Ah summer, so fleeting, but oh so wonderful.
I love all of the seasons and I’m lucky to be able to experience all 4 of them here in New Jersey, but summer is one of my favorites. Partly because I have a lot of great memories from summer’s past, mostly random trips to the Jersey shore or hunting for ice cream. Summer remains for me a time to be more carefree. With summer also comes the desire to make memories that last without jeopardizing the planet or the wallet. With that, here are a few tips for making sure this summer is one you will remember. For more tips, head to my blog The Do Something Project.
Save Electricity and Get Outdoors
One of the best things about summer is the many different opportunities to hit the outdoors. Being outside is not only good for your physical and mental health, but also for the wallet.
I’m lucky enough to call New Jersey my home and we have access to over 130 miles of shoreline and access to many trails and parks so the list of things to do is endless.
When out and about, always turn the AC off. To keep your place cool, draw the blinds to keep the sun’s heat out, leave a fan on or a window open to circulate the air. This reduces the need for electricity, saving you money and reducing the need for resources. Go one step further and unplug unnecessary devices, specifically electronics that still generate heat and use up small bits of electricity.
Take advantage of natural light as well too. Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without turning on a light at home. Get kids involved to help “police” and help them understand that energy costs money.
Don’t forget that the more you move, the better it will be for your health and your future health bills. Being out in nature will also help you appreciate what Earth and your state and city has to offer.
Pause Your Cable and Head to the Library
Consider pausing your cable for the summer. Most companies have a vacation option where you pay a fee, but won’t have to pay for the full price of the cable subscription service. Ask and if you’ve been a longtime customer, negotiate to make this happen. If you are not home, this is a great way to save a few hundred dollars for a few months. Perhaps, you will get used to not having a cable and cancel it completely when the summer is over.
As an alternative, head to your library or other libraries nearby. I am a big fan of libraries, not only for books, but for everything else they offer. Our local library is fairly small, but it is networked with other town libraries so it provides us access to a wide variety of resources. We also download music, audio books, eBooks using their apps. Our library provides access to an online learning platform for language and other subjects for free. Ours also has a Museum Pass Program where you can get a pass for a nearby museum for free. It’s a great way to find entertainment for yourself and your family, all mostly for free. If you are open to venturing out, check out libraries in college towns. Take advantage of the AC and WiFi without being encouraged to spend money on anything. By hitting the library instead of the mall, we reduce the want to buy things which may ultimately lead to clutter, expense and waste. Hitting the library is a win-win!
Bike Around and Explore Neighborhoods
It would be great if all of us could go away all summer, but sometimes that is just not feasible. It’s still possible though to get a sense of adventure by participating in bike tours. Whether you come up with the route yourself, or you have a guide, or you have kids map it out, it’s a fun way to get the family together, get outside and do some exploring. This is a very inexpensive activity especially if you’ve got bikes lying around. If not, consider renting one for the summer.
Biking doesn’t produce any emissions, saves on gas and encourages physical activity. If you are in a neighborhood with family and friends, add stop routes so that you can say hello.
Skip the Disposables and Pack a Zero Waste Picnic
Summer means being out and about. Buying food outside the home can add up pretty quickly so be prepared and get your summer picnic gear ready to go. Unfortunately, disposables, specifically disposable plastic is a big threat to wildlife, rarely gets recycled and adds on to the landfill. Create your own zero waste picnic gear to reduce the waste that is produced. Start with reusable water bottles for you and the family. From there, focus on easy to carry and care for tableware and silverware. Shop at thrift shops so that you can reuse items. You won’t need a full kit from the get go, but identify what your family absolutely needs. Here’s a brief list:
- Picnic blanket (reuse a sheet)
- Reusable tableware/silverware
- A bag or basket to store everything in
- Storage containers
The next stop is figuring out what kind of food to bring. Perhaps, you can buy food items in large bulk and separating them it into smaller containers to take on your picnics. Check out the bulk section of your grocery stores for other snacks that you can purchase without any packaging. Consider stopping by a farmer’s market and buying in-season, local fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, grabbing a freshly baked bread and some cheese is all you need for a good time.
Get Thrifty with Your Summer Essentials
Summer can get expensive with the seemingly endless things to buy from beachwear, beach gear, outdoor gear, etc. Consider hitting the thrift stores, garage sales and your closets before buying anything new. Thrift stores have a great array of beach toys for kids. You’d be surprised at what’s already out there at a great discount. Need summer shirts? How about doing some DIY and cutting up extra large t-shirts into tanks. Perhaps, it’s time to finally re-purpose those jeans into shorts.
Keep in mind that we don’t always need everything new to enjoy the summer. A few key staples can go a long way. By getting thrifty, you can save lots of money and you can save some perfectly great items from going to the landfill.
In the end, remember that summer is all about the memories. This summer, I encourage you to do the things that make you happy, that bring you joy. Remember that living doesn’t have to cost too much. It's your memories, your life! Create a summer story and a summer memory that is sustainable for your wallet and for the planet.