Special Report

20 Ways to Make Your Summer More Environmentally Friendly

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1. Avoid disposable products for outdoor cookouts and picnics

Using disposable plates, utensils, cups, and napkins may be a good choice for easy cleanup, but not when it comes to the environment. Summer brings with it numerous opportunities — from picnics to days at the beach to the classic BBQ — to use disposable eating tools. By making some minor changes to your next get-together, however, you can have a big impact on the Earth — and without giving up entirely on the convenience. Instead of plastic disposable products, you can use compostable disposable plates, wooden utensils, silicone cups, compostable trash bags, and reusable food wraps made from beeswax.

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2. Use reusable water bottles instead of disposable ones

As the temperatures rise, so does our need to stay hydrated, and in many cases so does our carbon footprint. It may be easier to just buy a bottle of water from the corner store, but all those disposable plastic bottles can take a toll on the wallet — and more importantly — the planet. Disposable plastic bottles produce almost 3 billion pounds of waste each year in America, impacting wildlife, air quality, and water supplies. With so many environmental and health benefits to stay hydrated, there are nearly unlimited options for water bottles on the market today — from chemically safe BPA-free plastic — to glass and stainless steel versions.

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3. Shop second hand

Garage and yard sales are popular in summer, and it’s also a good time to find a new home for your own clutter. Buying second hand is good for the environment. Fewer new items are being produced, which results in less water used, reduced waste, and fewer carbon emissions, according to a 2016 study.

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4. Clothesline dry laundry in summer sun

Hanging your laundry out to dry instead of using the dryer not only conserves energy and saves on your electric bill, but also has other benefits as well. Using a clothesline can save over $200 per year on your utility bills. The Department of Energy estimates that 4% of electricity used in the average home goes to drying laundry. For a better estimate, check out Energy.gov’s appliance and electronic energy use calculator. Reducing dryer use also has the added benefit of reducing the wear and tear on your clothing. Sunlight can even help bleach and disinfect laundry. And as an added bonus, you get to spend more time outdoors in the process.

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5. Pull down your shades during hot summer days

In the summer, we use different ways to cool our homes such as fans and air conditioning systems. But effective window coverings can go a long way towards lowering our energy use and our electric bill. During the higher temperature months, “76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat,” according to the Department of Energy. Some of the best options for keeping the sun out are drapes with a closed or open weave in a medium color, with a white plastic backing. The drapes should be hung as close to the window as possible. Shades also need to be mounted as close to the glass as possible within the window frame, and drawn all day. Awnings can reduce solar heat by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows, and they work best in light colors.