compact (so more can go at once!). Plus, most beaches and pools frown on glass containers.
- Green your beach toys. I stopped buying the cheap beach toys for my kids when I watched the handles of the pails fall off within minutes of hitting the beach, and the flimsy shovels buckle under a particularly heavy scoop of sand. Instead, I seek out recycled plastic or biodegradable toys, such as those from Zoe B Organic, which are made of corn-derived plastic and are biodegradable.
- Seek out responsible beachwear. Proper Green had some great tips recently on shopping for an eco-friendly swimsuit. The company Ecoswim, for instance, uses recycled materials like plastic bottles and nylon from industrial waste to make its fabric. The company also donates a portion of each sale to environmental causes.
And consider an upcycling project! You can use an old T-shirt or a men’s dress shirt to make yourself (or your kids) a swimsuit cover-up.
- Invest in a drying rack for suits and towels. I used to throw all the wet towels right into the dryer when we got home from the pool, but then I’d inevitably feel guilty about running the energy-hogging appliance so many times a week. This year, I’ve invested in a clothes-drying rack (in sustainable bamboo!) so that damp suits, towels and cover-ups can air-dry.
How do you make your trips to the beach or pool greener? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.