6 Ways to Green Your Summer Trip

summer-vacationSummer is in full swing and I hope your family is taking advantage of the warm weather and break from school to take a trip together! With all of the travel, eating away from home, and sightseeing, vacations can leave quite the carbon footprint. Here are 6 tips to help you make green choices on your summer trip.

  1. Travel locally
    Traveling closer to home (or taking a staycation) cuts down on fuel and emissions—not to mention the expense involved with longer car trips and flights. Who knows, you might just discover your new favorite getaway a few towns over!
  2. Rent a Hybrid
    Many car rental companies now offer the option to rent a Prius or other compact hybrid. Even if you don’t see a hybrid option when booking online, many companies have one or two on hand that you can ask for when you go to pick up your rental. Hybrids are quiet and cut down on fuel cost and waste immensely and are a great choice if you’re taking a sight-seeing road trip.
  3. Stay at a Green Hotel
    There is a growing number smaller hotels and B&B’s choosing to become Green Certified. The Green Certification process evaluates the hotel’s overall carbon footprint and what choices they are making to positively impact the environment as well as to minimize their otherwise negative impact. Areas evaluated include energy and water conservation, solid waste management, indoor air quality, building infrastructure, and community outreach, to name a few. Most green hotels that offer meals also buy organic and local.
  4. Eat Locally
    Isn’t it wonderful that you can travel to almost any city in the US and find a farmer’s market—or at least a local fruit stand? Since I live in the high desert of Colorado I love sampling local fruits and vegetables when I travel to states at lower elevation or with a more humid climate. I’ll never forget eating dozens of peaches in one sitting on a visit to Mississippi or a crate of strawberries in California! Put your money towards local business and sustainable living by picking up a few meals or snacks at the farmer’s market or small, local grocer on your next vacation.
  5. Explore the Local Environment
    One of my favorite things about vacation is the variety of trees, flowers, and animals native to the state I’m visiting. Exploring new environments is especially valuable when traveling with kids, who can learn about different species and ecosystems and by doing so appreciate and protect them better. States with protected open space or forests sometimes offer tours of wildlife sanctuaries—a fun, educational choice for families.
  6. Leave No Trace
    Whether you’re roughing it back country camping or staying in an upscale hotel on your vacation, the 7 principles of Leave No Trace are helpful guidelines to bring and follow. Don’t forget to educate kids about their impact on the places you visit!

YOUR TURN: What green tips does your family have for vacationing this summer?

6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy and Safe this Summer

During the summer, your pet may be spending more time outdoors and might even take a few road trips with you. Keep your pooch happy and safe this summer by incorporating these pet and eco-friendly tips into your summer routine. These tips will keep your best friend comfortable and safe during the dog days of summer.

1. Hydration Station:
A simple fact is – a hydrated dog is a happy dog. Keeping Fido hydrated during the summer months is especially important – remember they are wearing a fur coat! Keep several dishes of fresh, clean water throughout your home and outside areas. Also, remember when you are out for the day or traveling, offer your pet fresh water on a continuous basis.

2. Give that Dog a Pool? 
Many dogs love to get wet and a great way to keep them hydrated when you are outside as a family is with a wading pool. Or, better yet, if you live near a natural body of water, why not take your dog with you for a little water fun! Just remember that not all dogs are good swimmers – keep an eye on them at all times.

3. Make it Portable
If your travel plans or daily outings include taking your dog along with you, don’t forget your pet’s essential supplies. There are many great eco-friendly on-the-go dog supplies that making taking your dog with a snap. Don’t forget the collar (with I.D.), leash, biodegradable poop bags, food, water, and feeding dishes.

4. Just Say NO – to Cars
I know it can be tempting to take Fido with you when you just have a few errands to run. However, this is an absolute no-no, especially on summer days. The inside of a car can heat up to deadly temperatures in the matter of a few minutes. Also, studies show that leaving the windows cracked or partially rolled down does nothing to save your pet from the summer heat. It is simply too hot for them!

5. Think of Hot Paws
When taking your dog on summer walks, remember that hot concrete and blacktop do not mix with dog paws.  Especially the paws of dogs that spend the majority of their lives indoors. Instead, choose a grassy route for your walk or wait until the early morning or evening hours to take your best friend on a walk.

6. Keep Them Updated
One of the worst feelings can be losing your pet. Regardless of how careful you are, accidents do happen. Remember to never take your pet outside of your home without their collar and I.D. on. This simple act can be the difference between having your beloved friend returned immediately if lost and never seeing them again. It is definitely worth the few seconds that it takes to snap their collar on before taking them outside.

How do you keep your dog happy and safe during the hot months of summer?

How to Make Your Next Summer Shindig a Lot More Eco-Friendly

Many families have embraced an eco-conscious lifestyle. But when throwing a party, sometimes convenience takes precedence over preserving the planet. It’s so easy to go out to the store and purchase processed foods, plastic cutlery, and packaged paper plates that considering the alternative doesn’t always seem all that alluring. However, it might actually be easier — and more fun — than you’d think to throw a green get-together. Here are some of our favorite tips for making sure your next summer soiree, backyard barbecue, or birthday party will be as eco-friendly as possible.

Choose the Right Location

One of the most energy-efficient ways to host a get-together is to take advantage of natural lighting. That means heading into the great outdoors. Whether you choose your backyard or a local park, you can keep your energy usage low and be surrounded by the beauty of nature all at once. Remember that by choosing a local location and encouraging guests to carpool (or use greener forms of transportation), you’ll create a more eco-friendly environment from the start.

Opt for Digital Invitations

In the digital age, it’s become a lot more commonplace to skip paper invitations and send invites via email or Facebook. While some traditionalists may scoff, the truth is that this is a lot less wasteful and is now a generally accepted practice. If you want something a bit more special than a Facebook event, there are specific sites that will send invitations of your choice and even track RSVPs for you. And if you feel you really can’t do without paper invitations, make sure to construct them out of recycled materials and encourage recipients to recycle them once they’ve told you whether they can attend.

Be Thoughtful With Your Decorations

When you’re decorating for a party, the decorations tend to be pretty standard across the board: tablecloths and toppers, streamers, banners, flowers, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of those items tend to be thrown away after the party’s over. But by using reusable decorations and natural elements, you can be a lot less wasteful and make your party place look incredible. Use linen tablecloths and napkins that can be washed and used year after year or opt for recyclable brown paper that the kids can decorate with crayons. Use fresh flowers, branches, shells, and stones from your own garden to decorate the table. Instead of balloons, get some reusable bunting, make banners and chains from construction paper, or create pom-poms out of tissue paper or yarn that you can reuse. If you can, forgo electric lighting in favor of candles in mason jars or other glass containers.

Reuse Your Tableware

Plastic cutlery and plates are a ubiquitous sight at many a get-together, but they don’t have to be. By using real dishes instead of plastic ones, you’ll be able to wash and reuse over and over. If you’re worried about breakable plates and glasses, you do have some alternatives to disposable plastic or melamine. Sterling silver tableware (which is an alloy that usually consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper) can be a good option, as can recyclable paper products or disposable wooden cutlery. Some hosts might even consider asking guests to BYOP or BYOC (bring your own plates or cups) to cut down on waste. If you need to use straws, get some reusable crazy straws (or invest in metal or biodegradable ones) instead of plastic. For any items that do need to be thrown away, get some eco-friendly garbage bags to make clean-up a bit easier. And be sure to set up a recycling bin or a tub for reusable items.

Get Creative With Party Favors

If you want to send your guests home with some party favors, don’t go for plastic goody bags or junky toys. The typical American home already has 300,000 items inside, so you don’t want to add to the unnecessary clutter or have your gifts end up in the garbage. Get your hands on paper or cloth bags and fill them with useful gifts like chalk, pens, puzzles, books, plant seeds, small notebooks, wooden toys, or even some homemade or local treats. Make sure to wrap any leftover food in recyclable materials!

Pick the Right Food and Drink

In general, cooking outside is usually a good way to go, particularly if you use a gas grill (which uses less energy and gives off fewer pollutants than charcoal versions). Whenever possible, choose homemade foods over processed ones. Buy fresh, local foods from your local farmer’s market to ensure the highest level of eco-friendliness. Typically, the more veggies the better — they come with a reduced environmental impact and are a bit easier to incorporate into meals when there’s a lot left over. Instead of bottled water, opt for refillable pitchers or serve juice in old jam jars. Try to think mobile whenever you can; the fewer plates and forks that have to be used, the less clean-up you’ll have to do (and therefore, the less water you’ll need to waste).

Throwing an eco-friendly party may not be the easiest endeavor, but it’ll end up being a lot more fun than you think. Plus, you’ll encourage your friends and neighbors to think twice about their environmental impact, too.

6 Eco Friendly Tips for a Great Green Summer

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It’s summer, summer, summertime! With summertime comes hot days, cool treats and lots of fun in the sun with your family. Before you hit the road for a hot sunny day at the beach, park or BBQ, check out my six favorite eco-friendly tips for a great green summer. The best part, most of them are free and will only make your summer more enjoyable, read on.

1. Get Outside
It’s much nicer to cool off outside than it is to sit inside with the air conditioning on high. Hit your local beach, lake, or pool and cool off in the waves. Also, it’s a good idea to keep your shades drawn during the hottest parts of the day and use the reverse function on your ceiling fans to circulate the air to keep your home cool.

2. Go Local 
You don’t have to go far from home this summer to have a wonderful time. Take advantage of summer time by exploring your local community – hit a park that you have never ventured to before, find a new secret beach for the first time or check out the local farmer’s market and pick up tonight’s dinner.

3. Stay Hydrated
Long hot days mean that you and your family will need lots of fluids to stay hydrated. Instead of stopping to buy a drink whenever you are thirsty, keep your reusable bottles with you. I am enjoying my Vapur water bottle, it is easy to roll up and throw into my handbag or pocket until I need it. Summer is also the perfect time to make your own fruit and vegetable infused waters and homemade ice pops.

4. Stay Protected
Keep yourself and your family protected from the sun with all-natural sunscreen. I think it is a good idea to have one on hand at all times. I like to keep one in my handbag, beach bag, car, and even one by the door making it easy to grab on the way out to the pool.

5. Green Your Bikini
If you are in the market for a new swimsuit this year, consider purchasing an eco-friendly one. EcoSwim has a fantastic selection of swimsuits for women. You may also find a great selection at your local eco-friendly stores or Etsy shops.

6. Go Solar
Summertime is the perfect time to take advantage of all that sunshine. Consider using a solar charger to recharge your portable devices when out for a day of fun in the sun. We have a solar charger that we use whenever we go backpacking or camping, it is great for charging up our cell phones and extra battery packs for the RV.

What ways are you going and staying green this summer?

9 Eco-Friendly Summer Outings for Kids

9 Summer Eco Activities for Kids

Now that summer break is in full swing – you may be looking for some fun activities that will get your kids out of the house. Green outings are a great way to get you kids involved in the environment and add a little more excitement to long summer days. Here are 9 of my favorite eco-friendly summer outings for kids.

1. Local Farms
A farm is a great outing to show your children how our food is grown and harvested. They can see which fruits and vegetables grow in your area and can also have a hands on experience with a farm animal. Many local farms have classes that allow the kids to milk a cow, collect eggs from the hens, feed the goats and sheep, and ride a horse. You could also visit a fruit farm such as a strawberry patch and spend the day picking strawberries, find a nice place to sit, wash the berries and enjoy on the spot with whipped topping that you packed.

2. Nature and Science Museums
Our local nature and science museum offers exhibits that allow the children to see, touch and even climb on parts of their environment. We recently experienced fabulous exhibits on natural disasters and your health. At these particular exhibits, you could see the effects that a natural disaster has on our environment and the other showed what your face may look like as you age. You can also check out an IMAX – it’s always a super fun time.

3. Butterfly Pavilion
Visit a butterfly pavilion and experience free flying butterflies, birds, subtropical and tropical flowers, plants and trees. We love the butterfly pavilion, and could spend hours there looking at the butterflies up close and personal.

4. Zoo
Your local zoo may offer a junior zookeeper program where your child can learn about caring for the animals as well as learn about their natural environments and any threats that they face. This is an amazing experience for children who are especially interested in animals and show interest in growing up to work with them as a career.

5. Nature Preserves
Your local nature preserve may offer guided tours to learn about the animals that live there and many offer classes as well. You can also simply pack your binoculars and camera and then hit the trail for an afternoon of animal sight seeing.

6. Library
Your local library is stocked with information about the environment that your children will love. When Eben was younger he always enjoyed checking out issues of Ranger Rick and National Geographic Kids. His favorite part of our library, by far, is the window seats, it’s a great place to hang out and read – he could spend a lifetime there.

7. Botanical Gardens
Visit your local botanical gardens and learn about native plants, trees and flowers. Our botanical gardens has a great exotic frog exhibit which Eben loves. Many offer classes and have ample space for an outdoor picnic. While you are there, look closely for bugs and birds – don’t forget your magnifying glass and camera.

8. Hike and Swim
No matter where you live there is somewhere outside where  you can explore. Whether it is a park or hiking trail, let the kids look in nooks and crannies and climb on the rocks. If you live in a n area where you can take a long nature hike, pack a lunch and enjoy it next to a watering hole where the kids can take a swim.

9. Your Own Backyard
If you want to stay close to home, take a walk around your neighborhood or local park. Prepare a nature scavenger hunt for the kids by writing down several items on a piece of paper, give each of your children a pencil and a bucket and collect the items found on the list, such as a leaf, rock, flower, feather, etc;. This is tons of fun and gets them looking for items they may have usually overlooked.

What are your green outing plans for this summer?