10 Tips for a Sustainable Summer
As warm days are finally here, people are planning their summer holidays. Whether you are going on a camping trip, a holiday at the beach, or are simply going to stay at home, you should always bear in mind that all your actions have an environmental impact. These tips might help you reduce your environmental footprint, while enjoying the summer sunshine.
1. Stay hydrated with a reusable bottle
It is essential to stay hydrated in the heat of summer days. Nonetheless, try to avoid buying plastic bottles. Every minute, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased worldwide (1).
Ditch single-use plastic bottles and use a reusable bottle instead! There are many designs in different sizes and shapes out there that you have plenty of options to choose from. Here, the New York Times suggests a few hand picked selections of reusable bottles you can purchase (2).
2. Choose organic sun protection
As the sun shines throughout the summer season, protecting your skin is a priority, and thus selecting a good sunscreen is key. Do not just select any sunscreen, but rather choose a non-toxic sunscreen that is not polluting your skin or the environment. Choose a clean formula that does not contain certain toxic chemicals such as octinoxate and oxybenzone which can pollute the seas and marine life.
Instead, opt for some mineral-based sunblocks which only contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. The switch should be easy as there are now many eco-conscious brands for sunscreen including Unsun, Coola, SunBum, CoTZ and Supergoop!.
Some destinations have even outlawed toxic sunscreens from being sold in the area to protect their ecosystem. These include Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Palau and Aruba (3).
3. Opt for sustainable swimwear
Most swimwear options are made from materials that are low in quality and bad for the environment as well. In fact, it is almost impossible to find swimwear made without synthetic fiber, such as nylon and polyester, which shed plastic microfibers into the water when washed and make their way into the ocean.
So instead of purchasing a swimwear that will end up in the landfill after a few uses, choose a sustainable swimwear option to splash into the summer! Here are a few brands committed to give you an eco-conscious solution.
Halla Halla is the first sustainable swimwear brand in Finland. It uses fabrics from recycled marine debris such as fishing nets, carpet flooring, fabric scraps and plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. Maline is a swimwear brand made in France. All pieces are made from recycled polyamide, certified OEKO-TEX100. The brand Reset Priority offers ethical, elegant and timeless bikinis for women. They are all vegan, made in Spain with recycled materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
RoundRivers collects plastic from the Limmat river in Zurich and turns it into upcycled swimwear. Collections are for both men and women.
4. Turn that AC off!
As temperatures are rising, people usually spring for the AC. Instead, here are a few alternatives that can still keep you cool as a cucumber.
Use fans instead of your air conditioner. You can also lower your awnings (or slightly close your blinds) to block the sun out. Indeed, these are super effective at cooling your home. If they are placed on a south-facing window, they can trim the heat up to 65%. If you have them on a west-facing window, this is even more effective as heat can be reduced by 77% (4). At night, you can open the windows to let the cool air in.
Another, more long-term solution, you can try, is to paint your roof. A new research from Yale suggests that a white roof can reflect 30% of the sunlight and thus reduce radiation heating in your home by the same amount (5). Turn that AC off, the planet will thank you, and your wallet too!
5. Use natural mosquito repellents
Summer is great! The sun sets late, it's hot, so you can go out for a drink and dinner on the terrace. Then suddenly, the drama begins: hordes of mosquitoes sneak up on you, to bite you again and again. Of course, you can protect yourself from these by purchasing the repellents found at drugstores and supermarkets. But do you really want to expose yourself to the dangerous chemicals they contain? Do you know that there are sustainable and natural alternatives?
Focus on the virtues of certain plants that you can place in your garden, your terrace or your balcony to repel mosquitoes naturally. Lavender, calendula, eucalyptus and lemongrass, for instance, are a few species that can perfectly adorn your outdoor spaces and offer color and scents while acting as a natural barrier against mosquitoes.
Essential oils can also be an effective solution against mosquitoes. Java citronella, composed of more than 40% citronella and more than 20% geraniol, is a great insect repellent. These molecules disrupt the nervous system of insects, which prefer to stay away from them. Java citronella essential oil is particularly effective when diffused in the air. Place a few drops in your diffuser and leave to act. Repeat as often as necessary. You can also put a few drops of this lotion in candles to repel pests for a long time. When applied to the skin, the protection is complete for 3 to 4 hours. For direct use on exposed skin areas, dilute the required amount of Citronella Java essential oil with vegetable oil.
Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is also an oil that is powerful against mosquitoes. In addition, it is an outstanding anti-inflammatory, which will relieve any bites in no time. Peppermint oil, for example, contains alcohol and menthol that create a natural fumigant, a potent concoction that insects are aversive to. Other essential oils can be useful such as lavender, sweet basil, catnip, clary sage and tea tree (6).
If you think this is still not effective, you can try the Parakito solution, a mosquito repellent wristband which encompasses both the impregnation and chrono-diffusion of essential oils. The wristbands are rechargeable and have an efficiency that should work up to 10 hours per day. Finally, you can also invest in a mosquito net. If you place it over your windows or bed it can create a real physical barrier against mosquitoes.
6. Make eco-friendly barbecues
A barbecue is a great idea in summer to bring together family and friends. However, it is not the most environmentally friendly way to cook. In fact, the US Department of Energy estimated that the Fourth of July celebrations released approximately 225,000 metric tons of toxins in the air from barbecues alone (7)!
Luckily, there are a few ways to reduce your impact while planning your next barbecue.
One of the best ways to make your barbecue more eco-friendly is to swap meat for vegetarian alternatives. Indeed, don’t forget that meat remains one of the most polluting foods, especially beef. Making this swap can help to drastically reduce your carbon emissions and water footprint. Vegetarian tasty treats include vegetable and cheese skewers, smoky grilled aubergines or mushroom burgers. However, if you really wish to eat meat, ensure you purchase local produce and organic meat.
If you have an old school charcoal barbecue, consider upgrading to an outdoor electric grill instead (and if you can, powered by renewable energy). According to research, charcoal grills create around three times the amount of greenhouse emissions than popular gas grills.
7. Increase your active mobility
Summer is the perfect time to increase your active mobility, which means using modes of transport that use muscle power: walking, cycling or scootering. This is perfectly ecological as it emits no pollution, and it is also healthy and economical for you.
Walking has many health benefits. A 2019 study of more than 44,000 Canadians found that people living in more walkable neighborhoods had a lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease (8). Moreover, it allows for better memory and cognitive function and lowers stress while improving your mood.
So get out, walk around, enjoy the good weather, the landscapes and get some health benefits at the same time!
8. Choose your travelling destinations wisely
Whenever you plan your next holiday, consider these little tips that can make the difference.
Many of us want to go on holiday to the other side of the world, but that is definitely not very environmentally friendly. Indeed, a flight from Paris to Mexico City by plane emits 1.3 tons of CO2, which represents more CO2 that we should be creating in a year to respect the climate balance. Instead, maybe head to Spain, where you can still enjoy good weather and fine beaches. Choosing a destination that is closer is the greenest decision you can make for your holiday.
Also consider your modes of transportation to get there. Instead of taking the plane, opt for the train. Travelling by train is great as you can see a lot more of your destination while sitting comfortably! In Europe, if you select an Interrail Global Pass you can explore up to 33 European countries with one ticket that costs around 250 euros. Happy environment and happy wallet! If you do have to take a plane, look for a carrier that uses sustainable aviation biofuel like Qantas and KLM and choose a direct flight whenever possible. You can check out the environmental footprint of your flight here.
9. Wherever you go, respect the flora and fauna
Whether you go on holiday by the sea or in the mountains, be mindful of the nature that surrounds you. Protect the natural environment around you by keeping it clean and beautiful.
On the beach it is tempting to try to catch small crustaceans or to bring back shells, sand, and pebbles as a souvenir. But both animals and plants must be protected and preserved. They are an integral part of the ecosystem necessary for all life. Each species has an important role to play in this organisation.
In the mountains, eco-responsible gestures also apply. Picking flowers and disturbing animals are habits to avoid as they weaken the local ecosystem.
If you are travelling somewhere in the world where wildlife is the main attraction, make sure you respect the animals you see. Do not encourage cruel practices like self-portrait with wild animals or elephant rides! Make some research beforehand and make sure you book tours that promote animals’ well-being.
10. Take advantage of your summer to raise awareness
Take the opportunity of having some time off to raise your own awareness and that of your friends and family !
If you are around nature, take some time to understand the importance of our ecology and the ecosystem that surrounds us.
On top of that, if you are looking for some book suggestions for your vacation, opt for some reading choices that will increase your awareness on our current environmental impact such as How to Give up Plastic by Will McCallum or Sustainability Made Simple: Small Changes for Big Impact by Rosaly Byrd and Laurèn Demates.
There you have it, 10 simple eco-friendly tips to help you get through the summer. Now you can enjoy the rest of your summer while being mindful of the environment!
(1) UNEP, 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.unep.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
(2) Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World. 2021. The 8 Best Water Bottles. [online] Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-water-bottle/> [Accessed 23 July 2021].
(3) Conde Nast Traveler, 2021. These 7 Destinations Are Banning Certain Sunscreens. [online] Condé Nast Traveler. Available at: <https://www.cntraveler.com/story/these-destinations-are-banning-certain-sunscreens> [Accessed 20 July 2021].
(4) Stickler, B., 2018. These Green Alternatives To Air Conditioning May Surprise You. [online] Blue and Green Tomorrow. Available at: <https://blueandgreentomorrow.com/environment/green-alternatives-air-conditioning-may-surprise-you/> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
(5) Yale Environment 360. 2021. Urban Heat: Can White Roofs Help Cool World's Warming Cities?. [online] Available at: <https://e360.yale.edu/features/urban-heat-can-white-roofs-help-cool-the-worlds-warming-cities> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
(6) MONQ. 2021. How Essential Oils Can Be Used to Repel Mosquitos. [online] Available at: <https://monq.com/eo/essential-oils/essential-oil-guide/essential-oils-mosquitos/> [Accessed 20 July 2021].
(7) Environment 911. 2021. 5 Ways to Host a More Environmentally-friendly BBQ. [online] Available at: <https://www.environment911.org/5-Ways-to-Host-a-More-Environmentally-friendly-BBQ> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
(8) Consumer Reports. 2021. How to Get the Biggest Benefits of Walking. [online] Available at: <https://www.consumerreports.org/exercise-fitness/benefits-of-walking/> [Accessed 23 July 2021].