How To Go Green: Summer

how to green your summer swimming diving photo

What's the Big Deal?

With the warm weather fully unfurled, you've got some free time and some hot days before you. That means time off to spend at the beach, with the kids, away on vacation, whatever... You've got backyard BBQs, ballgames, trips to the local zoo, and a whole lot more to squeeze in, but you're not so certain how to make sure your summer vacation is looking and feelings its greenest. So let's lotion up, put some beer on ice, and get down to business.

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1. Steppin' light

Find local activities with low environmental impacts like a trip to the local park, woods, zoo, ballgame, or beach with friends to relax. Time spent with friends and family can be a great way to catch up and have fun. Picking up that new book you've been meaning to read while lounging on the deck is another great way to pass the time and leave a smaller footprint behind. The Deathly Hallows ought to keep you busy for a little while. Once you've gotten out of the city, check out our guide on How to Green Your Outdoor Sports.

2. Cool and easy

Air conditioning can offer much-needed respite from the heat and can make sweaty nights bearable, but be sensitive to overuse. Turning up the thermostat a few degrees on your AC is a great way to save tons of cash while making the planet a cooler place at the same time.

3. Up in your grill

Love to BBQ? Propane burns much cleaner than either wood or charcoal briquettes. If you can't resist charcoal, try a natural product like those produced by Cowboy Charcoal--much cleaner than your traditional briquettes. Of course, when you're done grilling, use natural cleaning products such as SoyClean organic grill cleaner to keep your summer as chemical-free as possible. Tests show it's just as tough on grime as traditional cleaners, but won't leave that chemical residue behind to leach into your next burger or grilled tomato. Plus, if you want to give your neighbors something to gossip about, try a solar over from a company like Solar Cookers International. How to Green Your Meals has some tasty advise, as well.

4. The local roundup

Buy food locally. Farmers markets are great places to shop, and ensure that the veggies you're eating hot off the grill or mixed in a salad haven't traveled thousands of miles just to reach your plate. That cuts down on the use of fossil fuels, which leads to significantly reduced levels of pollution and resource depletion over your typical tomato bought at the local supermarket. Websites like Local Harvest can help you find one in your area, even if you've never seen one in your life.

5. The green plate special

Use reusable dishes rather than plastics or Styrofoam. If you absolutely must use disposables, make sure to pick up compostable varieties beforehand to put in the compost bin when you're through. For more, check out Where to Get This Stuff below.

6. Greenie bikini

You don't have to go so far as wearing a biodegradable or solar bikini to make your summer accoutrements more sustainable. Look for eco-friendly products like clothing, swimsuits, sandals, towels, and skin care. Each of them is a step in the right direction, and you might just fall in love with a product or style you never knew existed. Lots more to learn at How to Green Your Wardrobe.

7. Charge!

Pick up a solar backpack or device like the Freeloader or the Solio to take with you on day trips. That way, whether you're at the beach or on the go you'll be able to run and recharge a wide range of portable devices on solar energy. Save a buck by cutting out the electric company and giving your rechargeables the solar power they deserve. More green power tips and a roundup of solar chargers and other products can be found here.

8. No poison, please

Remember those carefree days of running alongside the DDT truck as it sprayed the happy townspeople and iced all the bugs? Well, we're a little smarter now, so use products like garlic barrier to ward off mosquitoes. Traditional products certainly do the job, but they can end up turning your backyard into a deathtrap for every other kind of living thing that drops by for a visit. That means birds, butterflies, ladybugs, and even the family dog gets an unhealthy dose. Not to mention yourself, the kids, the neighbors' kids, and even your bratty nephew who lives down the block. Make sure to apply it when you think it won't rain for several days, and the garlic alternative should treat you right. Planting rosemary is a natural and low-tech way to block skeeters. Then there are always the big guns like the Mosquito Magnet.

9. Wet and wise

Water usage levels are a big deal throughout much of the U.S. and the summer drought season can really make things tough. Be certain to watch what you use, water plants only when necessary, and take a few minutes to install a low-flow showerhead. They're simple steps that can make a big difference. For more, check out How to Green Your Water.

10. The greener road

Have to travel long distances to arrive at your dream destination this summer? Consider making it by road or rail rather than by plane, but be sure to offset your carbon emissions no matter what mode of transportation you choose. Companies and non-profit groups like Terrapass, Climate Care, MyClimate, Native Energy, and American Forests all offer ways to offset the damage done when you pick up and travel to places unknown. How to Green Your Carbon Offsets is a great launch pad.

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1. Take the 2 Mile Challenge! That means if your destination is equal to or less than 2 miles away, you leave the car in park and make it a walking trip. All summer, no exceptions, and you're guaranteed to lose weight while cutting down on pollution, your gas bill, and the climate crisis all at the same time. It's a toughie, but that's why they call it a challenge!

2. Shut down the AC altogether, and open the window or turn on a fan. ACs definitely suck up energy, ultimately leaving the planet a warmer place when the day is done. Other alternatives include stringing a hammock in the shade or just plain finding ways to work your schedule around the hottest part of the day. Have to make a dreaded trip to the grocery store? How about doing it during mid-afternoon when their AC is pumping anyway so you can give yours a nice, planet-cooling, cash-saving break?

3. How about "installing" a grass chair. Once it's grown you won't be able to move it considering the 240 liters of soil it needs, but you'll certainly be able to say that you're the proud owner of the greenest chair on the block!

4. Build your own solar oven. That way you can turn off the conventional one and the gas grill as well, cooling the planet while amazing your neighbors at the same time.

5. Pick up a Pot de Feur (Pot of Fire), it's a handy grill-to-go made of recycled propane tanks. They're a great way to fashionably promote recycling!

6. Try living on The 100 Mile Diet. The first ones to try it awhile back had a rough time during winter, but the availability of local farmers markets and backyard gardens in summer should make it a much easier proposition during this time of year.

7. How about using an evaporative or swamp cooler
to cool off?

8. Take some time to turn that old propane tank into art, and keep it out of the landfill when it's time to get a new one. In the meantime check out what artist Shirra Wall is doing, and see if it inspires you to tackle the challenge.

9. Cool your house with snow! Admittedly, you'll first need to gather a room filled with the white stuff that's roughly equivalent to the one you want to cool down, but it certainly sounds like a fun, wacky way to cool off! A slightly more attainable form of frozen cooling is the Ice Bear.

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1. In the U.S. about 63% of backyard BBQs are fired up with briquettes, but using them to cook up a standard hamburger results in 105 times more carbon monoxide than if you cooked it on a propane grill. Briquettes also give off a whole lot of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs when lit, and they're something we can all breathe easier without. (link)

2. More than 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, but less than 1 percent of it is actually drinkable. With much of that drying up through desertification or becoming too contaminated for human consumption, it's clear that rethinking old water-use habits is a really important part of greening the future. (link)

3. Think a road trip is not exactly eco-friendly? Well it may not be perfect, but according to Terrapass, a family of four heading from NYC to LA in their gas-guzzling 2007 Ford Explorer (4WD) would save 20,462 tons of CO2 over that same trip by air. Of course they may not be sane when they get there, but they'll certainly have done their part to help cool the planet!

4. A recent survey showed 67% of Americans stress the importance of eco-friendly travel, and more than half (65%) state that it would somewhat impact their decision to stay at a hotel if they knew it was using solar or wind energy. In the same survey, 63% of respondents said they would pay a little more to rent a hybrid vehicle or stay at a "green" hotel, and 52% said they'd be willing to donate a small portion of their vacation budget to protecting the environment when booking a trip. (link)

5. The ingredients for the average meal typically travel between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers, a 25 percent increase from 1980 alone. Ultimately, the average meal today uses up to 17 times more petroleum products and carbon dioxide emissions than an entirely local meal. (link)

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Check out our guide to grilling green, which offers everything you need to know to put together a greener cookout for friends and family this summer.

Intrigued by the latest and greatest technological feats of fashion? Then check out the solar bikini that made big waves on TH just a short time ago.

The Solar Backpack consistently gets rave reviews.
Also check out this review of the Freeloader. It's a tough, small, solar charger for when you're on the go.

Want to find out some of the top green tips for staying cool this summer? Then check out our guide to doing just that, and make sure to pass them along to friends and family as well!

Take some tips from our beloved TH interns who put together an extensive analysis on how to conserve water by cutting households water consumption in half. That's a great way to cut your water bill while relieving potential drought conditions at the same time.

Thought taking that extra firewood home from your campsite was the right thing to do? Think again, and then check out why you should make sure to burn it where you buy it.

Look to find hotels on the road that are at least trying to go green. Fairmont's Scottsdale Princess is one example that's striving to make a difference through a variety of eco-friendly tactics.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has put up a great post on how to cut back on the energy usage of your dryer. That saves energy, money, and carbon in the process. Alternatively, you could string up a clothesline and do things the old-fashioned way.

Not sure if the Mosquito Magnet is for you? Take a look at the review we did a while back and see if that helps make the decision any easier.

Warren McLaren has put together our How to Green Your Outdoor Sports guide. Make sure to check it out as the summer months are prime time for enjoying the great outdoors.

Ever considered installing "cool roof" technology? This post gives you the low-down on this terrific trend.

Give this round-up of small solar chargers a look if you're not convinced the solar backpack or Freeloader are what you're looking for.

Timberland seems to be improving their eco-friendly line of footwear, and Treehugger's own Kara DiCamillo fills you in right here.

Flat Tire Footwear uses crumb rubber from truck tires to help produce a greener line of footwear.

Soleo Organics Suncream can definitely help green your time in the sun.

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Lighter Footstep has an exhaustive list of tips to help cool your summer.

The Fun Times Guide has a terrific guide to help you grill green all summer long.

Road Trip USA gives some great opportunities for classic and scenic drives in America that might be terrific alternatives to taking the plane.

The Rain Barrel Guide offers bundles of information on how to get the most out of the practice of collecting and storing rainwater for future use.

Want to get involved in ecotourism? Check out the website of International Ecotourism. Not all eco-tourism packages are created equal, and some can really do damage to the place you're visiting. This site helps you determine the difference. is offering a North American Rail Pass for sale this summer valid for 30 days of consecutive travel on any Amtrak or VIA train route in North America. They've also got plenty of tips and ideas for traveling by rail almost anywhere you'll want to go this summer.

Natural Life Magazine has put together a brief guide to planning a green vacation that might help with the process.

Check out a site called Green Map for, not surprisingly, green maps around the world. Each one's been created locally with global sustainability in mind, and they may be able to help guide you to greener places this summer.

The Man in Seat 61 gives great tips and ideas for traveling overland comfortably where you just may have believed air was the only real option.

Check out the Green Hotel Association for a listing of member hotels, tips, and ideas for a greener travel experience.

Conservation International has a great carbon calculator to help determine your level of offsetting this summer. Give it a shot, and then take action!

The EPA has some great tips on their website for reducing this summer's waste stream, which is the best way to be sure it won't be here next year.

Readers offer their non-toxic mosquito repellant solutions.

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Air & Water, Inc.

American Forests

Clean Air Gardening

Climate Care

Cowboy Charcoal

Flat Tire Footwear


Garlic Barrier

Grass Chair

Local Harvest

Mosquito Magnet


Native Energy

Pot de Feur

Pristine Planet

Simple Shoes

Solar Backpack Voltaic Systems

Solar Cookers International

Solar Oven Society

Soleo Organics

Soy Clean

Tank Girl Art



How To Go Green: Summer
What's the Big Deal?With the warm weather fully unfurled, you've got some free time and some hot days before you. That means time off to spend at the beach, with the kids, away on vacation, whatever... You've got backyard BBQs, ballgames, trips to the

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