Summer Sustainability Challenge: 31 Green Habits to Adopt Today

Summer is here again, and that means school breaks, pool parties and maybe some time away from the office. This season is the perfect time to pick up some new habits that shrink your carbon footprint at home and away. Challenge your friends, your family and yourself to add some – or all – of these Earth-conscious practices to your activities this summer!

  • Choose reusable dishes and utensils. Cut down on waste at your backyard party by eliminating paper plates and plastic cutlery.
  • Light candles and grills with matches. Unlike lighters, matches don’t add plastic to the waste stream after use. Be sure to dispose of them safely, especially in hot, dry weather, since a single spark can cause a forest or grass fire!
  • Avoid bottled water. A filtered pitcher of water can help your guests stay hydrated and avoid single-use plastics.
  • Keep a recycle bin ready. Guests are more likely to keep it green if they see a clearly marked container where they can toss their recyclable items.
  • Grow your own food. It’s fun, and nothing tastes better than herbs and produce you planted and nurtured yourself.
  • Use vegetable scraps to make homemade veggie broth, then compost them. Your garden will thank you!
  • Try going meatless once a week. Plant-based recipes are a light, eco-friendly alternative for hot summer months.
  • Choose local, in-season produce. Buying from your local farmers’ market cuts down on food transportation costs and supports small farms.
  • Use cloth napkins. Paper napkins can be expensive and Use can’t be recycled with oil or grease on them.
  • Enjoy a bike ride. Why drive when you can get exercise, keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, and see the sights along the way?
  • Use sustainable sun protection. Be sure your sunscreen is safe for marine life, and wear UV-protective clothing.
  • Try a staycation. Day trips or exploring your hometown can cut down your carbon footprint. Avoid flights or long drives and take public transportation if you can.
  • Buy a solar charger. Don’t miss any fun summer photos – let the sun charge your phone or tablet while you’re away from home!
  • Bring reusable bags. Most stores appreciate it when you provide your own bags for everything from groceries to souvenirs. (Bonus points if you are buying from Fair Trade Certified™ retailers!)
  • Plant a tree. This family-friendly activity is good for the environment and brings you closer to nature. In the right location, a tree can provide shade and cut down on energy costs.
  • Water early (or late). Watering your lawn or running sprinklers in the early morning or late evening helps it absorb water without the sun’s impact.
  • Use a pool cover. You’ll keep it cleaner and warmer, and cut down on evaporation, saving water and energy.
  • Do a feathered friend a favor. Birds play many helpful roles in our ecosystem, and feeding and protecting them is good for everyone.
  • Choose natural pest control. Research pest-deterring plants (like rosemary or lavender) and essential oils to keep bugs away without chemicals.
  • Set your thermostat to at least 74 when you’re home. For maximum energy efficiency, set it to the Energy Star-recommended temperature of 78.
  • Turn the temperature up when you leave. If no people or pets will be at home for several hours, set the thermostat a few degrees warmer than usual.
  • Save effort with a programmable thermostat. You won’t have to remember to adjust the temperature throughout the day.
  • Give your ventilation system a checkup. Have your air conditioning unit inspected and replace or clean any air filters.
  • Seal air leaks around doors and windows. Weather stripping can lower both your HVAC system’s workload and your energy bill.
  • Use the extra sunlight. Open your curtains and blinds so you can turn on fewer lights during the day.
  • Use rechargeable batteries. These save money, and you won’t have to recycle your batteries often.
  • Handle electronics and e-waste sustainably. Donate unwanted electronics that still work and recycle the ones that don’t.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Washing a full load of laundry in cooler water uses up to 90% less energy than a hot-water load.
  • Hang laundry outside to dry. You’ll lower your electricity consumption and have fresh-smelling clothes.
  • Load the dishwasher. Believe it or not, when full, it uses less water than washing dishes in the sink. Turn off heated drying and dry by hand to use less electricity.
  • Power your home with renewable energy. One of the biggest impacts you can make is choosing sustainable electricity from renewable sources.

You and your loved ones may want to make the Summer Sustainability Challenge into an actual contest, with prizes for those who’ve gone the greenest … or you may simply want to challenge yourself to do a little extra each day. No matter what you choose, you’re a winner every time you make a choice to save energy and natural resources, because you’re helping to make the Earth a healthier place.

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