Ah, summer. Whether it’s boating on a lake or lounging on the beach, hiking a National Park or diving into pools, summer is all about being in nature. But while summer is the time when we’re outdoors the most, it’s also the time when our energy use and outdoor activities do the most harm to the environment. So in order to enjoy your summer while protecting Mother Nature, here are five quick-and-easy tips for greening your summer fun.
1. Regulate Your Air Conditioning With Smart Technology
According to the polling site Five Thirty Eight, America’s energy consumption balloons in the summer, reaching some 33 percent higher than in the spring or fall. And the number-one driver of this peak use is air conditioners. But thanks to modern technology, controlling your AC use is as easy as the touch of a button. With a programmable smart thermostat, you can set your air conditioner to turn off while you’re at work, at play, or on vacation, then turn on shortly before you arrive home. And with a desktop or mobile app, you can adjust your settings from wherever you are – and even earn reward points from your energy company.
2. Make a Pledge to Stop Using Plastic Party Supplies
There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned summer barbeque. But while you can always count on at least one guest asking you to hold the relish, here’s something else it would be great to hold: plastic party supplies. Americans use some 40 billion (that’s right, billion) plastic utensils every year, most for five minutes or less. Add to that the 780,000 tons of plastic and Styrofoam cups we toss casually away and we’re talking some serious waste, especially since recycling is often more complicated than we think. An alternative is to stock up on an extra set of dishware and cutlery from a secondhand store; a little bit of extra washing, sure, but a big savings for the environment – and your wallet.
3. Use Reef-Safe Sunblock
Protecting yourself from the harmful effects of the sun is important. Unfortunately, according to The New York Times, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen wind up in our oceans every year, with the most damage being done to fragile coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean. Fortunately, there are a variety of alternatives on the market, called mineral or physical sunblocks, that do not contain the coral-bleaching chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. That’s good news for your skin – and even better news for the oceans.
4. Practice Catch-and-Release Fishing
Simply put, catch-and-release is the practice of letting your fish go once you’ve caught it. When done correctly, with rods and reels that do not exhaust the fish together with the use of barbless hooks, survival rates can be as high as 90 percent or more. Like anything else, catch-and-release is a technique that must be learned, but you’ll be doing your part to protect native species without having to give up the fun of fishing.
5. Organize a Staycation
Although the weather may be on your side, summer may in fact be one of the worst times to travel – as anyone who’s ever sat in a Sunday-night traﬃc jam to get back into the city can attest. And while we’d never advocate giving up the joys of travel, there’s also a great deal to be said for getting reacquainted with yourself, your home, and your local area. And with air travel making up 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and long-distance car travel not far behind, staycations are amongst the single most environmentally friendly things you can do with your summer free time.
Going green doesn’t have to mean major lifestyle changes. Just committing to a few easy tweaks in your routine can do wonders for the environment – and your sense of pride.
Living more sustainably is not only a task for the warm-weather months: for a list of great New Year’s resolutions that will help the environment all year long, click here.