Quick—what’s your favourite summer activity? Maybe it’s something active, such as hiking in the forest, or maybe you love taking it easy on the beach at the seashore. Maybe you spend your summers in the garden or at a campsite. Whatever it is, there’s a way to make it more eco-friendly, while also having a blast. Here’s your guide to an eco-friendly summer that you and your family will remember forever.
eco summer bucket list activities
- Take a road trip that’s easier on the planet: carpool or take public transit.
- Visit your farmers’ market. Chat with the vendors and get to know your local farmers, and then use your haul to try a fresh, new plant-forward recipe!
- Go hiking or walk on a forest trail. Not a pro? No problem. Look up trails near you that are suitable for your family and skill set. There’s something for everyone, even if you’re babywearing or pushing a stroller.
- Go camping. If you don’t have your own camping gear, lower your impact by borrowing from a friend or buying second-hand.
- Make frozen treats such as ice pops out of nearly-too-ripe fruits and berries. You can even make smoothies and freeze them in ice pop moulds!
- Swim at a nearby lake or ocean.
- Picnic time! Pack a lunch made from local, seasonal ingredients and bring reusables from home, including cloth napkins.
- Make a Little Free Library in your neighbourhood.
- Learn the names of plants and animals, including mushrooms, berries, and birds, that live near you. Use a botany guide or an app to help you identify species.
- Go for a good old-fashioned bike ride.
- Have a pizza party with locally sourced ingredients.
- Host a clothing swap, toy swap, or garage sale in your neighbourhood. Get other families involved and trade your unwanted things.
- Plant a garden. If you don’t have a yard, consider container gardening, or make use of your municipality’s community gardens.
- Organize or participate in a local shoreline cleanup.
- Become a citizen scientist by volunteering your time to submit real data to your government or nonprofit organizations (look up Citizen Scientist programs by Nature Kids BC, Birds Canada, Parks Canada, or the Government of Canada for some examples).
- Stay up late and go stargazing. See if you can identify constellations, stars, and planets. Consider keeping track of moon phases. (Don’t forget the organic, fair trade hot chocolate!)
- Help your local pollinators by getting involved with David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project
- Play tourist and explore your own city on foot, by biking, or on public transportation. Check out local cafes, restaurants, and other fun attractions.
- Learn how to save seeds for next year.
- Help pick fruit from local fruit trees to ensure that none goes to waste. Check out gleaning projects, such as Vancouver Fruit Tree.
- Host a waste-free neighbourhood potluck or block party (and ask guests to bring their own reusables!).
- Brush up on some eco skills in the kitchen: learn how to bake bread from scratch or ferment/can to preserve the bounty of the season.
- Volunteer in local parks to remove invasive species.
- Go forest bathing. Simply enjoy being in nature, and take in the sights, sounds, and ambiance of the forest.
- Try something new: take canoeing, kayaking, surfing, or paddleboard lessons.
- Make a nature mandala.
- Go foraging (take a class or learn from a knowledgeable guide so you know that what you are collecting is safe).
- Celebrate the summer solstice. Look up community events, or simply spend time in nature and mark the occasion in a way that feels right to you.
- Offer to help your neighbours weed their gardens or do yardwork.
- Make some DIY bubble solution and blow bubbles.
Eco wedding gifts
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something … green? This wedding season, consider gifting something eco-friendly. If there’s no gift registry or you’re going off-registry (and it can be a good idea to ask the couple’s preference first) consider these:
- sustainable home cleaning supplies
- home goods made by a local artisan
- gardening supplies or plants
- outdoor gear, such as for camping
- a non-material experience gift, such as a gift certificate to a local business or service
- a donation to an environmental nonprofit
- cash—it might not be fancy but it can be put to good use!
Summer skin care
You may wish to tweak your skin care routine slightly for the warmer months, perhaps switching from a heavier moisturizing cream to a lotion or gel-cream instead. A refreshing facial mist can also feel lovely on a hot day. And as you do all-year long, make sure to cleanse gently and remove your makeup before bed.
Of course, no skin care routine is complete without sunscreen, which can help reduce risk of skin cancer and sunburn, as well as hyperpigmentation and signs of aging. Experts suggest applying broad-spectrum SPF 30 or greater for everyday use, and SPF 60 or greater for outdoor time, and then reapplying every two hours. Don’t forget SPF lip balm!
What’s the best sunscreen? “The one you will use,” according to dermatologists. Those with sensitive skin may find that mineral sunscreens work best for them, although those with darker skin tones may find that certain mineral sunscreens can leave a white cast. Everyone is different, and everyone’s skin is different.
As for the reports of chemical sunscreens damaging coral, the issue is a bit complicated. Some recent research suggests that nano-sized particles in some mineral sunscreens can also harm coral, and that further research is needed. To help protect coral—and the oceans in general—it’s imperative that we take large-scale action to fight climate change.
Some of the best—and most natural—alternatives to sunscreen are also the simplest: cover up with hats, sunglasses, and UV-protective clothing and swimwear, and limit your time in the sun. Mild sunburns may benefit from topical aloe vera, but anything worse should be seen by a health care professional.
Eco moving tips
Summer also means moving season. If you’re moving, consider these tips to help make your move kinder on the planet.
- Wrap fragile items with soft cloths and clothes you’re already packing.
- Rent moving bins and totes, or reuse cardboard boxes. (Ask friends and families to save theirs for you!)
- Declutter before you move, and donate your unwanted goods to charity.
- Hire a moving company that follows eco-friendly practices.
Don’t let your summer eco habits disappear once September rolls around. Many of these activities can be done all year long!
If you have kids, help them document their summer experiences through journalling, art projects, or photography so they can share them during the school year, and reflect back on their happy summer memories.