Guide to Low Waste Living: Summer Edition
Break out the SPF 50, summer has officially arrived. Prepare for a low-waste season.
By Olivia Bloom
Before you dive into all the things you love about the season — road trips, pool days, ice cream — take a moment to consider all the ways you can take on summer with a more earth-conscious attitude. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean entirely rethinking your plans, it just means practicing a low-waste approach that helps you live more sustainably, wherever the sunshine takes you.
To Farmers Market, To Farmers Market
Every farmer’s market season has its own fruit and veggie gems to get excited about. Fall has gourds and grapes, winter celebrates humble root vegetables, and the spring market is absolutely overflowing with delicate greens and snappy peas. But summer, oh summer! The juiciest farmers market season of them all, from blushing heirloom tomatoes to striped melons to crisp-sweet corn.
It’s more than the fresh and flavorful produce that makes heading to your local farmers market worthwhile. Merely choosing to shop at a farmer’s market is choosing sustainable living. It means you’re buying produce that comes from local farms instead of produce imported from elsewhere, the transportation of which is a massive contributor to carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. Stock up on a few more low-waste shopping tips, then stock up on summer’s best:
- Shop from organic farm stands when possible. Organic farming prohibits certain chemicals and pesticides that leach into the soil and promotes biodiversity of plants and insects. If the farm practices regenerative agriculture — a type of farming that not only does no harm to the land but leaves it more nutrient-rich than before — even better.
- You’re composting, right? Many farmers markets accept compost and partner with farms so what you bring makes its way right back into the ground to grow more of the good stuff.
- Avoid the plastic bags farm stands might provide and invest in high-quality organic farmer’s market bags instead. They ooze Parisian charm to boot.
- Once your haul is home, store your produce the right way: cotton produce bags. Dampen the bags, wrap up your produce, stick in the crisper and your green beans will stay snappy for weeks.
Picnic Like a Pro
Picnic essentials: Checkered blanket, sturdy woven basket and a fresh summer feast. Definitely not picnic essentials: plastic containers, paper napkins and throwaway cups. It’s easy for a picnic to end in a lot of trash, but it’s just as easy to make a few swaps, then pack it in and pack it all out.
Paper cups, though they might seem recyclable, are typically coated in plastic or wax so they’re not able to break down into recyclable pulp. A stack of lightweight stainless steel tumblers take up about the same amount of room as a stack of paper ones do, and you’ll be able to use them again. No worries if they’re dropped — these tumblers will withstand the most joyously raucous of picnics.
For transporting your best picnic dishes, replace plastic tupperware with stainless steel tiffins (bonus: stainless steel won’t take on the odor of your most garlicky potato salad), and reusable beeswax wraps to wrap up granola bars and sandwiches. A few sets of bamboo travel utensils and an indispensable pocket knife, and you’re ready for the perfect no-waste picnic.
Hit the Road
It’s high road trip season so be ready to roll out at a moment’s notice. Beyond the more obvious ways to reduce waste (like adopting an indispensable travel mug), there are travel essentials easily swappable for a low-waste alternative you might never have thought to replace.
Ice packs: Many of the ice packs you’ll find in stores are filled with chemicals and are made of non-recyclable plastic. ONYX stainless steel ice packs are a zero-waste alternative that really perform. After freezing, they stay cold for up to 6 hours. That’s 6 hours-worth of beach, park, or road-trip time.
First aid supplies: Bamboo fiber bandages to the rescue! Whether camping or playing on the beach, scrapes happen. Turn to a biodegradable, zero-waste alternative made from 100% organic bamboo and infused with coconut oil for soothing minor ouchies.
Natural remedies: If you’re on poison ivy patrol, explore the world of essential oils. Calendula and chamomile are known to help irritated skin so replace tubes of harsher compounds.
It's Summer, Treat Yourself
If summer had a mascot, it might just be the popsicle. Individually plastic-wrapped popsicles can generate a lot of waste but there’s no need to miss out on one of the greatest summer treats of all time. Opt to make your own treats in a stainless steel popsicle mold and it not only saves the landfill the plastic, it’s a fun, customizable activity to while away the summer afternoons with the kids. Need a little frozen inspiration? Try these combos to start (including some adult-friendly boozy options), pour into molds, freeze, and enjoy:
- Mango Lime: Purée 4 cups fresh or frozen mango chunks + 1/3 cup lime juice + 1/3 cup sugar
- Kiwi Coconut: Purée 3 peeled kiwi + 2 bananas + 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk + ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- Mojito: Combine 1 cup mint simple syrup (½ cup sugar + ½ cup water simmered with a handful of mint leaves until sugar is dissolved then strained and cooled) + ¾ cup lime juice + 6 TB light rum
Now go forth and seize the sunshine!