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8 Smart Ideas For A More Sustainable Summer

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Summer’s the time to take a break from routine, making it a great time to form new sustainability habits.


The days are longer, temperatures are warmer, and schedules are more relaxed. But even if your summer routine is a departure from what it is the rest of the year, it’s still important to practice green habits.


And in some cases it might even be easier — I tend to eat more locally when my neighborhood farmer’s market is in full swing. I’m also more likely to ride my bike to places in the summer when the weather is nice, and I have more time to get to my destination.


Here’s a summer edition of ways you can reduce waste, minimize your energy footprint, and lead a less toxic lifestyle throughout the warm-weather months.


1. Eat with the season



The most delicious way to be sustainable is to eat whatever fruits and vegetables are in season at the moment, especially if you buy those that are grown in your region. Local produce hasn’t been transported thousands of miles to your dinner plate, burning energy and polluting the air. Even regular supermarkets usually have a decent assortment of locally produced items, check the stickers or the signs to look for veggies that have been grown near you.


2. Grow your own herbs



I’ve given up on a full garden; the time it took to maintain wasn’t worth the few tomatoes I managed to harvest before the critters raided them. But the one thing that I — and anyone, for that matter — can grow in the summer is an assortment of herbs. You can find potted herbs at your local garden center or sometimes even in the produce department of the supermarket. I keep mine in pots on my front steps and water them regularly using the waste-water remaining in my family’s water glasses, travel bottles, and pet dishes. It’s so refreshing not to have to spend money on those wasteful little plastic containers at the store!


3. Dry laundry on the line



Take a cue from your grandmother while reducing your energy usage and dry your clothes on a clothesline on a sunny day. Running the dryer accounts for about 4 percent of a household’s energy use, and air-drying could also prolong the life of your garments by minimizing the wear caused by a dryer. I keep a drying rack on my porch to air-dry wet swimsuits and towels after a trip to the pool, rather than using the dryer.


4. Run a fan



In the days before central air conditioning, many people used an inexpensive box fan to cool off. On cooler summer days, you can turn off your HVAC system and do the same. Fans cost only pennies to run, in comparison with air conditioners, which are estimated to use about 6 percent of all the energy used in the United States. Some HVAC experts even suggest running a fan in tandem with your air conditioner, which enables you to turn the thermostat up a few degrees so the A/C is working less. Also make sure to adjust your thermostat upward while no one’s at home so you’re not cooling an empty house, and follow other habits to minimize your use of this energy-hogging appliance.


5. Double up on reusable bags



You’ve probably got a pretty sizeable collection of reusable bags for trips to the supermarket, but in the summer there are plenty of ways you can put these bags to other uses too. Use rinse-able vinyl bags to tote toys to the beach or pool. Pack a picnic or car snack in the insulated totes, and organize camping equipment or road-trip needs in various sized bags. In fact, there are plenty of other uses for these bags when you find your collection getting out of control, as I sometimes do!


6. Find a growler shop



Buying your favorite summer craft beer in cans is a better choice from an environmental standpoint, since aluminum is lighter to transport and less expensive to recycle than glass. But BPA-lined cans may be a concern. Even better than aluminum cans is finding a local growler shop and using their reusable bottles. If you prefer, there are insulated metal growlers that are great for camping, boating, or for around the pool. Either way, growlers are as sustainable as the reusable milk bottles of old. If you prefer wine, check to see if your area has a wine store that sells wine in growler form as well!


7. Stock up on safer sunscreen



I usually panic at the beginning of summer, weighing effective sunscreens against coral reef-killing and potentially carcinogenic toxins. But thankfully there are now plenty of affordable options that don’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate — two common hormone disruptors found in some sunscreens. In the sunscreen aisle, I always have the Environmental Working Group’s indispensible sunscreen guide, which is updated every year, on my phone’s web browser to make sure I’m making the safest decisions for my family and for the environment.


8. Ditch the car



With my kids out of school and very few obligations, I don’t feel like I’m in the rat race of school, sports, and meetings. But even those who are still working might feel like they’ve got more time since the days are longer and the weekends might be less scheduled. I like to take advantage of this more relaxed routine on pleasant days and walk or bike to restaurants or events, or to run errands. The rest of the year, I can easily talk myself out of it, thinking I don’t have time, or the weather isn’t nice enough, but when I have the time and the weather is right, it really makes for an enjoyable way to get around. Take advantage of the opportunity to exercise and to keep your car off the street!


Summer is a good change to take a break from plenty of routines, but it’s also an opportunity to establish new routines and habits when it comes to living more sustainably.




What are your plans for a more sustainable summer? Share them in the comments!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Vanessa K. 20 days ago
    We implement most of the ideas mentioned here, including using our semi-clean waste-water to water both our indoor and outdoor plants. But am I the only one who thinks that using waste-water ( particularly from pet dishes) on plants you and your family will consume, may not be the most sanitary of choices?
    • Gina G. 13 days ago
      I would only use the runoff water for house plants and outside plants that are not meant for the table.
  • Lorraine B. 1 month ago
    I do most of all . these are all good ideas thank you
  • Clovia D. 8 months ago
    The township that I reside in outlaws having a laundry line outside! I have gone as far as putting an umbrella clothing line up out of site. Just to save on my carbon footprint. Also, I'm not permitted to collect rain water for my extensive garden. I have a 2 bay compost bin and they don't mind that.
    • Gina G. 13 days ago
      It sounds like you are living with horrible condominium sort of rules and regs. I get that some don't like the laundry line blocking their scenery. I also think some put up some creepy things on the line. The water may be due to those who don't make sure mosquitoes and other bugs don't breed. I bet you could collect rain water out of sight too. Just use it asap.
  • ALEX R. 1 year ago
    Very useful info!
  • Michele Z. 1 year ago
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