Summer introduces new challenges and opportunities for sustainability with dry weather, BBQ traditions and outdoor activities. Here’s how to stay green as the temperature rises.
- Take a road trip instead of a flight
Summer is a great time to get away and experience a new place, but the emissions of flying can be astounding. Just one round-trip flight from New York to California generates the equivalent of 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions of your car over a whole year. If possible, pick somewhere more nearby that you can drive to, or consider a staycation! You’ll have the added bonus and memories of a road trip, without the high carbon footprint. If you absolutely must fly, consider investing in carbon offsets.
- Volunteer for a beach clean up
Summer is best spent on the beach or at the park. Consider enjoying these places by participating in a trash clean-up to keep your favorite places beautiful. 1.9 billion tons of litter ends up in the ocean each year, and you never know what you might find buried in the vines (trust us – we know from experience!). Get matched with local volunteering opportunities near you with this search engine.
- Check out your local library rather than buying new
It’s time to break out your summer reading list, and your local library is a great option for “recycling” your used books and checking out new ones. Find your new favorite paperback for free, or opt for an e-book and swear off paper altogether! 3.09 billion books are sold annually in the US, which adds up to quite a lot of paper and trees used, but libraries and e-books offer a more sustainable option.
- Plant green
Hot summer days can mean a lot of thirsty plants. Consider replacing a dry lawn with drought-tolerant plants or a xeriscape to minimize water use, cut down your utility bill, and have a yard that looks beautiful all year round. The average American spends about 70 hours a year on lawn care, and xeriscaping can reduce up to 39% of summer water use.
- Get creative to stay cool
It’s easy to rack up energy bills and carbon emissions during hot summer months, but there are other ways to stay cool. Close your blinds during the day to keep the hot sun out, try fans instead of AC units, and open doors in your home when the sun goes down to create a draft that will cool your home naturally. In a typical home, air conditioning is 16% of the total electricity used, and uses 15-30 times more energy than a fan.
- Swap single-use for reusable to stay hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated in the summer months, and it can be easy to lose track of the plastic cups and bottles you use at festivals, summer concerts, cookouts, and barbecues. 38 billion water bottles end up in US landfills annually, and bottling water releases 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Keep your reusable water bottle by your side to stay hydrated while avoiding plastic at these events. Bonus: kids will love showing off what stickers they have on their bottle!
- Unwind and unplug
Summer is a great excuse to unplug and take a break from our devices and appliances. Use the additional sunlight to enjoy a book outside in the shade, play an outdoor game in your backyard, go for a nearby hike, or develop a new hobby. Allow your outlets to rest while you save money on power and lighting. In the average home, nearly 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is consumed by products that are switched off, but plugged in, so give your devices a break!
- Walk or bike instead of driving
As the weather warms, opt for a sunny stroll or bike ride. If the distance is less than 2 miles, make it a summer goal to walk or bike instead of driving. If by 2050 bikes and e-bikes made up 15% of travel, there would be an 11% reduction in carbon emissions. Reach a fitness goal while improving your well-being and reducing your impact!
- Eat your vegetables
Neighborhood cookouts and backyard barbecues are everywhere, but instead of grilling up the cheapest hamburgers and hotdogs, try a sustainable alternative. Grass-fed and antibiotic-free meats are a step in the right direction, while plant-based burgers and grilled veggies are healthier and delectable! Summer salads are also a great option to cool down while reducing your meat consumption. Eating a vegetarian meal one day a week saves the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles.
- Buy local
Summer also means plentiful farmers markets, so take advantage of farm-to-table prices and buy local. You’ll be reducing emissions and supporting your local community. Purchasing a meal from a conventional supermarket chain uses 4 to 17x more petroleum than a meal bought with local ingredients. Eating with the season will also challenge your inner chef while reducing your carbon footprint.