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Green Your Life: The Summer of Love (for Mama Earth)

Want to keep the earth cool while you’re in the heat, this summer? Our latest Green Your Life will green your summer with tons of tips, ideas and inspiration to keep your 2011 summer fun, beautiful and eco-friendly. After all, we want to keep having these beautiful summers for as long as we can.

Going Out

  • 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.
  • Pick 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.
  • A 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.
  • 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.
  • Get rid of the DDT! 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 anyone else in the wrong place at the wrong time.  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 mosquitoes.
  • Wear mineral-based sunscreen (look for zinc dioxide) to avoid unnecessary chemicals.
  • Have to travel long distances to arrive at your dream destination this summer? Think a road trip is not exactly eco-friendly? 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. 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.
  • 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.

  • Consider a “staycation.” A staycation is the perfect excuse to explore your home town, and it’s definitely the most eco-friendly option as most local destinations are within an hour’s drive.
  • Consider staying at an eco resort or eco-friendly hotel. You can use Travelocity’s website to book a green hotel. Or consider using to stay at a place with a kitchen which will save a lot of money, is healthier and is more environmentally friendly to cook your own food.
  • Take your own toiletries instead of using the small, wasteful hotel bottles. By taking your own favorite toiletries, this is the best way to ensure quality control of all the chemicals in the cheap bottle of shampoo/conditioner.
  • Pack lightly. The lighter you pack, the better for your body and the environment. The heavier the luggage in the trunk of the car or the airplane, the more fuel is needed to get to your destination.
  • Instead of renting a car at your final destination, consider utilizing public transportation or other modes of transportation, such as walking or biking. If you must rent a car, try to rent a hybrid model or a model that gets better gas mileage.
  • Volunteer for your vacation. Studies have shown that volunteering can play a role in increasing your sense of well-being, alleviating chronic pain and even reducing depression. And, your volunteer vacation may be tax-deductible to boot!
  • Support local restaurants that buy their food from local farmers rather than eating at a chain restaurant. Not only will you get more tasty, healthy food, you will also be supporting the local economy and environment.
  • Instead of buying cheap souvenir trinkets, most likely made in China, consider buying homemade keepsakes from local artists and businesses who have local products that will give you something that is truly reminiscent of your vacation destination.
  • When you do leave, don’t forget to unplug all of your appliances such as toasters, TV’s, blenders, DVD player, etc. before you leave for vacation. This will cut down greatly on “phantom” energy and save you money at the same time.

Camping can be the simplest and best way to get away.  When you do, utilize these tips to make it your greenest trip yet:

  • Use reusable dishes, cups, and utensils. Bamboo cutlery is a great green choice, since bamboo grows quickly and easily.
  • Stick with sleeping bags and tents rather than a motor home and a tent trailer. Go camping to experience the outdoors! It’ll have less of an impact on your wallet, and a smaller energy price tag to boot.
  • Try to make your camping trip completely gadget free: no portable PS2s, iPod Touches, mini DVD players, computers, or any of the millions of handheld devices out there.
  • Make foods that require little or no cooking: Salads, Sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables and many other dishes.
  • Recycle on your trip! Keep paper bags or bins around to divide up recycling. You can dispose of them appropriately once you leave your site.
  • Bring your own firewood to the site. Getting timber from around the campground might seem like a good idea, but it ends up taking away from the nutrients that these branches provide after decomposition.
  • But, make sure to buy your firewood locally, to avoid introducing any new species!
  • Stay within the boundaries of the campsite, and marked trails and paths. Wandering around too much in the forest creates openings for others to follow, and widens trampled areas.
  • Don’t burn plastic, metals, or woods that have been chemically treated.
  • Invest in crankable/solar powered flashlights, rechargeable batteries, or  LED lights wherever possible.
  • Don’t put soap into the water when washing dishes. Bring water to your site, and dump the dirty water in designated areas. Make sure to use biodegradable soap.

Staying Cool

  • 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.
  • Shut down the AC altogether, and open the window or turn on a fan. AC 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 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?
  • Hang a dampened sheet over the window, the moisture will evaporate the breeze therefore making it much more pleasantly cool.
  • Switch on that under appreciated ceiling fan or regular floor fan.
  • Keep windows open at night to let the cool night air circulate throughout the house.

  • Splash some cold water on your face will really help bring your core temperature down.
  • Put some damp cloths in the freezer and press them on your wrists and neck to help you stay cool. If you are about to go on a drive, bring along one of those cold cloths to put on your seat.
  • Buy a chill misting fan. They are cheap and really give you a splash of energy if you’re feeling hot and lethargic.
  • Freeze and eat some frozen fruit. They can quench your taste buds in the relentless heat. You can either eat the fruit by itself or make a delicious smoothie with some ice, yogurt, and a little milk.
  • Stick with light smaller meals that don’t require you to turn on that hot box (oven) that emanates heat into your place. You can fire up that grill and enjoy the summer chatting with friends keeping the heat outside.
  • Wear white or light colors since dark colors absorb more heat, making you hotter. It’s also great to wear natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and linen instead of synthetic polyester and rayon..
  • If you live alone or with your significant other why not throw on a bikini or walk around your house in your underwear or even in the nude =) One suggestion though, make sure to shut your blinds so your neighbors don’t get a show!
  • Watermelon is a very tasty snack to keep you cool and hydrated.
    Here’s a refreshing recipe to try on a hot summer day:
      • Watermelon Icee
      • 2 cups watermelon, cubed, and seeded
      • 4 large strawberries
      • 1/2 cup guava juice
      • 2 cups Ice
      • Place all ingredients listed in a blender. Blend until smooth and ice is completely crushed. Serve immediately or chill in the freezer for later use.
      • Number of Servings: 3
      • Prep/Cook Time: 5 Minutes

Grilling It Up

  • Propane burns much cleaner than either wood or charcoal briquettes. 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.
  • If you can’t resist charcoal, try a natural charcoal product –much cleaner than your traditional briquettes.
  • Avoid the use of lighter fluid. It may be faster, but there’s always a risk that the chemicals from the fluid may be seeping into your food. If you choose to use charcoal, lighter fluid shouldn’t be necessary with the right kind. Scrap paper, random bits of wood from your backyard, and a lot of patience are all that’s needed to get a successful grill going.
  • If you’re lacking on the patience end of things, try looking for an eco-friendly firestarter.
  • Of course, when you’re done grilling, use natural cleaning products such as organic grill cleaner to keep your summer as chemical-free as possible. Tests show they are 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.
  • There are a lot of environmentally safe cleaning products on the market, but scrubbing your grill with baking soda and water does just as good of a job (and won’t cost you an additional $10).
  • Just like camping, 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.

  • 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.
  • Pick up a Pot de Feur (Pot of Fire), it’s a handy grill-to-go made of recycled propane tanks.
  • Make sure that what you’re putting on the grill is good for the environment too. Buy organic meat and vegetables, preferably local.  Also, avoid anything with too much packaging.
  • Try living on The 100 Mile Diet. Only eat foods that come from 100 miles or less away from you.  The availability of local farmers markets and backyard gardens in summer should make it an easier proposition during this time of year.

Summer Shopping

  • We’ll say it again and again.  Buy food locally. 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.
  • 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.
  • Ride a bike to the store to run errands. Use a car as little as possible in order to keep down emissions. Find out the local public transportation routes and learn with your children where you can go on the bus or train.  
  • Upgrading to a new phone this summer? Recycle your old one: visit to get instant credit toward another phone or cash back. They also plant a tree for every cell phone that’s recycled!

Around the House

  • 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.
  • Water plants and lawns in the evening.  This is to avoid losing moisture to evaporation. Running through the hose or sprinkler in the twilight is a great way to wind up a long, hot day. 
  • Be certain to watch what you use, water plants only when necessary, and take a few minutes to install a low-flow showerhead.
  • 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!
  • Take advantage of the summer heat by hanging laundry to dry.
  • Living in an apartment? You can still have fresh herbs—plant a few of your favorite herbs in small pots and keep them on your windowsill.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles this summer: fill up a Brita pitcher and keep it in the fridge.
  • Keep your house cooler by installing energy-efficient light bulbs—they emit almost no heat.
  • Build a bird or bat house.  Watch to see who moves in. The birds and bats will help keep down the insect population in your yard during the summer – including the mosquitoes! 

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