Special Report

20 Ways to Make Your Summer More Environmentally Friendly

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6. Eat less meat

Eating less meat may not only contribute to better overall health, but it is also good for the planet. A 2009 study found that 80% of the Amazon’s deforestation is linked to cattle ranching. More research, by University of Minnesota, published in the journal Nature, found evidence that our meat-eating habits contributes to deforestation, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and water shortages. But to make a big enough impact, the average person would need to eat 90% less pork, 75% less beef, and half the number of eggs they normally consume, according to the University of Minnesota researchers. If this reduction is too much, then a more modest recommendation is two 5-ounce servings of meat per week. Summer, with its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, is the perfect time to start.

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7. Eat local

Farmers markets and seasonal produce hit their peak during the summer. They are also a great way to eat healthy, while helping the environment. Unlike food you may find at the grocery store, eating locally will reduce the amount of energy spent to transport the goods. It’s estimated by the Council on the Environment of New York City that it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York. Eating organic also minimizes the impact on the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals that could contaminate the water or soil.

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8. Compost

About 30% of what we toss can be composted instead of ending up in landfills. When composted, food scraps and yard waste enriches the soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. It also reduces our carbon footprint by lowering methane emissions from landfills. The two categories of compost include browns (such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs) and greens (such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds). For a complete list of what to compost and what not check out the EPA’s website.

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9. Walk and bike more

Motor vehicles are responsible for close to 80% of carbon monoxide and 55% of nitrogen oxide emissions in America, according to the Healthiest State Initiative, a nonprofit organization working towards making Iowa the healthiest state in the country. As traffic continues to grow, our air quality will continue to decline. One way to combat this problem is to walk and bike more, especially considering that one-quarter of car trips are less than 1 mile in length. Summer is the perfect time to take up these environmentally-friendlier transportation methods, and they are also a great way to get exercise and positively impact your health.

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10. Find creative ways to conserve water

There are numerous ways to conserve water every day, from taking shorter showers to fixing leaking faucets. But there are ways that you may not be thinking of to save more H2O. This summer and beyond, you can get creative by collecting the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables to water your plants and shrubs. The same can be done with the old water your pet didn’t drink when you give it new water. Our lawns can turn brown in the summer, but it’s often wasteful to keep watering them to stay green. When the kids want to beat the heat, why not use the sprinkler to hydrate the lawn as well? Use the same idea to wash your pets outdoors on a brown patch of grass.