Summer is one of our favorite seasons here at Dorai—and for good reason. The days are longer, school is out, it’s a great time to take vacation, host barbecues, and get outside. But with all this extra travel, entertaining, and fun come ways to consider our impact on the environment. Luckily, making more sustainable choices this summer is easier than you might think. Here are our top tips for a more sustainable summer.
1. Visit the Farmer’s Market
You’ve probably heard the phrase “buy local,” but how is that better for the environment? The most simple answer: when you buy food that’s grown in your area, it doesn’t have to travel far to get to you, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, conventionally produced food is estimated to travel about 1500 miles from farm to plate, while the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 defines locally grown as “being transported less than 400 miles, or from within the state in which it is produced.”
In addition, smaller farms tend to practice biodiversity—the variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms—which leads to healthier soil and less impact on the local ecosystem, and use fewer pesticides, a win for our health and the environment. Oh, and because food at your local farmer’s market doesn’t need to be genetically modified to withstand extended periods of transportation, it’s usually fresher and more flavorful than produce from far away.
Haven’t shopped at a farmer’s market before? Read our farmer’s market shopping list for some ideas on what to buy.
2. Embrace Reusables
This one can be a challenge—especially in the summer when barbecues and picnics abound. It often seems easier to opt for disposable utensils, plastic bottles, sandwich bags, and paper towels. Fortunately, pretty much any single-use item now has a reusable alternative. With a little bit of planning, you can drastically reduce the amount of single-use items you use as a household. Plus, most reusable kitchen items are now dishwasher safe. Here are some simple swaps you can make this summer:
- Plastic produce bags for reusable mesh bags
- Single-use sandwich bags for silicone snack bags
- Paper napkins for cloth napkins
- Plastic straws for compostable or reusable straws
- Tin foil for beeswax food covers
- Disposable dinnerware for durable, reusable, and non-toxic dishwasher-safe alternatives
- Single-use water bottles for reusable metal or BPA-free plastic bottles
It might seem counterproductive at first to go out and buy reusable alternatives, but once you make the investment and change your habits, you’ll reduce your garbage and save money in the long run. If it’s overwhelming to ditch your disposables, start with something simple, like reusable sandwich bags over plastic ones, and gradually work towards a complete overhaul.
Instead of tossing all your organic waste into a landfill, where it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, start composting. Not only does composting reduce garbage, but you’re helping to create high-quality, nutrient-rich soil that you can use in your garden—if you have one—or even for house plants.
If you don’t have a backyard for an outdoor compost pit, there are plenty of alternatives for contained compost containers small enough for balconies or indoor use. Many cities now offer curbside compost programs, where you place your organic waste into a separate bin and have it carted off to a municipal composting facility. Some community gardens and local farms welcome contributions to their compost heaps, too, so no matter where you live or how involved you want to get, there’s a way to make composting part of your sustainability habit.
4. Have a Staycation
If you haven’t heard the term “staycation,” it means what you’d think: a vacation where you stay at or near your home. Staycations started becoming more popular in 2020 due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, but planning a staycation is more than just Covid-responsible. According to the EPA, commercial planes and large business jets account for about three percent of the United State’s total greenhouse gas emissions. By staying local, you’re reducing your carbon footprint, saving money, and oftentimes optimizing your vacation time because you don’t actually have to spend time in transit.
5. Conserve Energy at Home
Conserving energy around your home reduces your environmental impact and saves money—a win all around. While there are some energy conservation methods—like replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs or installing energy-efficient windows—that require investment and planning, there are plenty of simple ways to reduce your energy use this summer. Here are a few of our favorites:
Raise the temperature on your thermostat
You can be comfortable in your home in the summer without being cold. Set your thermostat to 75° Fahrenheit and consider raising the temperature or turning your AC off when you leave the house. Every degree of extra cooling increases your energy usage about six to eight percent, so using your thermostat effectively can lead to serious energy savings.
Wash cold & hang dry your clothes
About 90% of the energy your washing machine uses goes towards heating the water. Washing cold reduces your household energy, and it’s actually better for your clothes. Dryers use a ton of energy, too, and they also raise the temperature in your home. Take advantage of the warm summer air to line-dry your clothes instead of running the dryer.
Read this article for more ways to make your laundry routine eco-friendly.
Close your shades
South- and west-facing windows let the most sunlight into your home, which in turn raises the indoor temperature. Keeping these windows covered during the day will keep your house cooler and reduce the need to crank the AC.
Take advantage of natural light
North-facing windows, on the other hand, let in more even, indirect light that won’t heat up your home. Instead of keeping lights and lamps on when you’re home during the day, keep the blinds up and use that natural light.